Professor Louise Purton

My walk on the path to equity in STEMM

Louise is passionate about fostering the career development of younger researchers and is an advocate for supporting all underrepresented groups in the workplace, including on Twitter: @purton_louise. In 2021 she founded Equity in Australian STEMM, which is a grassroots organisation comprising Australian academic researchers (women, men and non-binary people) who recognise the inequities that currently exist that contribute to the lack of retention of people in underrepresented groups in Australian STEMM. Their advocacy (including a petition and position paper submitted to NHMRC in late 2021) significantly contributed to the recent changes in the NHMRC Investigator Grant funding scheme to improve funding outcomes for women and non-binary applicants.

Louise has had a profound bilateral hearing impairment since she was a child, became a cochlear implant recipient in 2018 and had her second cochlear implant in July 2021. She will share her career path in this seminar and provide suggestions on how to improve accessibility for people with different disabilities in academia.

Professor Louise Purton

Head, Stem Cell Regulation Laboratory, St Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research
Founder, Equity in Australian STEMM

Professor Louise Purton received her PhD from The University of Melbourne in 1995 and undertook post-doctoral studies at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. During this time she discovered that the vitamin A derivative, all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA), has different effects in haematopoiesis and that ATRA enhances haematopoietic stem cell (HSC) self-renewal. She continued her independent research at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre (PMCC) from 2000-2004, focusing on the distinct effects of the different retinoic acid receptors (RARs) in haematopoiesis. She identified that RARγ is a key regulator of HSC self-renewal and that loss of RARγ has profound effects on haematopoiesis, due to both intrinsic and extrinsic effects. She was a visiting scientist in Professor David Scadden’s laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, 2004-2007, continuing to supervise a research team at PMCC until the end of 2005. Her senior author research identified novel roles for cells of the bone marrow microenvironment in regulating myeloproliferative-like disorders, pioneering studies that were published in Cell in 2007.

Louise returned to Melbourne in 2008 to establish and head the Stem Cell Regulation Unit at St. Vincent’s Institute. She was an Associate Director there from 2010 to 2019. She is continuing her research on how haematopoiesis is regulated both intrinsically and extrinsically in normal and diseased states. Louise has a passion for translational research and to date her research has resulted in four clinical trials. She is internationally recognised for her research, has received funding from numerous national and international funding bodies [including NHMRC, NIH, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of America (LLSA), Worldwide Cancer Research] and has held Fellowships from NHMRC and LLSA. She is a former member of the Board of Directors, International Society for Experimental Hematology (ISEH) and is the current Chair of the American Society of Hematology (ASH) Scientific Committee for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine. She is the recipient of the 2022 ISEH McCulloch and Till Award for her exceptional research contributions to the field of haematology and stem cells, being the first Australian woman to receive this award.