National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia brochure

Dr Kathryn Davidson and Dr Alice Pébay in the laboratory

The Foundation is supporting the study of a form of incurable blindness at the Centre for Eye Research Australia

Supporting the science
Engaging the community

The power of stem cells

Our stem cells allow us to grow and repair ourselves. Stem cells in early embryos develop into the hundreds of different cell types that make up a human being: skin cells, nerve cells, fat cells, muscle cells and others. In adult life stem cells are found in most organs, repairing damaged or aging tissues. But when things go wrong stem cells can give rise to cancer cells.

Stem cells are transforming research into disease

Stem cells can be grown outside the body, allowing researchers to study a ‘disease in a dish’. For example, the Foundation’s first investment is in research into an incurable form of blindness, age-related macular degeneration. Researchers will study retina cells made from stem cells grown from skin cells donated by patients.

Stem cells could one day repair damaged cells, tissues and organs

For many years bone marrow transplants have replaced stem cells killed by cancer treatment. In time there could be many more treatments – in everything from spinal cord injury to organ repair.

Take care – these are early days

We still have much to learn about safely harvesting, growing and using stem cells. Many unproven and expensive treatments are offered in Australia and overseas. There have been some frightening reports about the results. In one case in Los Angeles, cosmetic stem cell injections led to the growth of bone fragments in a woman’s eyelids.

The work of the National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia

The Foundation is a new charity dedicated to promoting the study and responsible use of stem cells to reduce the burden of disease.

Our activities include:

  • Supporting research that pursues cures for as yet untreatable diseases.
  • Building a community of people with a shared interest in stem cell science.
  • Providing the Australian public with objective, reliable information on both the potential and the risks of stem cell medicine.

The Foundation was established as a legacy of the Australian Stem Cell Centre which reached the end of its term in 2011.

Visit for more information about our work, and for resources to help you assess stem cell treatments.

Donate to the National Stem Cell Foundation today

Your gift will enable scientists to continue their research into using stem cells to relieve pain and suffering and enable us to continue our public education and outreach activities.

The Foundation is a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee and a fully registered charity with the Australian Tax Office, so all donations made to the Foundation are tax deductible. Secure online donations can be made via the website at

Foundation leadership

The Foundation is led by an expert volunteer Board, with a diversity of scientific, medical and governance experience. The Chairman is Dr Graeme Blackman OAM FTSE, who also chairs the Boards of the National Trust of Australia (Victoria) and IDT Australia Ltd, and is a former Professor of Pharmaceutical Chemistry at the Victorian College of Pharmacy. The Board consults with leading stem cell scientists before committing funds to research and education initiatives.

Continuing Australia’s stem cell excellence

Australian stem cell research has a rich heritage, tracing its roots back to local expertise in wool research and animal reproduction. Sheep fertility research was applied to human fertility and research into IVF. Drawing on this expertise, a Monash University research group became the world’s second research team to grow human embryonic stem cells. This group was also the first to describe how stem cells differentiate into the different types of cells that make up the body.

Australian stem cell achievements include:

  • Growing nerve stem cells from embryonic stem cells.
  • The discovery of breast stem cells.
  • The growth of the first entire solid organ – a functioning breast – from a single stem cell.
  • A series of blood stem cell discoveries.
  • The first stem cell model of multiple sclerosis.
  • The first stem cells derived from adult kidney cells.
  • Leadership in stem cell research translation and commercialisation.

Australian stem cell researchers are committed to understanding and developing the potential of stem cell medicine, bringing safe and life-transforming new therapies to patients.

With your help, the National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia will support them.