Professor Justin Cooper-White

 - Chief Investigator

Research focus: Elucidation of microenvironmental cues that regulate stem cell behaviours and translation of these insights into biomaterial scaffolds and microdevices to direct stem cell differentiation

Professor Justin Cooper-White has expertise in biomaterials and microbioreactor development, which he utilises to understand how hESC and iPSC interact with surfaces and how microenvironmental cues influence the efficiency of maintenance, expansion and differentiation of single stem cells and stem cell colonies. Professor Cooper-White’s expertise in each of these areas will be integral to research performed in the Stem Cells Australia initiative, where he will play a key scientific role in the development of advanced technology platforms for the research programs.

In particular, he will seek to understand, and to develop, tools for optimization of interactions of stem cells with highly tailored, stimuli-responsive surfaces and the surrounding liquid environment. These goals are directly aligned with Cooper-White’s previous skills involving the integration of surfaces and microdevices with media and cells.

His group’s recent advances in modifying surfaces with stable, well-defined self-assembled nanostructured polymers (including conducting polymers) and their incorporation into microfluidic bioreactors will be exploited to enable targeted binding of stem cells via known ligands, cell adhesion molecules and GAGs. The platform will also enable perturbation, sensing and controlled manipulation of cellular pathways through microenvironmental modulation. The platform will also facilitate the isolation and culture of single cells, along with cell colonies of defined size, to probe the nature and relative importance of cell-surface and cell-cell interactions.

The outcomes of these investigations will be paramount in improving the efficiency of stem cell culture and directed lineage determination which, in turn, will be the impetus for the development of even better performing technologies for expedited cell culture. Stem Cells Australia will also benefit from Cooper-White’s expertise in being part of large multi-university research programs, for example through his leadership role in the Australian National Fabrication Facility (as Queensland Node Director), and as a previous Module Deputy Leader of the Australian Stem Cell Centre Bioreactor Program, which involves CSIRO and three Universities.