[ASC-media] Stem cell encyclopedia and teaching stem cells to forget win $50, 000 Metcalf Prizes

Niall Byrne niall at scienceinpublic.com.au
Tue May 12 19:16:33 PDT 2015

View this email in your browser<http://us1.campaign-archive2.com/?u=d83751047dc5a93e0049c04bf&id=484698db77&e=ed88615ced>

Stem cell encyclopedia and teaching stem cells to forget win $50,000 Metcalf Prizes

Dear ASC-ers,


  *   Budget comments and...
  *   The $50,000 Metcalf Prizes for Stem Cell Research winners are announced this morning-in Brisbane and Perth-both available for interview in their labs today.
Teaching stem cells to forget the past-Perth
Ryan Lister from the University of Western Australia 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.

Stem cell encyclopedia leads to new discoveries-Brisbane
An online encyclopedia created by Christine Wells from the University of Queensland 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.

More below and at www.stemcellfoundation.net.au<http://scienceinpublic.us1.list-manage1.com/track/click?u=d83751047dc5a93e0049c04bf&id=590b47621f&e=ed88615ced>

 And on Thursday 14 May in Brisbane:

Stem cells?  Real benefits?

Metcalf winner Christine Wells will be part of a panel of stem cell research leaders including Alan Trounson at a special public forum 'Translating stem cell research into real health and economic benefits,' moderated by ABC Radio National's Norman Swan. Details: www.alumni.uq.edu.au/gls-stem-cell<http://scienceinpublic.us1.list-manage2.com/track/click?u=d83751047dc5a93e0049c04bf&id=31d5033fbb&e=ed88615ced>


Neil deGrasse Tyson is coming to Australia in August.

He's an astronomer, presenter of Cosmos (following in the footsteps of Carl Sagan, the greatest science communicator of all time), and great talent.  And he'll be visiting Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra in August.

I don't know what his media commitments are, but you can contact Suzi and Desh at Think Inc if you are interested in talking to him. Email: suzi at novacane.com.au<mailto:suzi at novacane.com.au>

And National Science Week-August 15 to 23

Look out for hundreds of speakers, events and public experiments everywhere. Contact Questacon Public Affairs for more information - media at questacon.edu.au<mailto:media at questacon.edu.au> or 0439 399 912. I'll also be happy to flag some highlights nearer to the time.

The budget
This government struggles to see and act on the connection between science and economic growth. This is another bad budget for the future of science in Australia.

  *   Deep science cuts on the horizon says the Academy who note that NCRIS has only been funded by cutting other essential support for scientists - www.science.org.au/news/federal-budget-2015-deep-science-funding-cuts-horizon<http://scienceinpublic.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=d83751047dc5a93e0049c04bf&id=017803f74a&e=ed88615ced>
  *   A sad media release from the Science Minister - http://minister.industry.gov.au/node/645<http://scienceinpublic.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=d83751047dc5a93e0049c04bf&id=d996b30abc&e=ed88615ced>. There's just not much new in it -except for a year's operating budget for the Synchrotron and money for ANSTO.
  *   The medical research community are happy that the MRFF will get going. But I'm sceptical about what that actually means. To date it has only served to hide science cuts. And they seem to be offering a huge $10 million in grants next year.
  *   Nobel Laureate Brian Schmidt unhappy about loss of Future Fellows - supporting the best up and coming researchers.
Lots of comments collected by the AusSMC here - www.smc.org.au/expert-reaction-federal-budget-2015/<http://scienceinpublic.us1.list-manage2.com/track/click?u=d83751047dc5a93e0049c04bf&id=0a1e3bf1a8&e=ed88615ced> including a detailed breakdown copied below...

Kind regards,


Teaching stem cells to forget the past and stem cell encyclopedia leads to new discoveries

Winners of the National Stem Cell Foundation's Metcalf Prizes announced today[https://gallery.mailchimp.com/d83751047dc5a93e0049c04bf/images/756c956a-4d70-42fe-9711-08b1b1999222.png]

Professor Ryan Lister of the University of Western Australia and Associate Professor Christine Wells of the University of Queensland have both received $50,000 Metcalf Prizes from the National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia in recognition of their leadership in stem cell research.
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.

In 2009, Ryan constructed the first complete maps of the complex human epigenome-millions of small chemical signposts added to our DNA that can turn genes 'on' and 'off'. TIME magazine named this the second most important discovery that year. Over the life of a cell this packaging accumulates chemical changes or 'memories' of the cell's role.

Ryan then turned his attention to studying adult stem cells or 'induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells' made from, for example, adult skin cells. While iPS cells appear to have reverted back to embryonic childhood, Ryan found they carry some adult baggage with them, retaining chemical memories. These memories may result in unpredictable and undesirable cell growth, limiting medical potential of iPS cells.

"We want to create a tool that will allow us to understand, edit and correct any 'memories' that might result in cell behaviour that we want to avoid. Ultimately, this could lead to new stem cells derived from adult cells that can be safely used to treat patients, for example, new cardiac cells to heal damaged heart tissues."

Ryan is a Professor and Sylvia and Charles Viertel Senior Medical Research Fellow / ARC Future Fellow at the University of Western Australia, where he leads research groups at the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research and the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology.

