Nadia Rajab awarded CSIRO scholarship in synthetic biology

The Centre for Stem Cell Systems’ PhD student, Nadia Rajab, was awarded a CSIRO Synthetic Biology Future Science Platform scholarship for her project entitled ‘Designer macrophages for probing novel regulatory networks and therapies for neurodegenerative diseases’.

In her PhD, Nadia will be developing an in-house terminally differentiated macrophage cell line from human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). This will allow an investigation into regulatory networks that govern macrophage activities, and in turn, enable the potential for discovery of novel genes involved in immune function. This gene discovery element will add to the collaborative effort of the internationally renowned FANTOM consortium. Nadia will then ultimately deconstruct and re-engineer the natural properties of the macrophage cell to produce synthetic transfusible cells that are capable of enhancing local regenerative processes.

Nadia’s PhD project is a collaboration between the University of Melbourne and CSIRO, two leading institute in the field of stem cell science. The first-class research facilities at both institutions, including a human iPSC focused laboratory at CSIRO and iPSC banks, FACS/ flow cytometry facility, CRISPR-mediated gene editing and molecular biology resources at the University of Melbourne will ensure the success of this project.

Nadia will be supervised by leading experts in the synthetic biology and neurodegenerative fields:

Dr. Matthew Rutar (The University of Melbourne):

Dr Rutar’s knowledge is in retinal cell biology, age-related macular degeneration with expertise in molecular biology techniques as well as high-throughput sequencing and gene therapy. Dr Rutar will lead all the laboratory training and method development and provide guidance regarding neurodegenerative diseases.

Matt was recently awarded a Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience Department Research support grant of $20,000 for the generation of preliminary data to better understand the role of macrophages in the progression of retinal disease.

Professor Christine Wells (The University of Melbourne):

Professor Wells is experienced in stem cell sciences, genetics, genomics and bioinformatics. She is a lead participant in several major international consortia including the FANTOM consortium and therefore has expertise in gene discovery and characterization. Furthermore, she has extensive experience in both stem cell biology and innate immunity.

Dr. Andrew Laslett (CSIRO):

Dr Laslett has extensive experience in human pluripotent stem cell biology research and stem cell differentiation. He would provide invaluable knowledge required for the success of this project.

Congratulations Nadia.


The CSIRO Synthetic Biology Future Science Platform Postgraduate Scholarship Program at CSIRO provides enhanced opportunities in science and engineering for outstanding graduates enrolling each year at Australian tertiary institutions as full-time postgraduates for research leading to the award of a PhD. Students are co-supervised by researchers in an Australian university and CSIRO.