Five of the brightest scientific minds from the Melbourne Biomedical Precinct have been chosen as 2017 International Research Scholars enabling them to advance their ground-breaking research across the globe.
The scientists are from Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Walter and Eliza Institute of Medical Research, the Doherty Institute and the University of Melbourne’s Bio21 Institute.
They were chosen from a global field of 1,400 applicants and among only 41 scientists from 16 countries to each receive $650,000 over five years.
The Melbourne-based scientists’ work covers a broad range of research areas, including effective treatment to target cancerous stem cells, studying malaria parasites, genetic changes that cause severe inflammatory diseases, infectious microbes that cause typhoid fever and dysentery and tissue-resistant memory T cells.
The scholarships were awarded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute with the support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wellcome Trust and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.
The Melbourne Biomedical Precinct Office will provide further support to the scholars with mentoring and networking opportunities.
The office was established in 2016 following the recommendations of the Premier’s Jobs and Investment Panel.
It aims to drive economic development in the Melbourne Biomedical Precinct and strengthen its position as a world leader in research, development and innovation.
The office’s executive chair Gareth Goodier is leading the development of a 20-year plan in partnership with the hospitals, universities and research bodies in the precinct and government bodies.
The healthcare sector contributes more than $30 billion to the Victorian economy each year, employing more than 130,000 Victorians.
‘It is the work of young researchers such as this outstanding group that demonstrate the values and ambitions of the Melbourne Biomedical Precinct in terms of leadership, innovation and collaboration,’ Mr Goodier said.
The Melbourne recipients are:
Mark Dawson – Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. Dr Dawson is searching for ways to wipe out malignant stem cells without harming normal stem cells. He studies cancers such as acute myeloid leukaemia, which are difficult to eradicate using traditional chemotherapies. Understanding how normal and malignant stem cells differ from each other could let researchers devise more effective, targeted treatments.
Kathryn Holt – University of Melbourne. Dr Holt uses genomic tools to study infectious disease-causing microbes important in global health, including salmonella typhi, which causes typhoid fever and shigella sonnei, a bacterium responsible for dysentery. She wants to understand what makes pathogens emerge and why some become resistant to antimicrobial drugs.
Laura Mackay – University of Melbourne. Dr Mackay is working to identify pathways that guide the development of tissue-resident memory T cells, immune cells that reside in the body’s peripheral tissues and protect against local infections. She wants to harness these cells to create new therapies for infectious disease, cancer and autoimmune diseases.
Seth Masters – Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research. Dr Masters uses personalised medicine to identify genetic changes that cause severe inflammatory diseases early in life. These studies show how the innate immune system works and may also provide targets for the development of drugs to treat more common inflammatory conditions such as heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease, type two diabetes and neurological disorders.
Wai-Hong Tham – Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research. Dr Tham is studying how malaria parasites interact with their human hosts. Specifically, she wants to understand how plasmodium vivax, the dominant malaria parasite in countries outside of sub-Saharan Africa, recognises and invades red blood cells inside the human body.
This article originally appeared on the Department of Health website – August, 2017.