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Prestigious prize for stem cell researcher

Nov 15 2018

Dr Heather Lee

HMRI-based cancer researcher Dr Heather Lee, of the University of Newcastle, has received a $50,000 Metcalf Prize from the National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia in recognition of her early-career leadership in stem cell research.

Dr Lee invented a way to study the genetics of individual cells more closely that will help her find out why some cancer cells are treatable, and others go rogue. With her new technique, she can see the chemical ‘flags’ that tell the cell how to interpret its genetic code. At the same time, she can watch how those instructions are – or aren’t – carried out.

She and other scientists use the technique to study what makes rogue cancer cells different at a genetic level.

Dr Lee is now studying cells from patients with acute myeloid leukaemia to see how just a few cells can resist treatment and go on to cause a fatal relapse. She hopes this will lead to new, more effective drug treatments for this devastating disease.

“We hope that supporting Heather Lee’s work will help her share a valuable new technique for cancer researchers,” says Dr Graeme Blackman, AO, the chairman of the Foundation. 

“Once again, we’ve been stunned by the quality of the applications. Heather and Enzo stood out from a very competitive field of young research leaders.”

Professor Richard Larkins AO will formally present the 2018 Metcalf Prizes for Stem Cell Research at a special event in Melbourne on Friday 30 November 2018.

Photo courtesy Jonathan Carroll, Newcastle Herald