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Professor Melissa Little receives Science Academy’s highest honour

Research News
Published: 
Wednesday, December 5, 2018 - 10:15am
Professor Melissa Little, Theme Director of Cell Biology at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, has been elected as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, one of the highest honours an Australian scientist can receive

The Academy’s election of Prof Little recognises her outstanding contribution to stem cell medicine. She will be formally admitted at a ceremony in Canberra today, joining the Academy’s elite fellowship of 524 individuals who have made a sustained and significant contribution to Australian science.

Describing her election to the Academy as an enormous honour, Melissa says “It is personally humbling and rewarding to see your passion for science acknowledged, however my success reflects the contributions of my entire team across many years.”

Prof Little is admired internationally for her research on kidney development and her pioneering studies into renal regeneration. She has spent more than 20 years researching the molecular basis of kidney development, renal disease and repair.

In 2015, Prof Little showed that kidney organoids could be grown from human pluripotent stem cells, a breakthrough that has paved the way for kidneys organoids to be grown for use in drug screening, disease modelling and ultimately to bioengineer replacement kidney tissues.

“One in 10 Australians has kidney disease,” Prof Little says. “We hope that one day we will be able to recreate these organs using stem cells.”

Prof Little’s discovery has received numerous awards, including the 2016 Eureka Prize for Scientific Research, and was featured on the covers of Nature and Nature Cell Biology.

In early 2017, Prof Little was appointed Program Leader of Stem Cells Australia, an Australian Research Council Special Research Initiative that develops innovative ways to harness the potential of stem cells.

Together with a strong record of commercial translation, Prof Little has been a leader in Australian science policy through her membership of both the Wills and McKeon reviews of Health and Medical Science.

Prof Little is based in Melbourne, where she heads the Kidney Research Laboratory at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute. She is a Professor in the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, University of Melbourne, the President of the Australian Society of Stem Cell Research and Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences.

The Australian Academy of Science was founded in 1954. It is a not-for-profit organisation of individuals elected for their outstanding contributions to science and research, and a national body that supports and promotes science through a range of programs and activities.