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October 2019

Stem cells for broken hearts; funding opportunity for researchers; Brisbane event; and more

Sydney cardiologist and researcher James Chong has developed a new stem cell treatment for heart attacks. We want to work with him to take it from the lab to patients. We invite you to join us.
We’re matching donations from the public to this project dollar-for-dollar. Read on for more information.
This is our second major donation-matching project, with our Type 1 diabetes fundraising initiative underway and seeking further support.

We’re also looking to help fund other stem cell research projects nearing clinical trials for future donation-matching initiatives. See below.
Find out if stem cell science is delivering on its early promise at a public forum in Brisbane next month. Read on for details.
This newsletter marks the public welcome of a new Director for the National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia: Professor James Angus AO, a pharmacologist, academic and medical education leader. We also say a fond farewell to our Executive Officer, Julia Mason. More below.
Company Secretary and CFO, Graeme Mehegan has taken on an expanded role as our new General Manager. He will oversee the day-to-day management of the Foundation, including presenting our work to fundraisers and donors, as he recently did in Beauty Point in New South Wales. Read on for more.
Kind regards,
Dr Graeme L Blackman AO
Chairman, National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia

In this bulletin:

  • James Chong: stem cells to heal broken hearts in humans
  • New funding opportunity for stem cell scientists approaching the clinic
  • Brisbane event: ask your questions at a free public forum
  • Seniors craft a novel way to support science
  • Changes at the Foundation
  • Stem cell news from around the world

James Chong: stem cells to heal broken hearts in humans

Help us bring this new treatment to clinical trials

Cardiologist and researcher Associate Professor James Chong has already used human stem cells to repair the damaged hearts of other large primates — a world first.  

The achievement and his subsequent work won him a 2016 Metcalf Prize for Stem Cell Research.

Now he’s ready to start a five-year project that aims to bring the therapy to a clinical trial with patients who have had heart attacks.

Heart disease is Australia’s single leading cause of death killing more than 18,500 people a year, or one every 28 minutes.

James, a researcher at the Westmead Institute of Medical Research/University of Sydney and Cardiologist at Westmead Hospital, wants to change those numbers.

“The patients I see affect my thinking every day,” he says. “What I’m working towards is to be able to provide new treatments to extend the quality and length of life of my patients.” 

With your support, the National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia wants to help fund James’ research. 

The Foundation is aiming to raise provide $1 million for the project, by matching, dollar for dollar, every public donation of $500 or more.  Donations must be at least $500 and the total of donations made cannot exceed $500,000.

Read more about James’ research.

Cancer, skin conditions, genetic engineering, heart disease, and understanding the ageing brain: ask your questions at a free public forum

How are Australian stem cell scientists shaping tomorrow’s treatments?

Brisbane event: Stem cell research – now and in the future
When: 5:30 pm – 7:00pm, Tuesday 12 November
Where: State Library of Queensland, Stanley Place, South Brisbane

Can stem cells treat cancer or autoimmune conditions? What can they tell us about Alzheimer’s disease? How will big data and genetic engineering change medicine? What will regenerative medicine deliver in the next few years? And what are the ethics we need to consider?

The Foundation is sponsoring an Australasian Society for Stem Cell Research public event to give the community a way to tap into the knowledge and expertise of Queensland scientists.

This is a unique opportunity to have your questions answered by the experts and to learn more about what the future may hold as stem cell science discoveries move towards clinical translation.

  • Dr Siok Tey from the QIMR Berghofer and Royal Brisbane & Women’s Hospital is a specialist clinician in blood cancer and bone marrow transplantation. She works with blood stem cells and immune cells to treat cancer and autoimmune conditions.
  • Professor Ernst Wolvetang from the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, University of Queensland, uses stem cells to model brain and ageing diseases in a dish. These models are used to determine the causes of disease, develop diagnostic tools and to test potential treatments.
  • Associate Professor Jessica Mar, also from the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, is a computational biologist who won a 2017 Metcalf Prize for her work using big data to understand, at the level of the cell, what is happening during ageing and disease.
  • Professor Kiarash Khosrotehrani from the University of Queensland’s Diamantina Institute is a practicing clinician and researcher, interested in skin biology, regenerative medicine and skin cancer.
  • Dr Nathan Palpant from the university’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience seeks to understand heart development by studying how stem cells differentiate into heart cells.
  • Moderator: Associate Professor Megan Munsie from the University of Melbourne. Megan has combined academia and industry to develop an understanding of issues associated with stem cell research and its clinical translation, and has contributed to developing policies at a domestic and international level.

