Scientists recognised for leadership in stem cell research

14 November 2017
Mark Dawson and Jessica Mar (Photo credits: Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and AIBN at UQ)

Associate Professor Jessica Mar of the University of Queensland and Professor Mark Dawson of the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre have both received $50,000 Metcalf Prizes from the National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia in recognition of their leadership in stem cell research.

Associate Professor Jessica Mar is analysing stem cells to discover the changes that influence ageing. Her work focuses on understanding declines in stem cell function in repairing and replacing tissues in the body. Jessica is studying ageing stem cell models with collaborators around Australia to answer these questions. These studies don’t involve working with stem cells directly but rather, building computational models from genetic data from cells to answer different scientific questions. Jessica has collaborated with Professor Christine Wells who leads the Stemformatics, a stem cell collaboration resource that helps biologists visualise their data.

Jessica is also collaborating on longevity research internationally, and will work with two study populations, ‘super-centenarians’ in Japan who live to 110 years or more, and a group of Ashkenazi Jews who are aged 95 years and older.

Jessica will use her Metcalf Prize to expand her research and introduce the next generation of stem cell researchers to the power of ‘centenarian studies’. It’s all based on big data, and powerful computer analysis of the genomes of millions of individual cells from hundreds of people. 

Associate Professor Jessica Mar is a Principal Research Fellow at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) at the University of Queensland.

Professor Mark Dawson has helped build a new drug to fight an aggressive form of blood cancer. He discovered the basic science of gene expression in acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), helped develop a drug to block that action, and is leading an international clinical trial to test it.

“Each year, more than 1,000 Australians are diagnosed with AML, and more than 70 per cent of these people will die within five years,” says Mark. “By studying the differences and commonalities between healthy blood stem cells and leukaemia stem cells, I hope to help develop less toxic, more targeted drug treatments that will see more of my patients live longer and healthier lives.”

Professor Mark Dawson is a clinician-scientist at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. He is the program head of the Translational Haematology Program, Group leader of the Cancer Epigenetics Laboratory and Consultant Haematologist in the Department of Haematology.

Congratulations Jessica and Mark.

The National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia is an ATO-registered, tax-deductible health promotion charity dedicated to promoting the study and responsible use of stem cells to reduce the burden of disease.

For more information:
Visit the National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia website.