19 June 2007

Queensland's capacity to conduct vital health research will be further enhanced with the appointment of a University of Queensland (UQ) researcher to the position of Chief Scientific Officer of the Australian Stem Cell Centre (ASCC).

Professor Melissa Little will be seconded to the ASCC until mid-2011 from her current position at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) at UQ, where she leads a team of researchers investigating the potential of stem cells in treating chronic kidney disease.

Professor Little will continue running her research program at IMB as she takes on her new role heading the scientific program at the ASCC, developing strategy, scientific review and management.

Another major part of her role will involve consolidating the Brisbane-based groups funded by the ASCC to form a Brisbane node, which will be run out of The University of Queensland's Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN).

The ASCC funds stem cell researchers from around Australia, with two major geographical groups in Melbourne, where the Centre is headquartered, and Brisbane.

“We aim to provide this rapidly developing Brisbane group with more resources, specific support services and direction, all leading towards more cohesive national research results,” Professor Little said.

“We are also looking to develop synergy across the entire scientific program of the ASCC, engaging all of our researchers, no matter where they are based, enabling the long-term vision of the Centre and capitalising on the national and local geographical advantages these growing groups offer.

“Australians have high expectations of stem cell research. We need to be both clever and resourceful in all areas of science management to ensure results that can be delivered as soon as possible and are of the highest quality.”

UQ's Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor David Siddle, congratulated Professor Little on her appointment.

“It is testament to the high regard in which Professor Little is deservedly held that she has been chosen to direct the scientific future of the Australian Stem Cell Centre,” Professor Siddle said.

“Stem cell research has the potential to yield treatments for many diseases that afflict the Australian population. Formation of a Brisbane node will enhance the capacity of all Brisbane-based stem cell research groups, allowing them to achieve their goals more rapidly.”
“This will be particularly beneficial for UQ, as it will strengthen the ties between UQ's flagship bio-research institutes and other UQ research groups, all of which are currently conducting remarkable research into stem cells.”

Professor Siddle said examples of this research included Professor Little's own work on chronic kidney disease, research by Professor Julie Campbell from the AIBN into using stem cells to bioengineer blood vessels for transplantation, and Dr Rod Rietze's research on brain stem cells at the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI).

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