WITH ongoing funding cuts to science programs, a Mollymook doctor has turned to crowd-funding to finance her medical research.
Dr Debbie Watson has entered an online video competition aimed at getting unfunded mid-career medical researchers back into the lab.
An Honorary Fellow at the University of Wollongong, Dr Watson hopes the Inspire Australia Research Competition will help fund her research into graft-versus-host disease, a major complication that can occur in cancer patients undergoing donor stem cell or bone marrow transplantation.
She has created a short video outlining her research and calling for a portion of funds that have been raised by the Australian Academy of Science via the Thinkable crowd-funding website.
So far more than $14,000 is in the coffers and Dr Watson hopes people will cast their votes for her project and keep her in the top 10 so she receives a seed-grant.
She said more funding was needed to support medical researchers who have the skills and knowledge to be great scientists, but lack the support and funding required to continue their important research.
Dr Watson completed her PhD in 2006 and has more than 15 years’ experience in medical research laboratories.
She has published her research in highly ranked immunology and transplant journals, presented at national and international immunology and transplant conferences, and won several prizes for her research in the field of transplantation.
“I am currently not funded, but continue to conduct laboratory research at the University of Wollongong (UOW), working as an Honorary Fellow and also supervise two Honours students and one PhD student at the university,” she said.
“My research into graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) can help save the lives of patients with blood cancers, including leukaemia and lymphoma, who are generally treated by chemotherapy which attacks the cancer but also knocks out the patient’s immune system.
“Transplantation of donor stem cells or bone marrow replaces the immune system and can be a curative therapy in the cancer patient, however, GVHD can occur when immune cells from the donor attack the cancer patient or host tissues.”
Dr Watson said up to 50 per cent of cancer patients having a donor transplant would develop some form of GVHD and up to 15 per cent would die from GVHD complications.
“I am examining ways to prevent GVHD by targeting pathways associated with the immune response and tissue damage,” she added.
Dr Watson is encouraging people to vote for her video and make a donation to the prize pool to help get her back in the lab.
The Australian Academy of Science has launched the Inspire Australia video research competition to showcase innovative research being performed in laboratories and universities across Australia.
People can cast their vote until July 31 by logging on to: https:// thinkable.org/submission /3098.