Australasian Society for Stem Cell Research


2017 Annual Report now available

The Annual Report for the 2016-2017 financial year is available for viewing here: 2017 ASSCR Annual Report.

Plan now for ISSCR 2018 in Melbourne

The ISSCR Annual Meeting sits at the heart of stem cell and regenerative medicine, where scientists connect globally. Engage with the latest science and technologies, and envision new possibilities for your research.

The meeting will take place 20-23 June, 2018 at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, located on the banks of the Yarra River and surrounded by bustling restaurants, bars, shops and attractions.

For more information on the meeting program and invited speakers, visit the official ISSCR 2018 page here. Abstracts open 6 December 2017.


Call for ASSCR governing Committee nominations

Dear ASSCR Members,

As you are aware the ASSCR is governed by a 9-member Committee elected by you.

Our Committee consists of the President, Vice-President, Secretary and Treasurer in addition to 5 Ordinary Committee member positions.

These Ordinary Committee members act as Chairs for the 5 ASSCR subcommittees that are constituted by unelected volunteer ASSCR members (of which we have many!).

In accordance with our Rules elections will be held for the following positions this year, with the successful nominees to hold their positions for up to 2 years:

- Secretary
- Treasurer
- Sponsorship/Fundraising/Industry subcommittee Chair
- Membership and Communications subcommittee Chair

Participation as an elected ASSCR Committee member offers a stimulating opportunity to influence the ongoing evolution of the regenerative medicine field in Australia.

Through any of the positions up for election this year you’ll have the opportunity to network with national and international peers.

You’ll also be able to help continue growing the ASSCR in size and influence through our ongoing projects including our annual conference, policy development initiatives, and stem cell art public engagement exhibitions.

The timetable for the election process is as follows:

-       Friday 6 Oct: Nominations open
-       Friday 27 Oct: Nominations close

If more than one valid nomination is received for any position then the timetable for voting will be as follows:

-       Friday 3 Nov: Electronic voting to start
-       Friday 24 Nov: Electronic voting to end
-       Wednesday 6 Dec: Vote counting completed
-       Monday 11 Dec: Results announced at AGM
-       Monday 11 Dec Just prior to close of AGM: Newly elected Committee takes over

Download the Position Description and Nomination Form here.

You may also wish to download our Rules of Association.

We look forward to receiving your nominations and to working with you over the coming years.

Melissa Little
ASSCR President

Spring President’s update

Welcome to longer days! I always find this time of year particularly rushed as we move through the September / October season of scientific meetings and await the outcome of grants. For us as the Australasian stem cell community, every day now we are one day closer to ISSCR 2018 in Melbourne, which continues to shape up as a very exciting event. ASSCR is making good progress on developing the Public Event, which will be held on the Monday evening, June 18. We are also working closely with the Melbourne Convention Centre and the ISSCR to finalise logistical arrangements for the main meeting, clinical translation meeting and the President’s reception. As Chair of the Scientific Organising Committee, I can convey that the program is all but finalised and you can look at the accepted speakers online. We have managed to have a number of Australian’s speaking on the program, which is great given that the committee is international not local. We are also leaving space for abstract-selected talks within concurrent sessions so there is every opportunity to get selected if you submit an abstract.

Updates on MSCs

On other international events, I have recently returned from attending MSC2, the second joint meeting of all EU-funded MSC-based clinical trials, which was held last week in Leiden, The Netherlands. This was an amazing opportunity to see up close the challenges faced around bringing a cellular product to market. The EU have invested to date Euro 193 million on MSC Clinical Trials. Most of the 14 consortia were performing trials for indications significantly overlapping with ongoing clinical trials in other parts of the world, including Australia. As here, most (but not all) were bone marrow derived but there was a mix of autologous versus allogeneic, marker selected versus unselected, frozen versus fresh, centralised production versus dispersed, academic clinical collaborations versus SMEs and so forth. The outcomes are as yet unclear. Most trials are just commencing or moving into Phase 2 with no strong efficacy data. However, the common challenges around cell manufacturing, regulatory hurdles, potency assays and commercial model were being faced by all. What is clear is that with strong EU support, this European wide collaborative activity is learning lessons that will significantly improve the pathway for all stem cell trials to follow, be they adult stem cell or ES/ iPSC-derived cellular products. Some of the most exciting progress here was the SME activity around the generation of closed system cell manufacture that is quite feasible to modify to a distinct cell product.