Doors open at 4:30pm and people are welcome to arrive early to explore a stem cell photography exhibition and meet the researchers.

For more information and to register, visit the forum’s Eventbrite page.


Seniors craft a novel way to support science

Knitted beanies, blankets and scarves are helping to raise funds for stem cell science and public education.
For the past five years the Craft Group at the Beauty Point Retirement Resort in New South Wales knit and crochet scarves hats, gloves and other goodies and hold an annual sale, with proceeds going to the Foundation.  
Our General Manager Graeme Mehegan recently visited the resort to give a presentation to the residents about stem cell research and the Foundation’s work, and to thank them for their support.

Changes at the Foundation

Recent months have seen some changes in the leadership of the National Stem Cell Foundation. We’re thrilled to welcome award-winning pharmacologist and researcher James Angus to the board.
Professor Emeritus James A. Angus AO is a biomedical pharmacologist with a strong scientific and leadership background. He was Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences at the University of Melbourne from 2003 to 2013.
He is currently President of the Stroke Foundation, Chair of the Campus Council at the Melbourne Children’s Campus, Chair of the Australian Advisory Board on the Medicinal Use of Cannabis, a Director of The Jack Brockhoff Foundation, and Chair of the Advisory Board for Melbourne University Sport.
James has received many awards and honours, including the Gottschalk Medal of the Australian Academy of Science (1984), the Centenary Medal for contribution to Pharmacology and the Community (2003), and an appointment as Officer of the Order of Australia (2010) for distinguished service to biomedical research and education. He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science and has been a member of its Council.
Professor Angus was appointed to the National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia board on August 12, 2019 and also serves as a member of the Science and Ethics Committee.
Earlier this year, Julia Mason finished her role as the Foundation’s Executive Officer. We warmly thank her for her service and wish her well in her future endeavours.
The Foundation took the opportunity to transition to a different management model. Graeme Mehegan has taken over the day-to-day running in the newly created role of General Manager. He has served the Foundation as Company Secretary and CFO since its inception in 2012.
Graeme brings a wealth of experience and expertise in financial and administrative management to the role. He was Chief Financial Officer for the Australian Stem Cell Centre from 2009 to 2011, Chief Financial Officer and Company Secretary for Pioneer Electronics Australia from 2001 to 2008 and prior to that held senior financial roles with Random House Australia and Pitman Publishing, both in the book publishing industry.

Stem cell news from around the world

Between newsletters, we share stem cell news on social media:
Here are a few stories we’ve shared recently:

Medical Xpress: Team publishes study on enhancements that mediate maturation of heart stem cells

Science Daily: Potential liver cancer treatment by targeting cancer stem-like cells

Hubrect Institute: New method to purify cell types to high purity

Xinhua: Stem cells used for disease treatments may contain cancer mutations: Israeli-U.S. research

ABC Radio National: New stemsation: do stem cells live up to the hype?

Pursuit (University of Melbourne): What you should know about the rise of non-evidence-based treatments

The Hon Greg Hunt MP: Progressing the long-term plan for stem cell research (Stem Cell Therapies Mission media release)

Nature: The potent effects of Japan’s stem-cell policies

Association of American Medical Colleges: New restrictions put fetal tissue research in the balance

PhysOrg: Biochemists reveal insights into extraordinary regenerative ability of flatworms

The Scientist: Woman Receives First Corneal Transplant Made from iPS Cells

The London Economic: Woman’s bone marrow may determine her fertility

The Conversation: Stem cell treatments: Miracle cures or dangerous experiments?