Glasgow researcher wins Metcalf Prize for Stem Cell Research

Published: 13 May 2015

A Glasgow academic has been awarded a Metcalf Prize for Stem Cell Research by the National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia.

A Glasgow academic has been awarded a Metcalf Prize for Stem Cell Research by the National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia.

Dr Christine Wells, of the Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation and the University of Queensland, won the award for her role in the creation of an online encyclopedia that led to the discovery of a new kind of stem cell.

The resource, created by Dr Well’s small team in Brisbane, is being used to rapidly share knowledge and fast track stem cell discoveries by the global stem cell research community.

“The stem cell field is growing so fast, it can be hard for researchers to keep abreast of the know-how and data that’s accumulating outside their particular special interest,” said Dr Wells. “I’m working to address that need.”

Dr Wells leads the Stemformatics initiative—an online encyclopaedia of detailed scientific information on how our thousands of different genes shape us—putting vital data at the fingertips of stem cell researchers and their cross-disciplinary collaborators.

Dr Wells and her encyclopedia helped a global team of 50 scientists from four countries, led by Canadian Andras Nagy, to access, share and integrate an enormous amount of data. This enabled the discovery of a whole new class of ‘pluripotent’ stem cell—cells that can give rise to any type of cell—and only the second type that can be grown in the lab from adult tissues.

Dr Wells is a Group Leader at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology at the University of Queensland, Reader in Innate Genomics at the University of Glasgow and Director of the Stemformatics program for Stem Cells Australia.

Professor Iain McInnes, Director of the Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation, said: "Dr Wells is an outstanding leader in this field. She has made a very significant impact in the systems medicine field since her arrival in the University of Glasgow. We are delighted by this well deserved recognition. We look forward to building on the extraordinary developments she has made to deliver new and exciting therapeutics in future."

A second prize recipient, Dr Ryan Lister of the University of Western Australia, who was recognised for his discovery that adult stem cells retain a memory of what they once were.

Dr Graeme Blackman, OAM, Chairman of the Foundation, said: “We’re excited by the knowledge that supporting Christine Wells’ work will also support the research of the wider stem cell community and that Ryan Lister’s research will help towards a goal of providing safe and reliable stem cell therapies.

“Once again, we’ve been stunned by the quality of the applications. Christine and Ryan stood out from a remarkable field of young research leaders.”

The prize, worth A$50,000 will be presented in June at a ceremony in Melbourne and is named after the late Professor Donald Metcalf who transformed cancer treatment with his discoveries of critical molecules that tell stem cells to multiply and mature to boost the immune system.

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First published: 13 May 2015

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