Around the universities

Cate Swannell
Med J Aust || doi: 10.5694/mja15.0921C3
Published online: 21 September 2015

The Australian Museum’s Eureka Prize winners for 2015 have been announced and health and medical academics have featured strongly. Professor Dayong Jin (University of Technology Sydney, Macquarie University and ARC Centre for Nanoscale Biophotonics), Professor Tanya Monro (University of South Australia, University of Adelaide and ARC Centre for Nanoscale Biophotonics), and Professor Bradley Walsh (Minomic International Ltd and Macquarie University) won the prize for Excellence in Interdisciplinary Scientific Research for their work on Super Dots technologies used for non-invasive cancer diagnosis. Dr Marc Pellegrini and Dr Greg Ebert (University of Melbourne) team at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research won the prize for Infectious Diseases Research for developing the first therapy to eliminate hepatitis B virus-infected cells, resulting in clearance of the virus in preclinical models. The therapy has now entered clinical trials in Australia. Professor Peter Currie, Phong Nguyen (Monash University) and Dr Georgina Hollway (Garvan Institute of Medical Research) won the prize for Scientific Research for identifying for the first time a mechanism in the body that triggers hematopoietic stem cell production, which could see it used to cure a range of blood disorders and immune diseases.

Monash University’s Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences has awarded its Lifetime Achievement Award to Emeritus Professor Richard Larkins, AO, for his “significant contribution to both Monash and the wider Australian public through his work as a medical researcher as well as his six years as Vice-Chancellor and President of Monash University”. He was Dean of the Faculty from 1998 to 2003. Before that he was Professor of Medicine at the University of Melbourne, holding the James Stewart Chair at the Royal Melbourne Hospital from 1984 to 1997. His clinical and research interests were in diabetes, endocrinology and general medicine. Professor Ben Canny received the David de Kretser Medal for his work leading the development of the MB BS curriculum and for maintaining “an active research and teaching profile, focusing on various aspects of stress, reproductive and metabolic endocrinology, as well as on ethics and professional and clinical skills, and most recently medical education, especially assessment”.

Three University of Melbourne academics have been appointed by the VCCC Alliance to oversee research programs at the Victorian Comprehensive Care Centre, which will house the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre from mid 2016. Professor Grant McArthur and Professor Andrew Roberts have been appointed to lead the research and education of two specific cancers — melanoma and haematology — and Professor Jon Emery will oversee the delivery of primary care at the VCCC. The VCCC will also provide new state-of-the-art cancer research and clinical facilities for Melbourne Health, and more than 25 000 square metres of dedicated space for over 1200 cancer researchers.

The University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience’s Dr Alysha Elliott is nominated for the Centenary Institute’s Lawrence Creative Prize people’s choice award, which recognises young researchers tackling challenging issues and problems. Dr Elliott leads the microbial and screening team for UQ’s Community for Open Antimicrobial Drug Discovery, which aims to find new antibiotics through scientific cooperation. “We are taking an open approach where scientists around the world can send us their chemical compounds and we will test, for free, if they are active against disease-causing bacteria and fungi”, Dr Elliott said.

A new First People’s Health Unit has opened at Griffith University, aiming to “provide high level indigenous leadership and strategic direction on First People’s health in the areas of learning and teaching, research, and community engagement”. Professor Roianne West will develop the FPHU’s learning and teaching plan. Of Griffith’s 8500 students studying within its health group, 170 identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, which is believed to be one of the highest figures for an Australian university. The FPHU will also establish and lead research in First People’s Health, as well as foster enhanced collaborations with the Menzies Health Institute Queensland and schools within the Griffith Health Group.

University of New South Wales experts in big data, assisted reproductive technology and research innovation have been appointed to National Health and Medical Research Council committees. Professor Louisa Jorm, Head of UNSW’s Centre for Big Data Research in Health, has been appointed to the NHMRC’s Health Ethics Committee. Professor William (Bill) Ledger, head of obstetrics and gynaecology at UNSW’s School of Women’s & Children’s Health, has been appointed to the NHMRC Embryo Research Licensing Committee. Professor Maria Kavallaris, the co-director of the Australian Centre for NanoMedicine and Program Head at the Children’s Cancer Institute, has been appointed to the NHMRC Research Committee.

Balancing parenthood and academia is set to become easier for female University of New South Wales Medicine staff with the introduction of a new scholarship that encourages early career academic women to focus on research projects when returning to work after parental leave. The scholarship — named after NSW Premier’s Woman of the Year Professor Minoti Apte, OAM — will provide eligible staff with relief from teaching and administration to write publications, applications and/or access research assistance.

  • Cate Swannell



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