The University of Sydney
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About the Grant

The Sir Zelman Cowen Universities Fund Blue Sky Research Grant was established in 2011 to provide seed funding for research in emerging areas, such as organ/tissue regeneration, where the investigators would use the funds to gain sufficient momentum to be competitive in larger funding systems.

The quality and number of applications received for the inaugural SIR ZELMAN COWEN UNIVERSITIES FUND BLUESKY RESEARCH GRANT resulted in the Trustees’ decision to make two awards, each of $100,000 in the new scheme.

The grants were awarded to:
Prof John Rasko, University of Sydney & RPA Hospital, Dr Janet Macpherson (RPAH) and Prof Tony Weiss (USYD) for a collaborative project with Prof Dan Gazit of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.


Prof Yehudit Bergman, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, for a collaborative project with Prof Jacob George, University of Sydney

Prof Rasko’s project, Characterising a unique substrate for expansion and differentiation of mesenchymal stromal cells for use in regenerative medicine, builds on earlier work. Summarising the project, Prof Rasko said, “We have recently shown that blood-forming cells respond favourably to being grown on an elastic bed or “nano-mattress”. In this Blue Sky project we will test the potential of our “nano-mattress” to enhance the ability of other human cells found in the bone marrow to make bone and connective tissue, such as tendons and cartilage, for applications in diverse diseases including those affecting the heart, joints, bones, and immune systems.” Read about the outcomes of this research here.

Prof Rasko
Prof Macpherson
Prof Weiss
Prof Gazit

Prof Bergman’s project, Identifying novel factors for improving liver regeneration in the elderly will also build on earlier work. Describing her work, Prof Bergman said, “Working in mice models of human cancers, we have shown that pregnancy induces the rapid growth of liver cells, accelerating liver regeneration and reducing mortality. In this Blue Sky project, we will identify the factor(s) generated during pregnancy which induce this regeneration, and will explore their ability to reduce mortality, and the mechanisms of their action on liver cells. Our aim is to identify therapeutic options for humans requiring resection of liver tumours, whether primary or secondary.” Read about the outcomes of this research here.

Prof Bergman
Prof George