July 2017

2 x $50,000 prizes for rising stars in stem cell research

Welcome to the National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia’s bulletin on stem cell medicine and research in Australia.

Do you know any up-and-coming stem cell researchers?
There is a little over one week remaining for them to apply for the 2017 Metcalf Prizes for Stem Cell Research. The prizes, worth $50,000 each, are awarded to one male and one female mid-career researcher.
Applications close 11.59pm on Friday 4 August 2017. Read on for more details.
In this newsletter, we also catch up with last year’s Metcalf Prize winners James Chong and Tracy Heng.
The Metcalf Prizes are part of our mission to support stem cell research in Australia. It’s been a delight to see the careers of scientists we’ve funded in the past go from strength to strength.

Kind regards,
Dr Graeme L Blackman AO
Chairman, National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia

In this bulletin:

  • Do you know a rising star in stem cell research?
  • How the Metcalf Prizes have helped scientists
  • Stem cell news from around the world.
Do you know a rising star in stem cell research? 

Applications for $50,000 prizes for stem cell research now open
Ten days remain to apply for the 2017 Metcalf Prizes for Stem Cell Research. If you know an up-and-coming stem cell researcher, encourage them to apply.

The $50,000 prizes are open to mid-career researchers who are five to 10 years past their PhD or MD (research-based) and working in stem cell research in Australia. They could be working in medicine or agriculture, government or academia.

The winners will be chosen for their scientific excellence, proven leadership ability and the potential to have a continuing influence on stem cell research in Australia.

Past Metcalf Prize winners include Sydney heart clinician and researcher James Chong, Melbourne immunologist Tracy Heng, bioinformatician Christine Wells from Brisbane, Perth geneticist Ryan Lister, Tasmanian neural stem cell researcher Kaylene Young and Melbourne reprogramming legend Jose Polo.

The Metcalf Prizes for Stem Cell Research recognise and honour the exceptional contribution made to stem cell research by the late Professor Donald Metcalf (pictured with inaugural winners Kaylene Young and Jose Polo). Over his 50-year career, Don helped transform cancer treatment and transplantation medicine, and paved the way for potential stem cell therapy in the treatment of many other conditions.

The Metcalf Prizes support the Foundation’s mission to promote the study and use of stem cells in the prevention or control of disease in human beings and to enhance stem cell public education.

Applications close Friday 4 August. We encourage last year’s unsuccessful applicants to apply again this year if they are still eligible.

To apply online, and for a full list of criteria and conditions, head to the Foundation’s website: www.stemcellfoundation.net.au/researchers/metcalf-prizes 

If you have any questions about eligibility or the application process, please contact Tanya Ha at Science in Public, who are administering the awards for the Foundation:tanya@scienceinpublic.com.au
How the Metcalf Prizes have helped scientists

It’s one year since James Chong of the Westmead Institute for Medical Research and Tracy Heng of Monash University won the 2016 Metcalf Prizes for Stem Cell Research. Each received a $50,000 prize to support their research.
James Chong has two starters in the race to develop stem cell therapies for heart failure, to repair damage and provide alternatives to heart transplants. His research is exploring both the potential for transplanted stem cells to regenerate new heart tissue and how to repair a patient’s heart by rejuvenating their own heart stem cells.
Since then, he has received an NHMRC project grant to pursue his pluripotent stem cell research. He and his colleagues have also made some discoveries about the functional effects of hTERT on rejuvenating adult heart progenitor cells and are writing up the research for publication.
“Being an awardee of a Metcalf Prize has helped my visibility in the Australian stem cell and scientific research community in general,” James says. “It has facilitated the progress of my research more than the grant amount alone, although, of course, this was also very helpful.”
“I would greatly encourage anyone who is thinking of entering. The prize and the way the Foundation facilitated and supported this award has been fantastic for my career and my research program.”
Tracy Heng wants to make cancer treatment gentler and more effective for elderly patients with blood cancer and other blood disorders.
The prize money helped provide support for a new project that is in the discovery phase and not currently funded by NHMRC grants. It also allowed her to fund a research assistant to continue day-to-day laboratory operations while she took a maternity leave break. This has been invaluable for capitalising on her achievements and maintaining career momentum.
“The recognition was definitely valuable. I received an invitation to present at the 2016 Australasian Society for Stem Cell Research in Margaret River last year (my first from this Society). Unfortunately, I had to turn it down because my obstetrician didn't give me permission to fly so close to my due date.”
More Metcalf Prize alumni updates
Since her 2015 win, Christine Wellshas moved to Victoria to establish the Centre for Stem Cell Systems at the University of Melbourne, and been appointed deputy program leader Stem Cells Australia. She is also part of the FANTOM5 team that won the 2016 Eureka Prize for Excellence in International Scientific Collaboration.
Fellow 2015 winner Ryan Lister is one of 41 scientists worldwide who have been appointed International Research Scholar by the US-based Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He will receive a $US650,000 grant over five years to support his epigenetics research.

Meet all the Metcalf Prize alumni.

Stem cell news from around the world

Between newsletters, we share stem cell news on social media: Here are a few of the stories we’ve shared recently:
Washington Post: Unapproved stem-cell treatments touted on federal database ClinicalTrials.gov , study says
Digital Journal: Gene-editing technology cures a genetic blood disorder
Web MD: Diabetes treatment teaches rogue cells to behave
The Scientist: Electrical stimulation steers neural stem cells paper
Medscape: Stem cells in sports medicine: ready for prime time?
Harvard Gazette: New approach may kill tumour cells in the brain
Washington Post: ‘Stem-cell tourism’ needs tighter controls, say medical experts
Biotechin.Asia: A*STAR scientists identify role of key stem cell factor in gastric cancer progression paper
Science Daily: Large-scale production of living brain cells enables entirely new research
Knoepfler Lab Blog: Top 20 2017 stem cell predictions: score card at 1/2-way point
Science Daily: Bitter or sweet? How taste cells decide what they want to be paper
Scope (Stanford Medicine): How to encourage muscle stem cells to replace missing muscle? A familiar home, a few friends and some healthy exercise
Washington Post: He broke ground in stem-cell research. Now he’s running for Congress

About the Foundation

The National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia is an ATO-registered tax-deductible Health Promotion Charity dedicated to promoting the study and responsible use of stem cells to reduce the burden of disease.
The Foundation’s activities include:
  • supporting research that pursues cures for as-yet-untreatable diseases
  • building a community of people with a shared interest in stem cell science
  • providing the Australian public with objective, reliable information on both the potential and risks of stem cell medicine.
We are working to build a community of people with a stake in stem cell science and to promote collaboration between scientists locally and internationally.
Please feel free to contact the Foundation’s Executive Officer Julia Mason via jmason@stemcellfoundation.net.au.


We aim to:

  • Promote the study and use of stem cells

  • Prevent or control diseases or illness

  • Enhance public education about stem cells