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The Metcalf Prize Alumni

A central focus for the National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia is promoting great Australian science, as well as supporting medical research. To identify these bright stars of Australian stem cell science, we bring together a group of recognised experts in stem cell science as the Metcalf Prize Judging Panel.


Our Metcalf Prize winners are making ground-breaking scientific breakthroughs in stem cell science. Read more on each of the winners below.

Felicity Davis, Mater Research Institute, University of Queensland

Mammary biologist Dr Felicity Davis is investigating how breasts change through life: how they develop during puberty, alter during pregnancy and change back after breastfeeding is complete. A scientist at the University of Queensland’s Mater Research Institute, she is examining the role stem cells play in this remarkable tissue plasticity.
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Heather Lee, Hunter Medical Research Institute, University of Newcastle | Leukaemia: studying the cancer cells that get away

Researcher reveals new ways to catch the killer cells Heather Lee is analysing individual cancer cells to understand how some survive therapy. Her research ultimately aims to prevent relapse and lift survival rates for leukaemia. Heather invented a way to study the genetics of individual cells more closely that will help her find out why some cancer cells are treatable, and others go rogue. With her new technique, she can see the chemical ‘flags’ that tell the cell how to interpret its genetic code. At the same time, she can watch how those instructions are—or aren’t—carried out. Heather and other scientists use the technique to study what makes rogue cancer cells different at a genetic level.
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Enzo Porrello, Murdoch Children's Research Institute, University of Melbourne | Newborn babies offer clues for healing hearts

For a few short days after birth, the heart can regenerate damaged tissue. Enzo Porrello wants to understand why this ability turns off, so that he and colleagues can switch it back on to heal broken hearts.   Understanding regeneration could lead to new treatments for different types of heart disease, the world’s biggest killer, from birth defects to heart attacks late in life.
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Jessica Mar, Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN), University of Queensland | How we and our stem cells get old

Jessica Mar is analysing stem cells to discover the changes that influence ageing. We all started life as a stem cell. Throughout our lives, stem cells repair and replace our tissues, but as we age they stop working as well. Understanding how this decline occurs is fundamental to understanding—and influencing—how we age. Jessica's research profile from University of Queensland. Jessica is studying ageing stem cell models with collaborators around Australia to answer these questions. She is also collaborating on longevity research internationally, and will work with two study populations, ‘super-centenarians’ in Japan who live to 110 years or more, and a group of Ashkenazi Jews who are aged 95 years and older.
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Mark Dawson, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre | Building a blood cancer treatment from the ground up

Mark Dawson has helped build a new drug to fight an aggressive form of blood cancer. He discovered the basic science of gene expression in acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), helped develop a drug to block that action, and is leading an international clinical trial to test it. Mark's research profile from Peter MacCallum Cencer Centre
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Tracy Heng, Monash University | Making cancer treatment less aggressive

Tracy Heng wants to make cancer treatment gentler and more effective for elderly patients with blood cancer and other blood disorders. “Bone marrow transplants have transformed survival rates for blood cancers. They replace a diseased blood system with healthy blood-forming cells, but first, doctors have to wipe out a patient’s immune system, which takes a big toll on elderly patients. My goal is to change that,” says Tracy. Tracy's research profile from Monash University
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James Chong, Westmead Institute for Medical Research and The University of Sydney | Stem cells healing broken hearts

James Chong has two starters in the race to develop stem cell therapies for heart failure as viable 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. James' research profile from University of Sydney
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Christine Wells, University of Queensland | Stem cell encyclopaedia fast tracks discoveries

An online encyclopaedia created by Christine Wells has led to the discovery of a new kind of stem cell. And that’s just the beginning. Christine’s small Brisbane team has created a resource that the global stem cell research community is using to rapidly share knowledge and fast track stem cell discoveries. Christine Well's profile from University of Melbourne
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Ryan Lister, Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research | Teaching stem cells to forget their past

Ryan Lister has discovered how adult stem cells retain a memory of what they once were. He believes he can make them forget their past lives, as for example skin cells, so their history doesn’t limit their new potential to become brain, heart, liver, blood and other cells. Ryan's research profile from Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research
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Jose Polo, Monash University | New stem cells via identity theft and reprogramming

Jose Polo is unravelling the details of how stem cells can be produced from adult cells through a mix of identity theft and reprogramming. It is work that needs to be done before such stem cells can be used safely in medicine. Jose Polo's research profile from Monash University
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