Posted 4 June 2024

Announcing our Rising Stars 

 SVI’s Rising Star Awards help the careers of our talented young scientists by providing seed funding for their novel research ideas.  

Early career researchers are the engines that drive discovery research. They strive every day to deliver science with purpose, aiming to turn science fiction into science fact. 

Thanks to those who donated to our For the Love of Science dinner last year, we are thrilled to announce that we were able to fund seven Awards in 2024, backing new projects in the areas of cancer, type 1 diabetes, wound healing and dementia. 

Meet our Rising Stars 

Dr Kurt Brassington – Vascular Biology Lab

Bioengineering insulin-producing cells for type 1 diabetes
Dr Kurt Brassington is harnessing the power of stem cells to provide a replacement for pancreatic tissue destroyed in type 1 diabetes. This will allow for a scalable and personalised treatment for type 1 diabetes whilst drastically increasing the availability of available tissue for transplant.  


Dr Rhynelle Dmello – DNA Damage & Cancer Therapy Lab

How specific genetic changes influence the progression of acute myeloid leukaemia
Dr Rhynelle Dmello will be investigating the role of a newly identified gene mutation in a sub-type of aggressive acute myeloid leukaemia. She will use patient bone marrow samples to understand how this mutation promotes the progression of the disease and find better ways to treat it. 


Dr Kate Firipis – Vascular Biology Lab

Giving the sense of touch to bioengineered skin
Dr Kate Firipis is growing skin in the lab from stem cells that have come from human blood cells. She will be working to incorporate nerves into the lab-generated skin to improve its ability to act as a substitute to skin that has been damaged by severe trauma, burns, chronic wounds (due to diabetes), and surgical cancer removal. 


Dr Christopher Langendorf – Metabolic Signalling Lab 

Arming the immune system to destroy liver cancer
Dr Chris Langendorf is developing a new ‘seek and destroy’ strategy to treat liver cancer. He aims to engineer a protein containing antibody fragments that acts like a homing beacon, recruiting specific immune cells to the surface of liver cancer cells, targeting them for destruction.  


Dr Gaurang Jhala – Immunology Lab

Exhausting the immune system to prevent type 1 diabetes
Dr Gaurang Jhala will be using information that has come from the development of immune therapies in cancer to find new ways to disarm the immune cells that cause type 1 diabetes. His aim is to develop a short-term therapy that provides robust and long-lived protection from type 1 diabetes. 


Dr Gavin Tjin – Stem Cell Regulation Lab 

Improving blood cell recovery following cancer therapy
Dr Gavin Tjin’s work aims to help blood cell numbers recover in people after cancer treatment. He is studying how treatments change cell behaviour in the bone marrow and is looking for new ways to support the cells following cancer therapy. 


Dr Emma Van Der Westhuizen – Structural Biology Lab 

Developing new drugs for treatment of dementia
Dr Emma van der Westhuizen is working on a protein called phospholipase D3, which is in the amyloid plaques in brain cells of people Alzheimer’s disease. She is working on developing drugs that target the protein, with the aim of breaking apart and clearing the plaques.  


On behalf of our early career scientists, thank you for your support. 

Contact the SVI Foundation at [email protected] if you’d like to discuss other ways you can support the Program.  



Learn more about the Rising Stars program