MSCs clearly represent the vanguard of stem cell therapy development internationally but I believe there will be many more stem cell trials to follow. The key distinction between Australia, the US, and most European countries was the issue of direct to consumer marketing of claimed stem cell products that utilise the patient’s own cells. The regulatory exemption present within Australian that enables such activities is avoided in many European countries as a result of the requirement for any unmodified autologous procedure to be performed within approval clinical centres. It is the understanding of ASSCR that the review of this exemption clause by the TGA, a process that has been ongoing for several years, will soon conclude with a statement related to key recommendations to be released shortly. In the meantime, a recent review of direct to consumer stem cell providers in Australia suggests that these now number >70. For such activities to be ongoing in the absence of any clinical trial framework represents a major threat to legitimate stem cell medicine in this country. Hence, as President of ASSCR, I hope to have a positive and decisive outcome from the TGA review. At present, we watch and wait.

Publications from joint meeting

The ACGTS / ASSCR joint scientific meeting held at UTS in Sydney earlier in May was clearly a great success for both societies. At present, AGCTS is arranging for the abstracts from this conference to be published in the Journal of Gene Medicine. You will have been contacted to indicate if you are willing for your abstracts to be included. This is a reminder to contact Samantha Ginn ( if you have not yet responded and wish your abstract to be included, as we are nearing press.

Improving our website

The ASSCR has invested in the purchase of new Word Press website templates, and GoDaddy web hosting.  We are in the process of updating the website now, and the new site will go live sometime in the next month.  The new site, and the underlying structure, will provide us with powerful new tools to communicate.  Issues that I would like to have member feedback on are the following:

1.     Contribution to Member Spotlight profiles:  The ISSCR has Spotlight profiles, and I feel that this is a great opportunity for members to gain a bit of a web presence, an opportunity to provide our Society with a more personalised feel, and an opportunity for us all to get to know each other a little better.  Please take a look at the ISSCR Member Spotlight, let me know if you think that this is a good idea, and let me know if you would like to contribute to this.

2.     Contribution to educational videos, and research video summaries: The Canadian Stem Cell Foundation provides excellent short (1-2 minute videos) that discuss research or stem cell concepts. These are great resources to point the public to, and offer an opportunity to showcase research or perhaps discuss concerns like those raised above (about the sale of unproven therapies).  Please take a look at these videos, and let me know if you think this would be a good idea, and if you would like to contribute to a 1-2 minute educational or research showcase video.

3.     General comments or requests:  As we are in the process of rebuilding, I would be open to general comments or requests.  Is there content that you think we should include on the new site?  Are you able to contribute to content?  Should we consider having a blog?  Would this function to engage members? Would this be a good place to post jobs, grant opportunities, and have “civil” discussions (note blocks can be moderated such that any post must be approved).

Please send comments to

Upcoming elections

Every year, according to our Rules of Association, approximately half the 9-member Committee positions are up for election. The Committee is one of the main driving forces behind the ASSCR, helping it to flourish and expand, and to serve you, the Members.

I strongly urge you to nominate for one of the following positions:

   -Chair of Sponsorship and Industry subcommittee
   -Chair of Membership and Communication subcommittee

Position descriptions and a simple nomination form will be available on the ASSCR website. Members can self-nominate and will also require another Member to second the nomination.

The timetable for the election process is as follows:
Friday 6 Oct: Nominations open
Friday 27 Oct: Nominations close

If more than one valid nomination is received for any position then the timetable for voting will be as follows:
Friday 3 Nov: Electronic voting to start
Friday 24 Nov: Electronic voting to end
Wednesday 6 Dec: Vote counting completed
Monday 11 Dec: Results announced at AGM
Monday 11 Dec Just prior to close of AGM: Newly elected Committee takes over

Note that this year we will hold our AGM as a teleconference, since we have already held our Annual Meeting in May.

Grant opportunities
2017 Grant for Adult Stem Cell Research
The Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney invites applications from Australian-based researchers to support and foster research on the therapeutic potential of adult stem cells. Applications for this $100,000 grant must include matching funds as well as meet other criteria including complying with the ethical standards set out in Chapter 6 of the Code of Ethical Standards for Catholic Health and Aged Care Services in Australia. Closing date is Monday 23 October 2017. Click here for more information about this funding opportunity.

Professor Melissa Little
President, ASSCR


ASSCR public event



Funding opportunity

$50,000 Prizes for Stem Cell Research now open

Applications are now open for the two $50,000 Metcalf Prizes for Stem Cell Research.

Please consider encouraging your promising stem cell researchers to apply.

