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Centenary Institute - Medical Research
Centenary Institute - Medical Research

Prof John Rasko AO and collaborators publish world-first clinical stem cell study

Professor John Rasko AO, Head of the Gene and Stem Cell Therapy Program at the Centenary Institute and Head of the Department of Cell and Molecular Therapies at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital has led a world-first clinical trial into engineered stem cell treatment use.

Published in the prestigious science journal Nature Medicine, Professor Rasko and a team of international collaborators used human induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) derived mesenchymal stromal cells to treat 15 patients with steroid-resistant acute graft-versus-host disease (GvHD).

“Graft-versus-host disease is a serious complication of bone-marrow transplantation. This is where donated bone marrow derived T-cells attack the body’s immune system following transplantation,” said Professor Rasko.

“Our study used these engineered iPSC derived mesenchymal stromal cells to treat the 15 patients who were suffering from GvHD. The cells were extremely promising in helping  suppress the immune attack taking place. Critically, our results provide solid preliminary support for the key principle that these cells can be used safely and effectively in human beings.”

Professor Rasko says that the successful therapeutic application of these stem cells for GvHD also opens the door to their potential use for other diverse inflammatory and immune-mediated diseases.

To hear more from Professor Rasko about this research, you can listen to his interview on Radio National with Fran Kelly (click to the 1 hr: 41 min: 30 sec mark).

Publication: Production, safety and efficacy of iPSC-derived mesenchymal stromal cells in acute steroid-resistant graft versus host disease: a phase I, multicenter, open-label, dose-escalation study.

Further information on Professor Rasko and his research can be found here.

NSW Health article – featuring Professor John Rasko AO

Professor John Rasko, Head of the Gene and Stem Cell Therapy Program at the Centenary Institute has been profiled in a NSW Health & Medical Research article.

He’s trying to find cures for the world’s most common blood disorders.

“We can imagine a future where we can remove disease-causing genes and let people enjoy a healthy life. But that brings up questions of how we see health and disease, and where we draw the line between treatment and disease eradication, versus enhancement,” says Professor Rasko.”

Click here to read more about Professor Rasko’s exciting work and the complex ethical and legal issues that are intrinsic to gene therapy activity.

Precision medicine: can it live up to the hype?

World-renowned health and medical experts, including Prof Chris Semsarian (Head of the Centenary Institute’s Molecular Cardiology Program) came together at the University of Sydney to explore some of the key issues surrounding precision medicine.

In a thought-provoking panel discussion, issues on disease prediction, economics, ethics, clinical applications and the balance between the personal and the public benefit took place.

Listen now or available for download from the Radio National ‘Big Ideas’ website.

Centenary Institute research boost with NHMRC Investigator Grants

Professor Philip Hansbro, Deputy Director at the Centenary Institute and Professor John Rasko AO, Head of the Centenary Institute’s Gene and Stem Cell Therapy Program have both been awarded prestigious National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Investigator Grants. The Investigator Grants scheme is one of the NHMRC’s new flagship funding arrangements supporting outstanding health and medical researchers.

Professor Philip Hansbro’s funding will support further research into the development of new preventions and treatments for chronic respiratory diseases.

“Respiratory diseases are among the leading causes of all deaths world-wide,” says Professor Hansbro.

“This grant will fund our research into developing a comprehensive ‘molecular map’ for specific respiratory diseases including Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), lung cancer and severe asthma. This will increase our knowledge of how these diseases develop and progress, providing us with new opportunities to attempt treatments and cures.”

Professor John Rasko AO, Head of the Centenary Institute’s Gene and Stem Cell Therapy Program and Head of Department, Cell & Molecular Therapies at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital will receive funding for his research focused on driving clinical cell and gene therapy in Australia.

“Harnessing the power of our body’s own cells and genetic therapies, we are witnessing a medical revolution in curing serious diseases including hereditary bleeding and anaemia as well as specific forms of cancer. This new federal funding will facilitate our internationally acclaimed basic and clinical research Program designed to improve the health of Australians”, says Professor Rasko.

Read the full media release here.

Centenary senior researcher aims to strengthen Australia-India ties

Congratulations Dr Ulf Schmitz who has been awarded a 2019 Australia-India Strategic Research Fund (AISRF) Early-and-Mid-Career Researcher (EMCR) Fellowship.

Dr Schmitz is Head of the Computational BioMedicine Laboratory within Centenary’s Gene and Stem Cell Program.

The AISRF EMCR Fellowship scheme offers successful applicants financial support worth up to $16,500 to travel to India and work with leading researchers at major Indian science and technology organisations for 1-3 months.

Dr Schmitz plans to visit two independent research centres in India, including the Centre of Computations Biology at IIIT Delhi and the Christian Medical College (CMC) in Vellore.

“India is arguably the biggest exporter of highly trained scholarly talents. This Fellowship will be a great opportunity for me to visit the source of these great Indian minds, and to establish productive collaborations,” says Dr Schmitz.

Four Centenary researchers awarded NHMRC grants

Pictured: Dr Jacob Qi, Dr Renjing Liu and Professor Phil Hansbro.

The Centenary Institute would like to congratulate four of our researchers on securing funding under the Federal Government’s highly-competitive National Health and Medical Research Council’s (NHMRC) scheme.

Professor Phil Hansbro, Head of Centenary’s Centre for Inflammation, has been awarded a four-year Project Grant. His team will use the funding to develop new therapies for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – the third leading cause of death worldwide.

Dr Renjing Liu, Head of the Agnes Ginges Laboratory for Diseases of the Aorta in Centenary’s Vascular Biology Program, has been awarded two NHMRC project grants starting in 2019 to explore the role of epigenetics in cardiovascular diseases.

“Collaboration is key to successful research. The funding from NHMRC will allow me to continue my collaborations with leading researchers both nationally and abroad because improving human health is a global effort. It will also allow me to build a strong team to see that our work will contribute to increased understanding of biology and diseases, and add to making a difference in people’s lives,” says Dr Liu.

Dr Jacob Qi, also from Centenary’s Vascular Biology Program, has been awarded a three-year grant, which he will use to bolster his research into discovering the metabolic basis of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease progression to liver disease.

Dr Gerard Chu from Centenary’s Gene and Stem Cell Therapy Program, has been awarded a three-year Postgraduate Scholarship grant. Dr Chu’s research is focused on analysing the immune response and optimising the effectiveness of Mesothelin CAR T-Cell therapy in cancer.

Earlier this year, Centenary’s Professor Chris Semsarian, Associate Professor Jodie Ingles and Professor Warwick Britton were also awarded funding from the NHMRC. Read more about those grants here.

ABC RN Breakfast Interview: Professor John Rasko

A Chinese scientist has sparked global outcry, after claiming he created the world’s first genetically edited babies.

Head of Centenary’s Gene and Stem Cell Therapy Program and 2018 ABC Boyer Lecturer, Professor John Rasko, spoke to ABC RN Breakfast host Fran Kelly about the serious ethical concerns surrounding the claim.

Listen to the interview below or find it on the ABC website.

Read more about the original story.