Group 1 - Platform science

Chair: Professor Martin Pera

The fields of stem cell research and regenerative medicine are new, rapidly growing, and highly interdisciplinary. Stem cell science will have widespread ramifications across all areas of biomedical science, including functional genomics, developmental biology, disease modelling, drug development, and gene and cell therapies. Many now predict that regenerative medicine will become the fourth pillar of health care, alongside pharmaceuticals, biologics and medical devices.It’s inevitable that future Australian biomedical science and health care will depend on maintaining and growing a rich and robust research effort in this domain. This in turn  will depend on access to platform technologies that enable our researchers to stay on the frontiers of the field.

Technological advances, such as next-generation DNA sequencing or optogenetics, often reinvigorate existing research or open up entire new fields of investigation, and lead to the development of new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches. The scientific community must develop, identify and promote emerging technologies that will accelerate progress in basic and applied research. We must also pinpoint where current technology is lacking and new approaches are required. 

Our understanding of the molecular regulation of stem cell behaviour has progressed enormously but there are still many gaps in our knowledge. Means to identify, characterise and manipulate stem and progenitor cells are constantly evolving, and progress towards constructing tissues and organs from cultured cells is accelerating. Ancillary platforms such as cell culture technology and automation, targeted genetic manipulation, omics and bioinformatics, microfluidics, imaging, chemical biology, biomaterials and engineering are providing powerful new tools for stem cell science. In addition, pioneering early stage clinical trials are expected to pose new questions and challenges for basic research and reverse translation.

In this panel we will assess the current state-of-the-art of stem cell science nationally and internationally, and identify some of the areas where advances in technology are required to further both basic and translational research. We will also discuss barriers to dissemination of new technologies across disciplines and discuss strategies to surmount these hurdles. Finally, we will assess requirements for research infrastructure to support stem cell research.

Questions to get you thinking

  1. What current scientific challenges in stem cell research cannot be tackled using current technologies?
  2. What are the key technology gaps in cell therapy?
  3. What infrastructure is required at a national level to accelerate the development of stem cell research and regenerative medicine?

References and reading material

Dimmeler S, Ding S, Rando TA and Trounson A. (2014) ‘Translational strategies and challenges in regenerative medicine’. Nature medicine 20(8):814-821.

Lancaster MA and Knoblich JA. (2014) ‘Organogenesis in a dish: modelling development and disease using organoid technologies’. Science 345(6194): 1247125.

Morris CA, Cahan P, Li H, Zhao AM, San Roman AK, Shivdasani RA, Collins JJ and Daley GQ. (2014) ‘Dissecting engineered cell types and enhancing cell fate conversion via CellNet’. Cell 158(4):889-902.

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