Meet Dr Grace Lidgerwood, the Latest MJ Gething Award Recipient
Dr Grace Lidgerwood, Dept of Anatomy and Physiology, is the latest recipient of the MJ Gething Award intended to provide her with financial aid to maintain research momentum whilst being a new mother.
The MJ Gething Award was founded and named after Prof Emeritus Mary-Jane H. Gething to support young female scientists working in the biomedical sciences. The grant is intended to help early career researchers with significant caring responsibilities to maintain research momentum or build their research profile.
Dr Grace Lidgerwood is a Research Fellow in the Stem Cell Disease Modelling Unit. She worked with patient-derived iPSCs (induced pluripotent stem cells) to understand the mechanisms associated with macular degeneration. Her research involves differentiating iPSCs from healthy and diseased patients into retinal cells affected by AMD (age-related macular disease), and understanding what makes the diseased cells ‘sick’ using various approaches, including large-scale disease modelling coupled with single-cell transcriptomics studies and global proteomic changes.
A recent discovery is that mitochondrial dysfunction is significantly overrepresented in AMD, and large-scale drug screens are being performed with their collaborators (Kaylene Simpson, VCFG) using libraries of mitochondrial-targeting compounds to see if they have any therapeutic benefit. Dr Lidgerwood hopes that these approaches to disease modelling and drug discovery will have real implications for finding therapeutics for patients suffering from AMD, specifically the aging population. Given that around 1/7 Australians over 50 years of age will be impacted by the disease, it is important to find effective treatments or cures for the most prevalent form of the disease (dry AMD) given none exist currently.
Dr Lidgerwood shared that the award will “enable [her] to continue research momentum on [the] project after a period of absence on maternity leave with [her] second child”. She also was a recipient of the award in 2022 when she had her first child, knowing how the additional funding benefited her greatly. Her most important piece of advice she would give to her younger self is to “make sure that your work has a purpose to you”, much like how she is driven by the satisfaction she receives knowing that her research builds on studies both local and international that could potentially help communities of people who are afflicted by diseases without a cure.