UQ researcher awarded top international honour


Professor Melissa Little from The University of Queensland's Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) has been selected as a 2006 Eisenhower Fellow and is the first Queenslander in 32 years to receive the honour.

The Eisenhower Fellowship is a prestigious program that brings together 25 emerging leaders from around the world for two months of professional networking opportunities in the United States.

The fellowship is a highly esteemed accolade, with only 26 Australians selected as fellows in the award's 52 year history, the most recent being actress Leah Purcell in 2004.

"The aim is to build leaders with international breadth and tolerance maintained by a network of collegiality," Professor Little said.

"I feel enormously honoured to have received this Fellowship and I plan to use it to meet with leaders in the areas of stem cell research, research translation, business leadership and ethics."

Sir Leo Hielscher, Chairman of the Queensland Treasury Corporation, is the previous Queensland recipient, having been awarded a fellowship in 1973, and nominated Professor Little for this year's award.

"Receiving the Eisenhower Fellowship was a fantastic opportunity for me and allowed me to meet and talk with very important and influential people in my field. Now, Melissa has the opportunity to experience this priceless opportunity," he said.

Professor Little's research is focused on developing new treatments through understanding kidney development and the causes of renal disease.

Professor Little chairs the Renal Regeneration Consortium, a research team of 12 national experts in the fields of developmental biology, molecular genetics, bioinformatics and stem cell biology, working to develop new technologies to repair kidneys damaged by chronic kidney disease.

"With about 7,500 end-stage renal disease (ESRD) patients in Australia receiving dialysis at a total cost of AU$375 million per annum, kidneys available for transplantation do not meet demand," Professor Little said.

"We are investigating the potential of stem cell technology to restore or replace damaged or diseased tissues in the kidney."

IMB Director Professor John Mattick said Melissa was a worthy recipient of the Fellowship.

"Professor Little has a track record of ground-breaking discoveries, but of equal importance is the fact that she has established a company to ensure discoveries made here can be commercialised and translated into better outcomes for patients."

UQ Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor David Siddle congratulated Professor Little on her outstanding success and commended the valuable work in research and commercialisation of her discoveries.

The Eisenhower Fellowships was founded in 1953 as a tribute to Dwight D Eisenhower from his friends as he assumed the US presidency, and recognises individuals of outstanding achievement who are expected to assume positions of influence.

Professor Little will travel to Philadelphia in March next year to participate in the Fellowship Program.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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