June 2016

Setting the agenda for stem cell science; stem cells and cancer researcher in the news; support our fundraising campaign

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

Australia’s up-and-coming stem cell scientists believe that they’re well placed to capture the benefits of regenerative medicine for Australia. But they also say the field needs better regulation.

Their insights and recommendations are detailed in a new report from the Australian Academy of Science. Read on for details.

I’m delighted to see stem cell scientists Professors Geoff Lindeman and Stephen Nutt elected to the Australian Academy of Science, where they will play a role in promoting and championing excellence in Australian science.

It has been a busy time for Geoff, with the publication of his team’s discovery that an existing osteoporosis medication could help prevent breast cancer for those with the BRCA1 gene mutation. More below.

And we’re one month away from announcing the winners of this year’s Metcalf Prizes for Stem Cell Research—to be awarded to two truly inspiring rising stars of science.

The funds generously donated by our supporters are making a difference. We invite you to contribute to our end of financial year campaign, and to tell your friends and colleagues about it. Read on for details. Any support you can provide will be much appreciated.

Kind regards,

Dr Graeme L Blackman OAM

Chairman, National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia 

In this bulletin:
  • Young research leaders set their agenda for stem cell science
  • Donate to support stem cell science and community education
  • Stem cells and cancer pioneer making news
  • Stem cell news from around the world

Young research leaders set their agenda for stem cell science

Recommendations from the Australian Academy of Science The Stem Cell Revolution Think Tank published

Australia needs investment in stem cell science to be prioritised in order to remain among the top nations for research and accelerate clinical translation. Alongside the science, we also need better community education and appropriate regulation for emerging treatments.

 These are the key findings and recommendations of The Stem Cell Revolution: Lessons and Imperatives report published by the Australian Academy of Science.

Each year, the Academy brings together early and mid-career researchers with a broad range of perspectives to apply novel thinking to an issue of national significance at a Theo Murphy High Flyers Think Tank. Held last July in Sydney, the 2015 Think Tank focussed on the challenges and potential of Australian stem cell science.

The report articulates rising concerns over regulatory loopholes and the marketing of dubious stem cell treatments, as well as the potential for Australia to be a leader in regenerative medicine and biotechnology—issues the Foundation has continued to advocate for.

Monash University’s Jose Polo and Kathryn Davidson, both among the emerging stem cell science leaders the Foundation has funded in the past, were among the researchers who came together to discuss and plan for the future of the field.

Kathryn was part of a panel of experts—along with Richard Harvey from Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, John Rasko from the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney, and Mel Thomson from Deakin University—that provided a special briefing for the media.

See media coverage of the report launch:

Donate to support stem cell science and community education

Support our end of financial year fundraising campaign

The Stem Cell Revolution report has highlighted the need to support stem cell science and provide the community with the information they need to make informed choices about their health. The alarming growth in the marketing of unproven treatments to vulnerable people has increased the urgency of these needs.

This is the core mission of the National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia. It is the focus of our work. But in order to continue this work, we need funding. 

We are deeply grateful for the kindness and generosity of those who have made donations. With this support, the Foundation has contributed to the development of Australia’s stem cell sector over the past year by:

  • Awarding two $50,000 Metcalf Prizes to support the research of emerging leaders Ryan Lister and Christine Wells. Ryan is teaching reprogrammed stem cells to forget their past lives in order to increase their therapeutic potential, while Christine’s ‘Stemformatics’ database is helping stem cell and genetic scientists around the world share data, enabling new discoveries.
  • Providing conference and travel support for 60 PhD students and early career researchers to attend and present at the Australian Society of Stem Cell Researchers (ASSCR) Conference in the Hunter Valley, and sponsored a special junior investigator award program.
  • Supporting the continued touring of the Stem Cell Stories photographic exhibition and its transformation to other media, organised by the ASSCR.

The Foundation is the only ATO-registered Health Promotion Charity taking a one-stop national research and public information approach to encourage the best and the brightest researchers in Australia’s stem cell sector. We focus on delivering better health outcomes for all in our community through collaborative funding.

With the end of financial year upon us, we invite people to make a donation to support our ongoing work. Donations can be made securely online at our website or via our MyCause campaign page, where you can also meet (via video) some of the scientists we support.

Stem cells and cancer pioneer making news

Geoff Lindeman, PhD student Emma Nolan and Jane Visvader have discovered a potential new way to prevent breast cancer in some at-risk women. Photo: Walter and Eliza Hall Institute

WEHI’s Geoff Lindeman elected to the Australian Academy of Science; announces breast cancer discovery

Hot on the heels of his election to Fellowship of the Australian Academy of Science, pioneering stem cell scientist and clinician Geoff Lindeman has been making news internationally with the discovery that an existing osteoporosis drug shows promise in preventing breast cancer in women carrying a faulty BRCA1 gene.

This research was recently published in Nature Medicine.

Selected media coverage of the research:

  • CNN: Unlikely drug may block breast cancer in high-risk women
  • The Telegraph: 'Holy grail' of preventing breast cancer is in sight, say scientists
  • ABC Radio AM: Breast cancer drug hope
  • News.com.au: ‘Breakthrough’ in breast cancer research

Together with Jane Visvader, Geoff leads the Stem Cells and Cancer division at Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne.

Geoff and his team identified the stem and progenitor cells that generate all ductal tissue in the breast, in both mice and humans. His laboratory was the first to identify the culprit progenitor cell responsible for breast cancer in BRCA1 mutation carriers.

The Foundation included Geoff and Jane’s research (see inset) on the lifespans of breast stem cells and their ‘daughter’ cells, and the implications for breast cancer risk in our Stories of Australian Stem Cell Science publication.

Read more Stories of Australian Stem Cell Science.

See Geoff’s New Fellows 2016 video on the Australian Academy of Science YouTube channel

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.

Examiner: Scientists at work to grow human pancreases in pigs

Nature News: Feature: How iPS cells changed the world

Reuters: Mesoblast regains full rights to stem cell heart failure treatment

ScienceDaily: Gene called Prkci helps organize organisms and their organs

San Diego Union Tribune: Gordie Howe dies, but the stem cell saga lives on

ScienceDaily: Scientists have created mice with hyper-long telomeres without altering the genes

WEHI: Queen’s Birthday Award recognises gender equity champion Doug Hilton

Stanford Medicine: Stem cells shown safe, beneficial for chronic stroke patients

San Diego Union Tribune: Athletes’ stem cell use gaining wider appeal

Medical Express: Scientist identify first steps in muscle regeneration

Cornell Chronicle: Skin regeneration is product of two types of stem cells 

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

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We're keen to build a community of people with a stake in stem cell science to educate the community and support patients, clinicians and researchers. Feel free to pass this newsletter on to anyone who might be interested.

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We aim to:

  • Promote the study and use of stem cells

  • Prevent or control diseases or illness

  • Enhance public education about stem cells