Australia-Harvard Fellowship Program Director’s Report – 2015

Australia-Harvard Fellowship Program Director’s Report – 2015

In 2015, the Australia-Harvard Fellowship program maintained and further built upon its successful 12 year record of enhancing Australia’s research capacity and strengthening the relationship between Australia’s scientific community and Harvard University.

As in the past, the aim of the Fellowships remains the promotion of “learned exchange”, providing travel and sustenance funds to enable face-to-face collaboration between the Fellows and their project partners. The program focuses on research programs that are expected to help:

    ·         build a launch pad for innovations which would bring benefits to humankind;

    ·         provide the groundwork to attract significant funding at a later time (perhaps from Government) for R&D and implementation;     or

    ·         develop new teaching methods that will transform students’ capabilities.

    The 2015 Australia-Harvard Fellows

    For 2015, six Fellowships were awarded – three inbound (for Harvard researchers visiting Australian institutions) and three outbound (for Australian researchers visiting Harvard).  One 2014 Fellowship had been carried over to this year as the Fellow’s visit to Australia was delayed by external factors.

    The 2015 Fellows were:

    ·         Prof. Simon Robson to the Westmead Millennium Institute for Medical Research in Sydney to collaborate with Assoc. Prof. Wayne Hawthorne on xeno-transplantation (in particular the transplantation of pancreatic islet cells) and to chair a Transplantation Society Conference;

    ·         Prof. Kathleen Sweadner and Dr Elena Arystarkhova to the Kolling Institute for Medical Research in Sydney to work with Prof. Gemma Figtree to further understand the impact of FXYD1 proteins on regulation of blood pressure and cardiac health;

    ·         Prof. Craig P. Hunter, who visited Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research in Melbourne to collaborate with Dr. Ken Pang to understand how RNA moves between cells, and how this affects epigenetic inheritance and the effectiveness a certain class of drugs.

    ·         Dr. Paul Jackson (University of Adelaide) to Harvard to collaborate with 2014 Fellow Dr. Chris Rogan on designing experiments in particle physics for the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland;

    ·         Assoc. Prof. Wayne Hawthorne (Westmead Millennium Institute) who was to visit 2015 Fellow Prof. Simon Robson at Harvard Medical School with the aim of further developing his ability to establish an islet cell transplantation centre in Australia;

    ·         Prof. Karol Miller (University of Western Australia) to collaborate with Prof. Ron Kikinis, of Brigham & Women's Hospital on developing improved tools for guided surgery.

    Amongst the positive outcomes to emerge from the program in 2015, Prof. Hawthorne has already made great strides towards establishing an islet-cell transplantation program at Westmead Hospital, and he has been invited to join the Council of the International Xenotransplantation Association.

    Prof. Hunter’s visit and his seminars on epigenetic inheritance at Australian research institutions were exceptionally very well received.  His and Dr. Pang’s work represents far reaching science, and his visit is expected to have significant impact.  Finally, the work undertaken by Dr. Jackson with the Foundation’s support was recognised by his home institution (University of Adelaide), which promoted him to Associate Professor.

    Dr Galina Kaseko

    February 2016