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Early Career and Student Travel Awards

Our Early Career Researcher and Student Travel Awards Program is an example of how the Foundation is using donated funds to help young stem cell researchers attend conferences, make connections, and present their work to their colleagues.

The Foundation provides conference and travel support for PhD students and early-career researchers to attend and present at the Australian Society of Stem Cell Researchers (ASSCR) conferences as well as the International Society of Stem Cell Researchers (ISSCR) conference. The Foundation also sponsors a special Junior Investigator Award Program.

Since we started this program we have assisted several hundred budding stem cell researchers. The Early Career and Student Travel Awards Program is just one way in which the Foundation supports stem cell research and public education.

To continue this work, we need funding.

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Early Career Researcher Program

Wrap-up of the Early Career Researcher program at 2017 joint scientific meeting of ASSCR and the Australasian Gene and Cell Therapy Society Thirty bright, young stem cell scientists—10 early-career researchers and 20 PhD students—shared their research on genes, stem cells, organoids and more at Australia’s premier stem cell scientific meeting held in Sydney in May 2017. The early career researchers—whose places were supported by the NSCFA —brought youthful energy and expertise from a wide range of research interests including chemosensitisation to make leukaemia treatment more effective; using stem cells to understand neonatal brain damage; the role of certain genes in the development of the germ cells; and gene correction of mutations in kidney organoids grown from stem cells derived from other cells from patients. The program’s awards winners for 2017 were: Top oral presentation (PhD student) – Thomas Forbes, Murdoch Children's Research Institute Top oral presentation (early-career researcher) – Benjamin Cao, CSIRO Top poster presentation (PhD student) – Ana Rita Leitoguinho, Murdoch Children's Research Institute Top poster presentation (early-career researcher) - Brett Kagan, The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health. Continuing last year’s collaborative approach, the conference was a special joint scientific meeting of the Australasian Society for Stem Cell Research (ASSCR) and the Australasian Gene and Cell Therapy Society. The early career researchers joined their senior colleagues to hear presentations on a range of cutting-edge research areas including the clinical translation of cell and gene therapies, regenerative medicine and bioengineering, gene editing, disease modelling, and drug screening.
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A stem cell story…

How conference grants help grow careers From Brisbane to Vancouver to Sydney: Gautam Wali wants to use stem cells to keep people on their feet Gautam Wali’s research focus is to use stem cell models to find treatments that stop neurodegenerative disorders in their tracks. Back in 2014, he was a Griffith University neuroscience PhD student, and was one of five young researchers awarded travel grants from the Foundation to attend the International Society for Stem Cell Research conference in Vancouver, Canada. “The meeting in Vancouver was my first international stem cell conference. As a young PhD graduate it was a great opportunity to understand and get a realistic idea of the potential that stem cell research had to offer,” says Gautam. “It was a rare opportunity to be motivated from some of the top researchers in this field, including Shinya Yamanaka, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2012.” Since then, Gautam has completed his doctorate, exploring the potential to use stem cells from patient biopsies to study and test drug treatments for hereditary spastic paraplegia—a group of inherited diseases that typically cause worsening weakness and stiffness of the legs, affecting a person’s ability to walk. Gautam used neural cells derived from the olfactory (nasal) mucosa and induced pluripotent stem cells reprogrammed from skin cells of patients with the condition and compared them with those from healthy controls to study the differences in cell functions. One of his PhD supervisors, Professor Emeritus Alan Mackay-Sim has gone on to become the current Australian of the Year in recognition of his pioneering olfactory stem cell research, which has great potential for finding treatments for neurological disorders and spinal cord injury. Gautam is now an early career researcher at the University of Sydney.“My research interest is to use complementary patient-derived adult olfactory neural stem cell- and induced pluripotent stem cell models to understand the disease mechanism for neurological diseases that leads to drug screening.”Foundation chairman Graeme Blackman says Gautam’s developing career highlights the importance of supporting Australia’s next generation of stem cell scientists. “Our Junior Investigator Awards Programme is all about investing in continuing Australia’s leadership in stem cell science by giving researchers early opportunities to network and share their work,” he says.Read Gautam’s doctoral thesis abstract
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