2019 Metcalf Prizes for Stem Cell Research

Media releases, National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia

Permanent hearts and changing breasts spur stem cell research

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

Monday 4 November 2019

Scientists available for interviews

Breast epithelial cells in culture, viewed through a microscope
Credit: Dr Teneale Stewart/Davis Lab, Mater Research Institute, UQ

The stubborn endurance of heart cells and remarkable plasticity of breasts have won two Queensland researchers $50,000 each in the annual Metcalf Prizes, awarded by the National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia.

Dr Felicity Davis of the University of Queensland’s Mater Research Institute is investigating the secret life of mammaries: how they develop, how they change during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and how things can go wrong.

“Breast stem cells live in a world of change – from a basic mammary structure in the embryo, to rapid growth during puberty, and then drastically changing again with each pregnancy,” she says.

Associate Professor James Hudson of the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute studies the human heart, and how its cells have to last a lifetime without renewal. To better understand this, he has made more than 20,000 beating ‘mini-hearts’, called organoids.

“Heart muscle cells essentially have one job to do throughout our lives. They don’t like change and are difficult to regenerate,” he says.

Both researchers are transforming our understanding of how we might work with stem cells to understand, prevent and treat disease.

Both scientists have been recognised by the Foundation for their early-career leadership in stem cell research. More details about their work, as well as photos, are available here.

“We hope that supporting Felicity Davis’ work will help make a difference in this important area of women’s and children’s health, and that James Hudson’s work will help us tackle Australia’s biggest killer,” says Dr Graeme Blackman AO, the chairman of the Foundation.

“Both scientists are great examples of the depth and breadth of stem cell research undertaken in Australia – all of it bringing us closer to important clinical outcomes.”

The awards are named for the late Professor Donald Metcalf AC, who, over a 50-year career, helped transform cancer treatment and transplantation medicine, paving the way for potential stem cell therapy in the treatment of many other conditions.

Professor Hugh Taylor AC will present the 2019 Metcalf Prizes for Stem Cell Research at a special event in Melbourne on Thursday 28 November 2019.

Media contacts:

Tanya Ha, Science in Public, 0404 083 863, tanya@scienceinpublic.com.au

Niall Byrne, Science in Public, 0417 131 977, niall@scienceinpublic.com.au

About the National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia

The NSCFA 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:

The Foundation is led by an expert volunteer Board, with a diversity of scientific, medical and governance experience. The Chairman is Dr Graeme Blackman, AO, FTSE, FAICD.

The Board consults with leading stem cell scientists before committing funds to research and education initiatives.

More at: www.stemcellfoundation.net.au