From lab gown to ball gown, virus protection suit to three-piece suit – scientists sparkled in their finery at the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes last night.

The Eurekas are Australia’s premier science awards celebrating scientific breakthroughs and outstanding scientists. The awards ceremony was held last night in Sydney with many glamorous scientists there, including a few of our own –  Executive Director Prof Michelle Haber and past Eureka-winner and Program Leader Prof Maria Kavallaris.

Prof Maria Kavallaris and Prof Michelle Haber at teh 2017 Eureka Prizes
Prof Maria Kavallaris and Prof Michelle Haber at the 2017 Eureka Prizes

There were 45 finalists, including Prof Michelle Haber, eagerly awaiting the announcements. While Prof Haber wasn’t among the winners, she was one of only 3 finalists in her category, the CSIRO Eureka Prize Leadership in Innovation and Science. The prize was won by Professor Salah Sukkarieh, of University of Sydney. Professor Salah Sukkarieh’s leadership successfully translates cutting-edge robotics and intelligent systems research into real-world applications. Working across aviation, agriculture, mining, aerospace and logistics, his work places Australian innovations in autonomous systems on the global map.

Fifteen awards, worth $150,000 prize money were presented. Winning projects ranged from Prof Sukkarieh’s robots making Australia a world leader in farm automation, to technology that can reliably produce life-saving oxygen for newborns in hospitals.

Wins and winners

Congratulations to Scientia Professor Justin Gooding, for winning the University of Technology Sydney Eureka Prize for Outstanding Mentor of Young Researchers. Prof Gooding is Co-director Laureate of the Australian Centre for Nanomedicine at UNSW with Prof Maria Kavallaris. Through a program of individualised mentorship, Professor Gooding has trained and developed an all-new breed of research leader in bionanotechnology and nanomedicine. He has focused on developing innovative, entrepreneurial and passionate researchers who become talented mentors in their own right.

Exciting news for cancer researchers was the blood test for colorectal cancer that won the Johnson & Johnson Eureka Prize for Innovation in Medical Research. The Colvera Team (which included researchers from CSIRO, Clinical Genomics and Flinders University) has developed a clinically validated blood test that sensitively and accurately detects cancer DNA in the blood plasma of adults with colorectal cancer. This presents a new opportunity for oncologists to improve treatment regimens through earlier disease detection that may in turn lead to increased patient survival. This represents an exciting development in liquid biopsies, or non-invasive testing for cancer. We wrote about liquid biopsies for childhood cancer last year in an article on the future of blood tests for neuroblastoma.

Prof Haber said it was a great night.

“Being a Eureka finalist brings recognition that helps highlight the importance of science, and particularly medical research, on our path to one day curing childhood cancer,” she said.

Prof Haber has seen this disease go from being almost a death sentence barely 60 years ago, to today where survival rates are around 80%.

“That has been achieved solely through medical research,” she said.

Congratulations to all the winners, listed on the Eureka Prizes website, and read more about medical research as key to a cure for childhood cancer.

Top image: Excited 2017 Eureka Prize winners take to the stage. (Photo: Australian Museum)



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