Professor Melissa Little

 - Program Leader and Chief Investigator

Research focus: Molecular basis of kidney development and generation of stem cells for kidney rebuilding or repair in kidney diseases

Professor Melissa Little has a long history in the field of kidney developmental biology, having associated mutations in the WT1 gene with Denys Drash syndrome and sporadic Wilms’ tumour, and is a pioneer in the field of renal stem cell biology and renal regeneration. She has published over 165 journal articles including publications in high impact international journals including NatureScienceNature Cell BiologyNature ProtocolsNature GeneticsCell Stem Cell and Cell Developmental Cell.

Professor Little has published over 50 reviews /book chapters, has been cited in excess of 5500 times with a h index of 45. She currently holds an NHMRC Principal Research Fellowship and has continuously held competitive fellowships for 20 years, including Royal Society Endeavour, RD Wright, Sylvia and Charles Viertel and Eisenhower Fellowships. Within the last 5 years, she has been awarded a Boerhaave Fellowship (2015), NHMRC Outstanding Researcher Award (2015), ANZSCDB President’s medal and the UNSW Eureka Prize for Scientific Research (2016).  A Graduate of the Australian Institute for Company Directors, she established Nephrogenix Pty Ltd in 2001 and was Chief Scientific Officer of the Australian Stem Cell Centre from 2007-2008. Professor Little is currently a member of the NHMRC Research Committee and Deputy Head of the Molecular Genetics Division of the Institute for Molecular Bioscience, where she heads the Renal Development, Disease and Regeneration laboratory.

Within the Stem Cells Australia initiative, Professor Little will lead research aimed at the differentiation of hESC to nephron progenitors. This will include the generation of new reporter cell lines and the establishment and screening of natural product libraries for small molecules able to induce kidney development. She will also provide her expertise in developmental systems biology, stem cell biology and her intellectual property with regard to renal development, disease and regeneration. As a member of the NIH Genitourinary Development Molecular Atlas Project, she will also contribute extensive existing data on the gene expression of the nephron progenitor niche to guide decisions within the project related to approaches for differentiation and maintenance of this population.