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2017 Women in Research Award Announced

Posted: 11th May 2017

Dr Jacki Heraud-Farlow is the recipient of the 2017 Susan Alberti Medical Research Foundation (SAMRF) Women in Research Award, presented earlier today at the 5th Annual SAMRF Mother’s Day Lunch.

The Award supports the work of an outstanding female scientist by ensuring their research can continue while they are on maternity leave, and will cover the cost of a research assistant while Jacki is at home looking after her newborns. Jacki has a 3-year-old daughter, Florence, and is expecting twin girls in June. Proceeds from the Annual Luncheon help fund the Award.

“It takes about 12 years to become a fully fledged researcher, so it is really important to put things in place to support female researchers so that they can continue with their work and still have a family,” says Susan Alberti AC. “At a time when there’s so much emphasis on encouraging women to study and participate in STEM roles in Australia, I’m trying hard to get those woman, who have heeded the call and followed their dreams, to stay in the field that they have dedicated many years of their life to.”

“I’m honoured to receive this Award at a crucial time in both my personal and professional life,” says Jacki, “It’s a relief to know I can keep my research going while I spend time with my daughters.”

Jacki researches a pathway that allows normal cells in healthy people to “edit” double-stranded RNA molecules. This process is essential to remove structures that would otherwise look very similar to the genome of an invading virus. Unfortunately, some children are born with mutations in this pathway, meaning their immune systems can no longer tell the difference between “self” and virus. Their cells mount an autoinflammatory response that results in a profound neurodegeneration and loss of motor and communication skills early in life. There is currently no treatment for this disease, termed Aicardi-Goutieres syndrome (AGS). Jacki hopes that her research can shed light on how this process works in healthy people and children with AGS.

“My ultimate goal is to find a treatment and reduce the suffering experienced by children with this disease” said Jacki, “Like most researchers, I am driven by a desire to answer questions about the unknowns of biology. I feel very privileged to be able to follow my passion and have my research supported and I hope this will in turn teach my daughters to follow their passions.”

Jacki completed a Bachelor of Biomedical Science at the University of Melbourne in 2004 and honours in Genetics in 2005. She then worked as a research assistant for two years at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute studying cell death pathways in models for children’s blood cancers. Looking for a new challenge, Jacki moved to Vienna, Austria in 2008 to undertake a PhD. Finishing her PhD in 2012, Jacki completed a short post-doc, then took maternity leave for the birth of her daughter. She returned to Melbourne in 2015 to start postdoctoral training with SVI’s Assoc Professor Carl Walkley.

Video

View the video of the children of our Women in Research Award Award winners here.

For more information please see: Stem cell regulation