Prestigious travelling scholarship for transplant researcher Nathan Zammit

Congratulations to Dr Nathan Zammit, who received the prestigious Derek Gray Distinguished Traveling Scholarship Award at the recent meeting of the International Pancreas and Islet Transplant Association (IPITA).

A/Prof Shane Grey and Dr Nathan Zammit

21 September 2017

Garvan warmly congratulates Dr Nathan Zammit, of Garvan’s Immunology Division, on his success at the 16th International Congress of the International Pancreas and Islet Transplant Association (IPITA), held in Oxford, UK in June.

At the meeting, Dr Zammit – whose research focuses on improving islet cell transplants as a treatment for type 1 diabetes – received the Derek Gray Distinguished Travelling Scholarship Award. The competitive scholarship is awarded biennially to a single research scientist in the field of islet or pancreas transplantation who has demonstrated outstanding research merit as well as future potential.

Dr Zammit is a researcher in the Transplant Immunology Laboratory, led by Associate Professor Shane Grey, and one of the aims of their work is to help islet cells of the pancreas resist immune attack after transplantation. Dr Zammit plans to use the award to visit a number of laboratories across the globe so as to develop collaborations with leading researchers in this field.

“The Derek Gray Award will give me the opportunity to exchange technologies and build relationships with a number of key transplant experts – working together, I believe we can achieve our common goal of making islet transplantation a safer, more effective and obtainable cure for people with type 1 diabetes,” Dr Zammit says.

“In our lab here at Garvan, we have identified a protein called A20 that ‘calms’ the islet cells of the pancreas by reducing inflammatory responses, and may promote immune tolerance when islets are transplanted. I hope to further explore the potential clinical use of A20 to improve transplant outcomes, by working with experts Professor Gregory Korbutt, at the University of Alberta in Canada, Professor Jon Ordorico at the University of Wisconsin, USA and Professor Danwei Huangfu at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, USA.”

Dr Zammit is grateful to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) Australia for its role in this opportunity; both Dr Zammit and fellow Transplant Immunology Laboratory researcher Ms Stacey Walters were awarded Early Stage Scientist Travel Grants from JDRF Australia earlier this year, which supported their travel to the IPITA meeting.

At the IPITA meeting, Dr Zammit gave a presentation on his work on A20 and islet transplants, and took part in a community event with the Diabetes Research and Wellness Foundation UK, where he shared his research with individuals with diabetes and other members of the public.

Ms Walters presented her recent research findings into boosting insulin production from islet cells to improve transplant efficiency, which were published earlier this month. Her abstract was also recognised with an IPITA award in recognition of its excellence.

Professor Stuart Tangye, Head of the Immunology Division, says, “It is just wonderful to see young researchers like Nathan and Stacey being recognised for the key discoveries they are making in the field of islet transplantation. These awards are a testament to their hard work, commitment and enthusiasm. Such achievements make us all very proud of - and excited by - the critical advances being made in the Immunology Division at Garvan."

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