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Ocular stem cell project receives government funding

Dr Anai Gonzalez-Cordero stem cell retinal organoid

A stem cell expert at the University of Sydney, Children’s Medical Research Institute (CMRI), has been awarded almost half a million dollars to develop stem cell derived-retinal organoids to test genetic therapies.

Dr Anai Gonzalez-Cordero is one of three researchers to share in $6.3 million in funding awarded to the University of Sydney from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) 2020 Stem Cell Mission.

She joined the University of Sydney and CMRI in 2019 after working as a Research Fellow at the Institute of Ophthalmology, University College London, UK.

Gonzalez-Cordero’s $498,419 grant will aim to harness researcher expertise in human stem cell biology, genetics, ophthalmology and gene therapy to test the efficacy of new therapies.

Her research output aims to overcome the leading cause of blindness in the working-age population, where the majority of inherited retinal conditions leading to total blindness are due to loss of photoreceptor cells.

Gonzalez-Cordero’s share forms part of a larger sum of $18.7 million in funding for the Stem Cell Mission, focusing on research that develops and delivers innovative, safe and effective stem cell medicines to improve health outcomes, announced by Federal Health Minister Mr Greg Hunt.

The initiative is said to be a priority of the Morrison Government’s $20 billion MRFF and will provide $150 million towards research over nine years.

Gonzalez-Cordero’s colleagues Associate Professor James Chong and Associate Professor Wendy Lipworth, also from the University of Sydney, received funding for their stem cell projects.

Chong was awarded $4.9 million for induced pluripotent stem cell derived cardiomyocytes – a new therapy for no-option end-stage heart failure. Lipworth was awarded $799,543 for ethics and evidence in stem cell medicine.

Other recipients in the 2020 Stem Cell Mission funding included Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, which received $3.6 million spread across four projects, and the University of Melbourne, which received $1.5 million for two projects.

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