Felicity Davis

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Decoding calls to action

Felicity Davis is interested in how cells receive and decode information from their environment and communicate with each other to fulfil their biological functions.
The mammary gland changes dramatically during development, pregnancy, and once again when milk production is no longer needed. So, processes including cell death, tissue remodelling and regeneration can all be studied in mammary tissue.
Felicity’s team uses live cell imaging to investigate calcium signals inside cells. Being able to image these signalling events across multiple scales lets them observe the behaviour of individual cells, and how this behaviour is coordinated with neighbouring cells to ultimately control the function of the organ.
How thousands to billions of cells are produced and arranged in space and time to execute a defined task at the cell level and cooperatively achieve a biological outcome at the organ level, remains an important question at the core of biomedical science. When an organ malfunctions, medical interventions typically focus on restoring function, where possible, or repairing or replacing damaged tissue. To optimally achieve these goals, however, we must first understand how the organ is formed, how it may regenerate and how it fundamentally functions. The lack of models and methods to visualise how cells in complex environments sense, decode and respond to developmental and physiological cues has limited progress in this area.
Using advanced microscopy—coupled with novel mouse models and computational platforms for image analysis—Felicity’s team is able to observe and quantify signal-response relationships in individual epithelial cells deep within living tissue. Her group is using this approach to provide new insights in to the molecular mechanisms that orchestrate the formation, function and failure of the mammary gland and other exocrine systems.

Learn more about the Calcium Signalling group

About Felicity Davis

Dr Felicity Davis holds a joint appointment between SMS and Aarhus University in Denmark. She has brought together her unique expertise in calcium signalling, mammary biology, adult stem cells and volumetric imaging, with the overarching goal of improving our understanding of mothers’, women’s and babies’ health.

Felicity trained as a pharmacist before embarking on a PhD in the field of breast cancer under the supervision of Professors Sarah Roberts-Thomson and Greg Monteith at the University of Queensland. She subsequently joined Jim Putney’s lab at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) in North Carolina as an NIH Visiting Fellow (2012-2014), where she explored novel roles for store-operated calcium channels in mammalian systems. In 2014, Felicity was awarded an NHMRC CJ Martin Fellowship to join Christine Watson’s group in the Department of Pathology and Cambridge Stem Cell Institute (University of Cambridge). Here, Felicity branched into adult stem cell biology, adopting a mutation-based genetic labelling strategy for single cell lineage-tracing studies in the mouse mammary gland. This unbiased approach enabled the group to elucidate the contribution of a single, lineage-restricted stem cell to the creation of the adult epithelium.

In 2018, Felicity was awarded an NHMRC Career Development Fellowship and Project Grant to start her independent research group at the University of Queensland. Felicity is a strong advocate for equity and diversity in science and the mentorship and sponsorship of early career scientists.

Select Publications

Stevenson AJ*, Vanwalleghem G*, Stewart TA, Condon, ND, Lloyd-Lewis B, Marino N, Putney JW, Scott EK, Ewing AD and Davis FM. Multiscale imaging of basal cell dynamics in the functionally-mature mammary gland. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (2020) 117(43) 26822-32.

Lloyd-Lewis B, Harris O, Watson CJ and Davis FM. Mammary stem cells: Premise, properties and perspectives. Trends in Cell Biology (2017) 27(8):556-67.

Davis FM*, Lloyd-Lewis B*, Harris OB, Kozar S, Winton DJ, Muresan L, Watson CJ. Single cell lineage tracing in the mammary gland reveals stochastic clonal dispersion of stem/progenitor cell progeny. Nature Communications (2016) 7:13053.

Davis FM, Janoshazi A, Kyathanahalli S, Steinckwich N, D’Agostin D, Petranka JG, et al. Essential role of Orai1 calcium channels in lactation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (2015) 112(18):5827-32.

Davis FM, Azimi I, Faville RA, Peters AA, Jalink K, Putney JW, et al. Induction of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) in breast cancer cells is calcium signal dependent. Oncogene (2014) 33(18):2307-16.

*Equal contribution

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More Information

Career Highlights

  • Novo Nordisk Foundation Young Investigator Award
  • Metcalf Prize for Stem Cell Research
  • NHMRC Career Development Fellowship
  • NHMRC Early Career Fellowship
  • University Medal from The University of Queensland

Current Funding Sources

  • Novo Nordisk Foundation
  • US Department of Defense
  • National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia