As an undergraduate at the University of Teheran, Esmaeel Azadian searched worldwide for the right laboratory for his PhD studies, one that would make best use of his skills combining bioinformatics and experimental biology. He identified the Naik Laboratory at WEHI, headed by Associate Professor Shalin Naik.
“Shalin’s lab was working on some cutting-edge projects which are really advanced – in a world-class institution,” Esmaeel said.
Esmaeel joined the Naik lab in August 2020 as the recipient of a Cybec Foundation PhD Scholarship.
“Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to come and join the lab,” he said. “I just want to say ‘thank you’ to the Cybec Foundation for this great scholarship.
“It means a lot to me because it provides this opportunity and because it proves to me that I did a great job in the past, with great publications, which made me qualify for the scholarship.”
Long-term Cybec Foundation board member Dr David Middleton said Cybec and WEHI shared the philosophy of supporting talented students who might not otherwise get the opportunity to pursue their potential.
“WEHI’s a good fit for us,” David said. “Esmaeel was known to Shalin Naik as an exceptional student but circumstances prevented him from travelling to Australia to take up this opportunity. We are very pleased to be partnering with WEHI to enable Esmaeel to undertake this research and we are confident he will make a fine contribution. He is indeed a talented and deserving recipient,” he said.
The Cybec Foundation, established in 2002 by Roger Riordan AM and his wife Patricia, takes a keen interest in its beneficiaries and their personal and professional development.
“We are very much looking forward to following Esmaeel’s progress and, in time, those equally deserving scholars that might follow him,” David said.
Esmaeel’s project is ambitious. It’s about clonal heterogeneity – that is, investigating why, in a population of different cell types, one type becomes more dominant than others. “For example, if we have breast cancer cell lines, over time a specific sub-population of cells becomes dominant, outcompeting other types of cells. These cells are responsible for metastases and disease progression,” he said.
“Until recently we didn’t have good enough techniques to study these behaviours to understand why specific types of cells become dominant; Shalin’s lab has some cutting-edge techniques that he and colleagues invented to examine why this occurs.”
Esmaeel will study many different cell lines to look at the properties of cells that become dominant and hopes to identify the reasons that specific cell types become dominant over others.
Ultimately, he wants his science to benefit humanity. “Doing this research here at WEHI means I can join some of the world’s best scientists working hard to understand fundamental mechanisms which could ultimately pave the way for curing complex diseases.”