Media releases

2020 Metcalf Prizes for Stem Cell Research

Mystery proteins reveal how embryos and cancers grow – Melanie Eckersley-Maslin, Melbourne

Genes may hold key to leukaemia survival – Steven Lane, Brisbane

Winners of the National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia’s Metcalf Prizes announced today

12 January 2021

Scientists available for interviews:

Using stem cell research to fight cancer has won two Australian researchers $55,000 each in the annual Metcalf Prizes for Stem Cell Research, awarded by the National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia.

Dr Melanie Eckersley-Maslin—a new recruit of the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre—believes the proteins which control the growth of cells in embryos could teach us how to stop the uncontrolled growth of cells in cancer.

Vital to normal development in early life, these molecules may later play a role in the early stages of cancer or help it spread. If so, we could target them therapeutically and block or slow progression of the disease.

Associate Professor Steven Lane of the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute wants to lift the survival rates of his leukaemia patients. He thinks the key could lie in the genetic fingerprints of the blood cancer stem cells that proliferate the disease.

Steven is studying how these cells become resistant to treatment through genetic changes. He will use the knowledge to develop more effective and tailored therapies, both to prevent and treat potentially fatal relapses.

The scientists have been recognised by the Foundation for their early-career leadership in stem cell research.

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Vaccines alone won’t keep Australia COVID-safe, review finds

Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences urges multi-pronged response for 2021

High levels of testing, efficient vaccine distribution and addressing pandemic mental health impacts are critical if Australia is to maintain control over COVID-19 in 2021, the country’s learned body for health and medical sciences has concluded.

The Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences (AAHMS), an independent body comprising more than 400 senior researchers, has released a report spelling out the necessary next steps for pandemic response in the new year.

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It’s time to find out what works for women in STEM

A Guide to Evaluating STEM Gender Equity Programs launched

A new resource will make it easier to identify programs with the greatest impact for women pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). 

The need is urgent. The working lives of women in STEM have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

While there are hundreds of programs to attract and retain girls and women in STEM, a recent Australian National University study found that only seven of 337 initiatives in Australia provided publicly available evidence of impact or an evaluation of their effectiveness.

The Evaluating STEM Gender Equity Programs guide (the Guide)—published today by the Office of the Women in STEM Ambassador—provides practical tools for anyone running a gender equity program to evaluate their project and focus on what really works.

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No more than 10 a week and 4 a day…

Official site at www.nhmrc.gov.au/alcohol. Copies of all resources for media available here.

National Health and Medical Research Council confirms new national guidelines for reducing the health risks from drinking alcohol.

Graphics available via links below.

The guidelines are the result of four years of extensive review of the evidence on the harms and benefits of drinking alcohol.

They replace the previous version, published in 2009. They will underpin policy decisions and public health messaging for many years to come.

“We’re not telling Australians how much to drink,” says Professor Anne Kelso, CEO of NHMRC.

“We’re providing advice about the health risks so that we can all make informed decisions in our daily lives.”

Professor Paul Kelly, Australia’s Acting Chief Medical Officer, adds: “Every year there are more than 4,000 alcohol-related deaths in Australia, and more than 70,000 hospital admissions. Alcohol is linked to more than 40 medical conditions, including many cancers.

“Following the guidelines keeps the risk of harm from alcohol low, but it does not remove all risk. Healthy adults drinking within the guideline recommendations have less than a 1 in 100 chance of dying from an alcohol-related condition.”

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Free telescopes set school kids dancing with the STARS

Astronomers head to the country to spark student interest in what lies above.

ANU astronomer Brad Tucker showing students from Rockhampton High School how to use their powerful new telescope. Credit: ANU Media

Children in remote and regional schools will soon be visited by astronomers bearing gifts in a quest to kindle interest in the cosmos.

The scientists – drawn from the ranks of the ARC Centre of Excellence for All Sky Astrophysics in 3D (ASTRO 3D) and the Australian National University – will donate a powerful telescope and high-tech accessories to each school so classes can continue to explore the Universe long after the astronomers have left.

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Orbits of ancient stars prompt rethink on Milky Way evolution

Australian telescopes and European satellite combine to reveal unexpected motions among the Galaxy’s rarest objects

Theories on how the Milky Way formed are set to be rewritten following discoveries about the behaviour of some of its oldest stars.

An investigation into the orbits of the Galaxy’s metal-poor stars – assumed to be among the most ancient in existence – has found that some of them travel in previously unpredicted patterns.

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Playing detective on a galactic scale: huge new dataset will solve multiple Milky Way mysteries

Australian-led GALAH project releases chemical information for 600,000 stars.

How do stars destroy lithium? Was a drastic change in the shape of the Milky Way caused by the sudden arrival of millions of stellar stowaways?

These are just a couple of the astronomical questions likely to be answered following the release today of ‘GALAH DR3’, the largest set of stellar chemical data ever compiled.

The data, comprising more than 500 GB of information gleaned from more than 30 million individual measurements, was gathered by astronomers including Sven Buder, Sarah Martell and Sanjib Sharma from Australia’s ARC Centre of Excellence in All Sky Astrophysics in 3 Dimensions (ASTRO 3D) using the Anglo Australian Telescope (AAT) at the Australian Astronomical Observatory at Siding Spring in rural New South Wales.

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Blinded by the light no more: simulations show NASA’s James Webb Telescope will reveal hidden galaxies

Australian researchers find ways to overcome the blinding glare of quasars

The telescope, due to launch in late 2021, is the largest, most powerful and complex space telescope ever built.

Two new studies led by Madeline Marshall from Australia’s University of Melbourne and the ARC Centre of Excellence in All Sky Astrophysics in 3 Dimensions (ASTRO 3D) find that the Webb will be able to reveal galaxies currently masked by powerful lights called quasars.

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Filmmaker becomes co-author on paper published in top international journal, ‘Science’

Written and issued by Genepool

In an unusual turn of events, Melbourne based filmmaker Sonya Pemberton has become a co-author on a paper that has just been published in the top international journal Science.

The paper, ‘Global citizen deliberation on genome editing’ is calling for the creation of a global “citizens’ assembly”, made up of ordinary people who are tasked with considering the ethical and social impacts of this emerging science, in humans, animals and plants. The idea was born out of a film-research trip Sonya undertook almost two years ago.

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Why plumbers and teachers should have a say on designer babies and genetically enhanced potatoes


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Genepool release – Filmmaker becomes co-author on paper published in top international journal, ‘Science’,
Paper details
– Media release below

Ethical and social implications of powerful DNA-altering technology are too important to be left to scientists and politicians, researchers find.

Illustration by Alice Mollon

Designer babies, mutant mozzies and frankenfoods: these are the images that often spring to mind when people think of genome editing.

The practice – which alters an organism’s DNA in ways that could be inherited by subsequent generations – is both more complex and less dramatic than the popular tropes suggest.

However, its implications are so profound that a growing group of experts believe it is too important a matter to be left only to scientists, doctors and politicians.

Writing in the journal Science, 25 leading researchers from across the globe call for the creation of national and global “citizens’ assemblies”, made up of lay-people, tasked with considering the ethical and social impacts of this emerging science.

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