veski inspiring women career recovery grant recipient
A veski inspiring women career recovery grant is awarded to Dr Sarah Jones, a Senior Research Fellow in the School of Clinical Sciences at Monash University.
Supporting commercialisation and clinical trials
Dr Jones leads a team focused on treatments for autoimmune disorders, in particular investigating alternatives to glucocorticoids (GC) or ‘steroids’. Its research has confirmed that the GC-induced protein GILZ can represent a novel therapeutic alternative to reduce reliance on glucocorticoids. This research has been published in multiple high impact papers.
Dr Jones’s team targets cases where glucocorticoids are chronically used, which may be as high as 1 to 5 per cent of the global population. Its research has focused on systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE; lupus), which affects over 5 million people worldwide, including 92 per 100,000 of Indigenous Australians. In Australia, lupus is more prevalent than leukaemia, multiple myeloma and liver cancer, and affects more women than men by a ratio of 9:1.
The veski grant will allow Dr Jones to establish an independent laboratory team, and recruit and train a new PhD student and research assistant. It will also support further commercialisation of her research through the development of relationships with global pharmaceutical companies as well as proposals for research collaborations and investment. It creates further potential for Australian clinical development, including clinical trials at the new Monash Translational Research Facility.
With young children and extended family based overseas, COVID-19 restrictions have exacerbated existing family circumstances and introduced additional factors limiting Dr Jones’ availability to collaborate with her team, progress research and engage with funding stakeholders.
Developing the next generation of researchers
Dr Jones is a researcher in biomedical science. She leads a team of scientists and clinicians comprising a postdoctoral researcher and six PhD students, including one from India and one from Bangladesh. All team members are women.
After completing doctoral studies at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Dr Jones became a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard Medical School and Trinity College Dublin, before being recruited back to Victoria by Monash University.
In 2020 Dr Jones participated in the Bridge Program, a training program that provides foundational skills for researchers seeking to establish their own commercialisation pathway. She subsequently secured funding to travel to the United States and meet with pharmaceutical companies – postponed due to travel restrictions.
Dr Jones’s contribution to biomedical research is multifaceted, and she is active in recruiting, training and mentoring students, particularly young women, to establish the next generation of researchers. She continues to participate in Biology teaching in Australia and New Zealand, and is Scientific Consultant, Editor and Author of Nelson Cengage Learning’s Senior Biology Series. In 2013 Dr Jones became inaugural Project Manager for the Australasian Society for Immunology, designing and implementing initiatives including the Society’s Women’s Initiative.