13 June 2018
Using a weed to fight cancer, creating a multi-million-dollar medical devices business and creating a drug that fights leukaemia are among the achievements to be honoured at a gala dinner in Melbourne tonight (13 June).
Researchers will be presented with Clunies Ross Awards, the Batterham Medal and the ICM Agrifood Award at the Innovation Dinner organised by the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE).
The keynote speaker at the event is the 2018 Australian of the Year, Professor Michelle Simmons FAA FTSE FRS.
ATSE President, Professor Hugh Bradlow FTSE, said all the recipients had made significant contributions to the application of technology for the benefit of Australian society and its economy.
Tonight’s award winners are:
Clunies Ross Award for Innovation – Dr Jim Aylward
Dr Jim Aylward is the inventor of Picato, a novel anti-skin cancer drug developed from a folklore remedy that has been used to treat more than one million patients.
He discovered the drug after observing how sap from a weed successfully treated sunspots. The drug needs only two to three days of treatment and involves no disfiguring surgery, protracted therapy or damage to DNA.
Clunies Ross Award for Knowledge Commercialisation – Professor David Huang, Dr Peter Czabotar, Professor Andrew Roberts and Associate Professor Guillaume Lessene
The team developed a novel anti-cancer drug recently approved for use in the US, Europe and Australia. Clinical trials of the drug, called venetoclax, saw outstanding results. One study saw remission in patients with an advanced form of leukaemia, for whom conventional treatment options had been exhausted.
Not only does the drug save lives, but forecasters have predicted that venetoclax will be a multi-billion dollar drug, generating a major royalty return to Australia through the team’s efforts.
Clunies Ross Award, Entrepreneur of the Year – Dr Erol Harvey FTSE
Dr Erol Harvey has made outstanding contributions to Australia through the world-leading microfluidic engineering company MiniFAB, his distinguished academic career, and his unwavering support for research commercialisation and entrepreneurship.
As Professor of Microtechnology at Swinburne University, Dr Harvey created a unique microtechnology capability in microfluidics. In 2002, he founded the export-oriented business MiniFAB, which is now a world-leading provider of custom-designed and manufactured microfluidic and medical devices.
He also formed the Small Technologies Cluster in Scoresby, Victoria, an incubator providing dedicated infrastructure to accelerate the commercialisation of new high-value medical device technology.
Batterham Medal – Associate Professor Madhu Bhaskaran
Associate Professor Madhu Bhaskaran is pioneering research in oxide-based flexible electronics – stretchy, unbreakable, transparent electronic devices.
She has developed a transfer process to make these devices functional, combining brittle oxide materials (like those making up a smartphone touchscreen) with soft, pliable silicone rubber. Potential applications abound in optics research, as well as use as gas sensors to pick up pollutants and as patches to track UV exposure.
Associate Professor Bhaskaran is the co-founder of the Functional Materials and Microsystems Research Group at RMIT University.
ICM Agrifood Award – Dr Angela Van de Wouw and Dr Shu Kee Lam
Dr Angela Van de Wouw, a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne’s School of Biosciences, is an internationally recognised leading expert on the canola disease, blackleg. Caused by a fungus, blackleg is the most severe canola disease in Australia and almost wiped out the industry in the early 1970s.
Dr Van de Wouw discovered new ways to control the devastating disease, arming farmers with management options to protect their crops and prevent crop losses worth millions of dollars each year.
Higher levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide are impacting Australia’s agriculture and food security. Dr Shu Kee Lam, a Research Fellow at the School of Agriculture and Food at the University of Melbourne, is tackling this issue from the perspective of soil nitrogen management.
Dr Lam’s research is providing critical knowledge for the uncertain future of agriculture in a changing climate. His recent paper in Global Change Biology was picked by the European Commission (Environment) to inform 20,000 policy-makers on developing nitrogen use policy in agriculture.
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