Professor Maria Kavallaris one of ‘The Knowledge Nation 100’
December 10, 2015
Professor Maria Kavallaris from Children’s Cancer Institute has been recognised as one of ‘The Knowledge Nation 100’ - Australia’s top 100 “visionaries, intellects, founders and game changers” who will help shape the country’s future prosperity.
The Knowledge Society, the Office of the Chief Scientist Professor Ian Chubb AC, and The Australian newspaper hosted a lunch in Sydney today where Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull addressed the 100 finalists.
The Australian will publish a special Knowledge Nation magazine lift out profiling these influential thinkers and leaders, available in tomorrow’s paper. The magazine will also cover the Australian Government’s Innovation Statement and other aspects of the national innovation agenda.
Professor Kavallaris is internationally recognised for her innovative work in the field of cancer biology, which helps reveal how cancers grow and spread, and how they become resistant to therapy. She has applied her knowledge to develop more effective and less toxic therapies, employing nanotechnology and other emerging techniques.
Also a Founding Director of the Australian Centre for NanoMedicine at UNSW Australia, Professor Kavallaris is an active member of various influential government advisory bodies, advocacy groups, editorial boards and policy think-tanks.
Cancer chemotherapy causes harmful unwanted side effects and Professor Kavallaris is particularly keen to find the least harmful ways of delivering toxic drugs and therapies, directly to diseased cells, to avoid damaging healthy tissue along the way.
To do that, she works with polymer chemists and engineers to develop “delivery vehicles” at the nanoparticle scale – tiny containers that travel through the bloodstream carrying lethal payloads. Sometimes equipped with the equivalent of homing devices, these miniscule packages locate their targets, tether themselves to the cell surface, enter cells and deliver their contents.
“These interdisciplinary partnerships not only bring together diverse skills in biology, medicine, chemistry and engineering, they create unique and surprising perspectives,” said Professor Kavallaris.
In addition to using nanotechnology for drug delivery, Professor Kavallaris is exploring ‘nanodiagnostics’, or ways of finding out what is going on in the body at the molecular level. To do that, she is working with a chemist who specialises in creating ‘bioactive surfaces’, which are able to sense biological interactions.
“My colleague is developing technology that will help us detect the various chemical signals that indicate a therapy’s success – such as the breakdown products associated with tumour cell death,” she said.
Professor Kavallaris is honoured to be included in The Knowledge Nation 100.
About Children’s Cancer Institute
Originally founded by two fathers of children with cancer in 1976, Children’s Cancer Institute is the only independent medical research institute in Australia wholly dedicated to research into the causes, prevention and cure of childhood cancer. Forty years on, our vision remains unchanged – to save the lives of all children with cancer and to eliminate their suffering. The Institute has grown to now employ more than 220 researchers, operational staff and students, and has established a national and international reputation for scientific excellence.
Our focus is on translational research, and we have an integrated team of laboratory researchers and clinician scientists who work together in partnership to discover new treatments which can be progressed from the lab bench to the beds of children on wards in our hospitals as quickly as possible. These new treatments are specifically targeting childhood cancers, so we can develop safer and more effective drugs and drug combinations that will minimise side-effects and ultimately give children with cancer the best chance of a cure with the highest possible quality of life.
We are currently leading the establishment of the Zero Childhood Cancer national child cancer personalised medicine program for children with the most aggressive cancers, in partnership with the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network. This program will revolutionise the way treatment decisions are made, with the aim of improving survivorship for those children at highest risk of treatment failure from their disease.