The Metcalf Prizes are open to mid-career researchers, 5 to 10 years past their PhD or MD (research based), working in stem cell research in Australia.

Last year’s winners were James Chong of the Westmead Institute for Medical Research and Tracy Heng of Monash University.

James has two starters in the race to develop stem cell therapies for heart failure, to repair damage and provide alternatives to heart transplants. His research is exploring both the potential for transplanted stem cells to regenerate new heart tissue and how to repair a patient’s heart by rejuvenating their own heart stem cells.

Tracy wants to make cancer treatment gentler and more effective for elderly patients with blood cancer and other blood disorders.

Previous Metcalf Prize recipients are:

  • Ryan Lister, Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research (2015)
  • Christine Wells, University of Melbourne (2015; then at University of Queensland)
  • Kaylene Young, University of Tasmania (2014)
  • Jose Polo, Monash University (2014)

Applications close Friday 4 August 2017. We encourage last year’s unsuccessful applicants to apply again this year if they are still eligible.

To apply online, and for a full list of criteria and conditions, head to the Foundation’s website:

If you have any questions about eligibility or the application process, please contact Tanya Ha at Science in Public, who are administering the awards for the Foundation:

Kind regards,

Julia Mason



Photos from 2017 annual meeting

Thank you once more to all who made the 2017 meeting a great success. Photos from the conference are now available for viewing here (DropBox) - see if you can spot yourself!

If you'd prefer to view photos on the ASSCR site, please click through here:


Groups and Awards

Harbour Dinner

Trade Area

Program for 2017 annual meeting

The final program for the annual meeting is now available. Download the PDF here.

Annual meeting in Sydney: abstract and award deadlines and invited speaker list

The 2017 annual meeting is fast approaching. The deadline for oral abstract and award consideration is February 24th, while poster abstracts are due March 24th. This Joint Meeting has allowed the ASSCR and Australasian Gene and Cell Therapy Society to create a diverse program with fantastic international and national invited speakers.

Please see below for further program and speaker details. We look forward to seeing you there.

Promotional flyer AGCTS and ASSCR Sydney 2017 joint meeting page 13 page 001



Promotional flyer AGCTS and ASSCR Sydney 2017 joint meeting page 21 page 001


ASSCR congratulates Emeritus Professor Alan Mackay-Sim on the award of Australian of the Year.

“It is a wonderful outcome to see a stem cell scientist awarded the title of Australian of the Year” said Professor Melissa Little, President of ASSCR. “Alan’s work highlights the important basic scientific research into stem cell biology being performed in Australia and the potential such research may have for future therapies.”

Emeritus Professor Mackay-Sim has researched for many years the olfactory mucosa of the nose, a site where new sensory nerve cells are continuously generated throughout life. An extension of the central nervous system, neural cells from the nose provide a readily available source of cells from a patient with which to model diseases such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and spastic paraplegia. Professor Mackay-Sim has also been interested in whether such adult neural cells could repair the nervous system, such as after spinal injury. To this end, he has directed clinical trials in which cells from the nose (called "olfactory ensheathing cells") are delivered into the spinal cord of paraplegic patients. Initial safety trials (Phase I) have provided a precedent for future trials using such cells.

ASSCR also congratulates Professor Perry Bartlett for his nomination as Senior Australian of the Year. Founder of the Queensland Brain Institute, Professor Bartlett was the first person to show that the human brain, contrary to common belief at the time, continues to form neurons throughout adult life.

“Perry’s work inspired many, including myself, to reconsider stem cells in adult tissues” said Professor Little. “Perry’s research continues to ask how we might encourage the brain to repair in the face of neural disease, including dementia.”

ASSCR will continue to support dedicated researchers across Australasia working towards a greater understanding of stem cells and their therapeutic promise.



The 2017 annual meeting planning is now well underway! Please see the 2017 Annual Meeting Tab and the poster below for details.   

The registration and abstract submissions portal for the 2017 Joint Meeting of the Australasian Gene and Cell Therapy and Australasian Society for Stem Cell Research is now available at

The meeting will be held at UTS Aerial Conference Centre in Sydney, May 24 to 26, 2017. Please follow the dropdown menu under the Conference tab on the AGCTS website. A link to this site will also be placed on the ASSCR website.

Abstract submissions close on 10th February for oral and 10th March for poster submissions. ASSCR travel awards can also be applied for via this site.

Together the two societies are developing an exciting combined agenda for the meeting with great international and national speakers.

We look forward to seeing you there.

