Outstanding reproductive biology and hormone researchers recognised

L-R: Karen Chan, Swati Kharoud, Adam Hagg, Dr Kelly Walton, Associate Professor Craig Harrison.
L-R: Karen Chan, Swati Kharoud, Adam Hagg, Dr Kelly Walton, Associate Professor Craig Harrison.

Researchers from the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) were recognised for the outstanding work in the fields of reproductive biology and hormone research at the 2019 combined Annual Scientific Meetings for the Endocrine Society of Australia and the Society for Reproductive Biology.

Congratulations to Dr Kelly Walton and Dr Amy Winship, and PhD students Swati Kharoud and Adam Hagg on their achievements.

Dr Walton’s breakthrough findings over the years, and her intensive research in the field of endocrinology, have been recognised with an Endocrinology Society of Australia (ESA) Mid-Career Researcher Award for 2019.

Reproductive hormones ‘inhibin’, discovered almost a century ago, are established regulators of fertility in males and females. However, their roles outside of the reproductive system are less well understood. Over the past decade Dr Walton has been developing molecular tools that are now helping to identify new roles for these age-old hormones.

“Our approaches are now redefining what these hormones can do. We have some exciting new data that suggests inhibins may act as guardians of metabolic health in females. As inhibins production stops at menopause, these results are likely to have big implications for post-menopausal women, who we know are predisposed to weight gain,” she said.

The ESA Mid-Career award recognises outstanding contributions made by an Australian mid-career researcher to the field of endocrinology. As part of this award, Dr Walton presented her research findings in a 30-minute lecture annual meeting, this year held at the International Convention Centre in Sydney from 18-21 August.

Dr Amy Winship.Dr Amy Winship, from the Hutt lab, was awarded the Society of Reproductive Biology Newcastle Reproduction Emerging Leader Award. This award recognised her outstanding early career research, and was based on her track record and oral presentation at the annual meeting.

Dr Winship’s research seeks to understand the impacts of cancer therapies on female fertility. Cancer therapies often compromise the function of the female reproductive tract, leading to infertility.

Dr Winship aims to understand how cancer therapies cause damage, in order to develop new strategies to safeguard the fertility of female patients undergoing treatment.

“This is particularly important, as the landscape of cancer therapies is shifting from conventional cytotoxic cancer therapies to more personalised, targeted treatments with reduced off-target effects,” Dr Winship said.

“This includes the introduction of immunotherapies and small molecule inhibitors, like PARP inhibitors,” she said.

Both were a feature of Dr Winship’s award-winning presentation.

Swati Kharoud, a PhD student from the Harrison/Walton lab, received an Outstanding Abstract Award from the Australian Women in Endocrinology Society. Her abstract was titled ‘TMEPAI inhibits SMAD2/3-mediated muscle wasting’.

“Towards the goal of attenuating muscle wasting in chronic diseases such as cancer and muscular dystrophy, we explored the ability of the membrane-bound transmembrane prostate androgen-induced (TMEPAI) protein to specifically target activin and myostatin induced SMAD2/3 signalling in skeletal muscles,” Ms Kharoud said.

Adam Hagg, a PhD student co-supervised by Associate Professor Craig Harrison from the Monash BDI and Associate Professor Paul Gregorevic at the University of Melbourne, was awarded the prestigious Novartis Junior Scientist Award from the Endocrinology Society of Australia. His studies focus on understanding the cellular mechanisms responsible for cancer associated muscle wasting and developing therapeutic interventions for the disease.

This award was given to the best student oral presentation at the annual meeting. Finalists were short-listed for presentation based on their outstanding abstracts. Mr Hagg’s presentation was titled ‘Interrogating Bone Morphogenetic Protein signalling in cancer cachexia’ and earned him $5000 from Novartis Australia.

About the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute

Committed to making the discoveries that will relieve the future burden of disease, the newly established Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute at Monash University brings together more than 120 internationally-renowned research teams. Our researchers are supported by world-class technology and infrastructure, and partner with industry, clinicians and researchers internationally to enhance lives through discovery.