Dr Xiaodong (Ethan) Liu, a regenerative medicine researcher, based at the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) and Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI), was announced a winner at the Victorian Premier’s Awards for Health and Medical Research in a ceremony on 4 April 2022 at Deakin Edge. Xiaodong was also named the winner of the Basic Science Researcher category.
The Award recognises Xiaodong’s major contribution to the groundbreaking iBlastoids research, published in Nature in 2021. The work, overseen by Professor Jose Polo, gives rise to a scalable and tractable system to model early human embryonic development, overcoming the limitations of frequently-used simple cell culture systems and revolutionising the toolkit for regenerative medicine and stem cell research.
‘I am incredibly honoured to receive the Victorian Premier’s Awards for Health and Medical Research. It is really a recognition of the work I have done with my mentor Jose Polo, members of Polo lab and our collaborators over the years’.
In this breakthrough, Xiaodong and his peers have reprogrammed fibroblasts into in vitro three-dimensional models of the human blastocyst, calling this iBlastoids. This will enable the study of early embryogenesis, the impact of gene mutations, pathogens and toxins on development, and the generation of novel therapies associated with in vitro fertilisation. “Such a breadth of potential advancements means that in the long term, Dr Xiaodong’s research will deliver real-world benefits throughout the community.”
Xiaodong started as a PhD student in the Polo group, based at BDI and ARMI, characterising the distinct functional and molecular features of human pluripotent stem cells when generated through various methods. This high-quality research formed the foundation for iBlastoids, which Xiaodong continued to work on during his postdoctoral studies. This dedication highlights Xiaodong’s passion for stem cell research and dogged determination to answer some of life’s greatest mysteries. As part of the award, he will receive a total of $20,000 to support his work as an early-career researcher.
The Premier’s Awards is highly prestigious and competitive. Established in 1995 by the Victorian Government in partnership with the Australian Society for Medical Research, the awards recognise the exceptional contributions and capabilities of Victoria’s early-career health and medical researchers across five different categories, from basic science to public health.