[https://gallery.mailchimp.com/d83751047dc5a93e0049c04bf/images/e0fcaac5-6208-4ecc-b137-6819a841fced.jpg]An online encyclopedia 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.

"The stem cell field is growing so fast, it can be hard for researchers to keep abreast of the know-how and data that's accumulating outside their particular special interest," says Christine. "I'm working to address that need."

Christine leads the Stemformatics initiative-an online encyclopaedia of detailed scientific information on how our thousands of different genes shape us-putting vital data at the fingertips of stem cell researchers and their cross-disciplinary collaborators.

Christine and her encyclopedia helped a global team of 50 scientists from four countries, led by Canadian Andras Nagy, to access, share and integrate an enormous amount of data. This enabled the discovery of a whole new class of 'pluripotent' stem cell-cells that can give rise to any type of cell-and only the second type that can be grown in the lab from adult tissues.

Christine is a Group Leader at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology at the University of Queensland, Reader in Innate Genomics at the University of Glasgow and Director of the Stemformatics program for Stem Cells Australia.

"We're excited by the knowledge that supporting Christine Wells' work will also support the research of the wider stem cell community and that Ryan Lister's research will help towards a goal of providing safe and reliable stem cell therapies," says Dr Graeme Blackman, OAM, the Chairman of the Foundation.

"Once again, we've been stunned by the quality of the applications. Christine and Ryan stood out from a remarkable field of young research leaders."

The awards are named for the late Professor Donald Metcalf, AC, who died in December 2014. Over his 50-year career, Don helped transform cancer treatment and transplantation medicine, and paved the way for potential stem cell therapy in the treatment of many other conditions.

Contact details

  *   Niall Byrne, Science in Public, 0417 131 977, niall at scienceinpublic.com.au<mailto:niall at scienceinpublic.com.au>
  *   Tanya Ha, Science in Public, 0404 083 863, tanya at scienceinpublic.com.au<mailto:tanya at scienceinpublic.com.au>
  *   Julia Mason, National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia, 0414 659 901, jmason at stemcellfoundation.net.au<mailto:jmason at stemcellfoundation.net.au>
  *   Ryan Lister, University of Western Australia, 0448 375 394, ryan.lister at uwa.edu.au<mailto:ryan.lister at uwa.edu.au>
  *   Margaret Puls (media contact for Christine Wells), University of Queensland, 0419 578 356, m.puls at uq.edu.au<mailto:m.puls at uq.edu.au>

Federal budget - summary of major announcements

Sourced from AusSMC, prepared I think by the Academy of Science.

Australian Consensus Centre:
$4 million over four years from 2014-15 to help establish the Australian Consensus.

The Government will provide $150 million in 2016-17. $150 million had already been allocated for 2015-16.

University research block grants:
The Sustainable Research Excellence component of the university block grant will be cut by $260 million over the forward estimates, and by $150 million in 2016-17 alone.

Antarctic science:
$9.4 million in 2015-16 to maintain functions that support Australia's presence in Antarctica.

Tropical health:
$15.3 million over four years to invest in research into exotic disease threats to Australia and the region.

Australian Synchrotron:
$20.5 million in 2016-17 to ANSTO to meet part of the $30 million cost of operating the Australian Synchrotron in 2016-17.

Cooperative Research Centres:
There was no announcement on the future of the program which is currently under review. A further $26.8 million has been cut from the program over the four years from 2015-16.

Entrepreneurs' Infrastructure Programme:
Savings of $27.3 million over five years from 2014-15 from the programme.

Industry grant programmes:
Further savings of $31.7 million from commercialisation, enterprise connection and the industry innovation precincts. These programs were already closed to new applicants.

No significant change in the forward estimates

No significant change in the forward estimates

No significant change in the forward estimates

Medical Research Future Fund:
The Government continues with plans to establish a $20 billion fund, the capital of which will be reserved and investment returns used to fund research. The first payment from the fund will occur in $10 million in 2015-16, with more than $400 million expected to be provided to researchers over the forward estimates.

Square Kilometre Array Radio Telescope:
No announcement, funding set to end at the end of 2015/16.

Australia-China/India Fund:
These funds will continue over the forward estimate period.

$22.3 million over three years from 2015-16 to able ANSTO to rationalise existing radioactive waste.

Rural Research and Development Corporations:
No significant change over the forward estimates.

Defence Science Technology Organisation:
There is no significant change until 2017-18 when there will be a reduction of $22,783 million.

Australian Astronomical Observatory:
Slight reduction in funding over the forward estimates.

Geoscience Australia:
No significant change over the forward estimates.

No significant change over the forward estimates.

More about Science in Public
We're always happy to help put you in contact with scientists. Our work is funded by the science world - from the Prime Minister's Science Prizes to Nature. We're keen to suggest interesting people and stories - and not just those of our clients'.
If you're looking for ideas or people for features we know hundreds of science prize winners past, present, and future and are always happy to chew the fat about the developing themes in Australian science.
Feel free to pass these stories along to colleagues. And between bulletins, you can follow me on Twitter (@scienceinpublic) for more science news and story tips.

Kind regards,

Niall Byrne

Creative Director
Science in Public

82 Hudsons Road, Spotswood VIC 3015
PO Box 2076 Spotswood VIC 3015

03 9398 1416, 0417 131 977

niall at scienceinpublic.com.au<mailto:niall at scienceinpublic.com.au>


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