Two of our top researchers have been recognised for their outstanding contributions to science and innovation.

On Monday night at Government House in Sydney, Professor Maria Kavallaris was awarded a 2017 NSW Premier’s Prize for Science and Engineering by NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

Professor Kavallaris, of Children’s Cancer Institute and UNSW, won the ‘Leadership in Innovation in NSW’ Prize. The prize is recognition for a career encompassing the discovery of clinically important mechanisms of cancer drug resistance and the development of less toxic cancer therapies using nanotechnology. Her recent work in nanotechnology includes the design of ‘star polymers’ to deliver anti-cancer drugs to their targets. Nanomedicines, with potential for reduced toxicity, could make a great difference to future childhood cancer patients. Adult survivors like Nikki live every day with the late effects of childhood cancer treatment.

Prizewinners at the 2017 NSW Premier's Prizes for Science and Engineering
Prizewinners at the 2017 NSW Premier's Prizes for Science and Engineering (image: Office of the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer)

Prof Kavallaris won the prize in one of nine categories, and was one of three prize-winners affiliated with UNSW. The top prize, the NSW Scientist of the Year, went to Professor Gordon Wallace, a University of Wollongong researcher known for his groundbreaking work fusing robotics with human biology.

NSW Premier’s Prize-winner a role model for women in STEM

Professor Kavallaris has several important science roles. She heads up our Tumour Biology and Targeting Program of about 20 researchers at Children’s Cancer Institute, and is founding director of the Australian Centre for NanoMedicine at UNSW. She is also a chief investigator on an Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Bio-nano Science and Technology.

Close colleagues and collaborators, Professor Tom Davis of Monash University and Professor Justin Gooding of UNSW, were pleased to see Prof Kavallaris win the award.

“I think the Prize is really a reflection of the great work she does and the contribution she makes”, Prof Gooding told SBS News.

With NSW Chief Scientist Mary O’Kane adding “She tackles a range of problems in the cancer area very creatively, very innovatively and she’s such an enthusiast”.

Maria says the prize is for her research group as much as for her, and is pleased that it raises the profile of women in science, technology engineering and maths (STEM). She considers awards like this an important encouragement for women to consider science careers.

For me, an important aspect of winning this Prize is being a role model for future generations of women scientists

“The NSW Premier’s Prizes raise community awareness and appreciation of the contribution scientists and engineers make. It’s vital that young women see themselves represented in science and engineering, and be encouraged to pursue STEM careers. For me, an important aspect of winning this Prize is being a role model for future generations of women scientists,” she said.

New AAHMS Fellow

Professor Glenn Marshall AM, was made a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences (AAHMS) at the Academy’s third Annual Scientific Meeting held in Adelaide last week. Prof Marshall was one of 49 new Fellows from around Australia announced last Thursday. He joins fellow Fellows from Children’s Cancer Institute Prof Kavallaris and Executive Director, Prof Michelle Haber AM.

Prof Marshall is a renowned child cancer clinician-researcher. He is a senior paediatric oncologist and former Director of Kids Cancer Centre at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick and is our Head of Translational Research and leader of our Molecular Carcinogenesis program. He has made important discoveries in childhood leukaemia and neuroblastoma. He is Clinical Lead for the Zero Childhood Cancer personalised medicine program which opened a national clinical trial last month.

Professor Ian Frazer, President of the Academy, said the new Fellows play an important part in Australia’s health care system, now and into the future.

“Health and medical research undertaken by the new Fellows of the Academy, and enabled by government and philanthropic funding, will help to ensure quality and equitable health care as we enter the age of precision medicine,” he said.

Congratulations Maria and Glenn!

Read the media release about Maria’s Premier’s Prize and see the full list of new AAHMS Fellows.

Top image: Professor Maria Kavallaris receives her NSW Premier’s Prize in Leadership in Innovation from NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian. (image: Office of the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer)

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