CSL Centenary Fellowships recognise new approaches to cancer therapy

Friday, 13 October, 2023

CSL Centenary Fellowships recognise new approaches to cancer therapy

Two Australian scientists have each been awarded CSL Centenary Fellowships, valued at $1.25 million over five years, for their work developing new kinds of cancer therapies based on their fundamental research into cancer biology. The Fellowships were presented at the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences Annual Meeting, held on 12 October in Brisbane.

The Fellowships are competitively selected, high-value grants available to mid-career Australians who wish to continue a career in medical research in Australia. They are open to medical researchers working on discovery or translational research with a focus on rare or serious diseases, immunology or inflammation and are overseen by a selection committee comprising three independent members and two CSL representatives. The 2024 committee was chaired by CSL’s Head of Research and Chief Scientific Officer, Dr Andrew Nash.

Dr Ankur Sharma (above) has discovered how liver cancer cells grow together in a similar way to the rapidly dividing cells of a human embryo — behaviour which allows them to resist treatment. He is now trialling ways to analyse these cells and determine which liver cancers may respond to immunotherapy. The $1.25 million CSL Centenary Fellowship will support his next steps at the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research, including the development of anticancer vaccines which could one day allow us to manage cancer as a chronic disease.

Dr Daniel Utzschneider (below) has meanwhile identified how T cells can become exhausted from the constant battle against cancer, reducing the effectiveness of immunotherapy. These white blood cells are a key component of our adaptive immune systems. He will use his $1.25 million CSL Centenary Fellowship to accelerate his research at The Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, where he will investigate these exhausted T cells from different angles — to understand their biology, why they become exhausted, and how to boost their numbers and their ability to fight cancer.

Image credit: The Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity.

“Dr Sharma and Dr Utzschneider have both made fundamental research discoveries that could transform cancer treatment in the coming decades,” Nash said.

“We have seen significant advances in the way cancer is treated, yet Ankur and Daniel have demonstrated that there is still much to learn in this complex area of science. With the support of the CSL Centenary Fellowships, their research will provide a deeper understanding of the specific areas of cancer research they are both so dedicated to advancing.

“The CSL Centenary Fellowships aim to support leading mid-career Australian researchers like Ankur and Daniel by providing funding stability to enable the delivery of innovations that could transform medicine for patients living with rare and serious diseases and protect public health.”

Top image credit: CSL.

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