Kind regards,
Melissa Little
President, ASSCR

Promotional flyer AGCTS and ASSCR Sydney 2017 joint meeting page 001



The presentations and posters at the 2016 annual general meeting were excellent. Please join us in congratulating the prizewinners below:

Oral Presentation Prizewinners (2)
-Elizabeth Ng
 for “Differentiation of human embryonic stem cells to HOXA+ hemogenic vasculature that resembles the aorta-gonad-mesonephros"
-Amy Chapman
 for “Investigating the functional maturation of human induced neural precursor-derived neurons”

Poster Presentation Prizewinners (2)
Grace Lidgerwood
 for “Lyosphosphatidic acid signalling in human pluripotent stem cell-derived retinal pigment epithelial cells”
-Isabel Hemming
 for “RP58 and p27 coordinate neural stem cell proliferation and radial migration within the embryonic mouse cerebral cortex”

Best of the Best Poster Presentations (5)
Kiryu Yap
for “Bio-engineering vascularised human liver organoids from adult stem/progenitor cells”
Ms Yi Wang
for “Self assembled peptide scaffold to support primary cortical neuron survival and growth in vitro”
Mr Majid Alhomrani
for “Human amnion epithelial cells-derived extracellular vesicles reduce fibrosis in a mouse model of liver fibrosis”
Ms Ena Music
for “Constant and pulsed parathyroid hormone(1-34) administration mitigates mesenchymal stem/stromal cell hypertrophy but at the expense of chondrogenesis”
Ms Grace Lidgerwood
for “Lysophosphatidic acid signalling in human pluripotent stem cell-derived retinal pigment epithelial cells”


Following the elections and AGM in December 2016, the new ASSCR committee members are as follows:

President: Melissa Little
Vice president: Ed Stanley
Chair, Conference and Awards Subcommittee: Helen Abud

Thank you to outgoing committee members Michael O'Connor, Melissa Little (VP), and Bronwen Connor for their outstanding work in their respective roles.

2016 - Australian Society for Stem Cell Research Topic Discussion Panel Evening Summary and audio request options.

Topic: Advancing Stem Cell Therapies: Balancing science, clinical trials, regulation and consumer demand.

Summary and audio request options provided here.

2018 ISSCR Annual Meeting

The ASSCR is delighted Melbourne has been chosen to host the 2018 ISSCR Annual Meeting.

This premier international event is the largest meeting of experts in stem cell medicine in the world. It provides an annual forum for doctors, policy makers and patients to interact with scientists and thought leaders at the cutting edge of stem cell research.

As a vibrant cosmopolitan city, Melbourne will be a perfect location for hosting over 3,000 delegates expected to attend from 65 countries around the world.

This significant decision recognizes the diverse and leading contributions people within the Australasian region are making to help realise the therapeutic potential of stem cells.

We’re excited to co-sponsor this influential event, and by doing so, further contribute to the development of stem cell technologies for patients, the community and our economy.

Q&A Hot Topic Discussion Panel Evening 

This event was held on Tuesday May 31st 2016 at the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute in Sydney.

This exciting even featured discussions on  “Advancing Stem Cell Therapies: Balancing science, clinical trials, regulation and consumer demand

Please click here to download your invitation.

Stem Cell stories continue to inform

Stem Cell Stories is a stunning touring image exhibition jointly created in late 2013 by the ASSCR and Questacon - the Australian National Science and Technology Centre.
The exhibition aims to celebrate the inherent beauty of regenerative medicine research while also stimulating community conversation around stem cells and emerging stem cell therapies. To do so, the exhibition juxtaposes beautiful colour stem cell images with portraits of patients looking to stem cell research for stemcellnew treatments. The beautiful and thought provoking images contained within the exhibition were provided by scientists across Australia and New Zealand.

Display of the exhibition alternates between Questacon, Canberra, and other galleries around Australia. In mid-2014 the exhibition was shown at the Royal Institute of Australia in Adelaide, and in mid-2015 it is planned for display at SciTech in Perth. Future showings are planned for other cities in Australia and New Zealand. The captivating nature of Stem Cell Stories has gathered significant media interest, including the closing credits of the ABC 7:30 Report in Adelaide and an 8-page feature spread in the December 2014 issue of Cosmos magazine.

Unproven stem cell therapies; what to look out for

Assessment of proposed stem cell treatments through clinical trials is used to determine the treatment’s safety and effectiveness, with the results published for transparency and further education.  We have, in conjunction with Stem Cells Australia and the National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia, prepared a brochure to assist you in your search for more information.... 


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