Dr Melanie Eckersley-Maslin awarded prestigious Snow Fellowship

The Department of Anatomy and Physiology research fellow and group leader at the Peter MacCallum Cancer receives an $8 million fellowship.

Recognised as an emerging global research leader who shows the potential to drive, manage and influence the next generation of health and medical innovation, Dr Melanie Eckersley-Maslin is set to advance her understanding of cancer progression.

Thanks to sustained funding program she will gain more independence and time to develop a bold research program, build her research team and establish leadership experience.

Dr Eckersley-Maslin, who has recently relocated back to Australia after more a decade in the US and UK, says: “It’s such an honour to receive this award and it’s big boost for discovery research, too.”

The Eckersley-Maslin Lab is applying her research into how cell identity and function are established in early development to better understand how cancers progress.

“I had been asking what gives the earliest cells of the embryo the ability to generate all the cell types found in adults – but there is a parallel question no one was looking at about how this normally tightly controlled process is hijacked by cancers.”

During the next eight years, Dr Eckersley-Maslin will lead an internationally renowned team, using lessons from the embryo to discover new targets in cancer and develop therapeutic concepts that will go on to be developed into clinical trials.

“The Snow Fellowship will enable me to pursue long-term blue-sky questions not possible to answer through traditional funding schemes. These big questions may be high risk but they’re also high reward," she says.

Snow Medical's support will also allow Dr Eckersley-Maslin to pursue another issue she's a strong advocate for: gender equity in research.

"I am passionate about demonstrating that it is possible to have both a family and a successful career – and would like to see a generational change in attitudes, such that young women no longer feel they have to make a choice and step back from an academic career to raise a family," the mother-of-two says.

Head of the Department of Anatomy and Physiology, Professor Matthew Watt, says: “These are amazingly competitive fellowships, offering an eye-watering eight year support package, and are awarded to the most outstanding early to mid-career researchers in Australia.

“Melanie will use this funding to explore how cell identity and function is established in embryos and how these processes are deregulated in cancers, with the ultimate aim to identify new prognostic markers and therapeutic targets.”

Read more about Dr Eckersley-Maslin’s research

Dr Eckersley-Maslin is also a Galli Senior Research Fellow, an investment in exceptional researchers made possible by the Lorenzo and Pamela Galli Medical Research Trust. Recognition of outstanding researchers through prestigious fellowships like the Snow and Galli Fellow Programs is not only transformative for these individuals’ careers but enables the acceleration of innovation and scientific discovery that improves the health and wellbeing of society.