The University of Western Australia’s Professor Ryan Lister has been awarded a $50,000 2015 Metcalf Prize, from the National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia, in recognition of his leadership in stem cell research.
The Metcalf Prize is a prestigious award that honours exceptional contributions made to stem cell research. It is presented to only two recipients in Australia every year that have carried out ground breaking work in the field.
Dr Ryan Lister is a Professor at UWA at the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research and the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology.
Professor Lister generated the first comprehensive maps of the human epigenome, finding that the chemical sign posts that comprise the epigenome differ between embryonic stem cells and specialised adult cells.
He also discovered that when specialised human cells were converted into adult stem cells, the reprogrammed adult stem cells retained a memory of the cell they once were. He now believes it is possible to make them forget their past lives of what type of cell they once were, e.g brain, liver and blood, which can enable them to be used for other purposes.
Professor Lister’s work on human epigenome mapping was rated by TIME magazine as the second most important scientific discovery of 2009. He has also been awarded in the Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year (2014 - Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science) and the Ruth Stephens Gani Medal for Distinguished Research in Human Genetics (2014 - Australian Academy of Science).
Professor Lister said The Metcalf prize was very important as it provided essential resources to support new research in stem cell technology.
“I feel privileged to receive this prize, but it’s also important to acknowledge the crucial contributions of many excellent collaborators to this research,” Professor Lister said.
“I’m greatly appreciative of the National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia for supporting this initiative, which is really important for promoting stem cell research in Australia.”
The winner of the other Metcalf prize is Christine Wells from the University of Queensland who has created an online encyclopaedia which led to the discovery of a new kind of stem cell.
The awards are named for the late Professor Donald Metcalf, AC, who died in December 2014. Over his 50-year career, Professor Metcalf helped transform cancer treatment and transplantation medicine, and paved the way for potential stem cell therapy in the treatment of many other conditions.
For more information on the 2015 Metcalf prizes, visit the National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia.