Malaria researcher Professor Alan Cowman from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute has been awarded the 2013 Victoria Prize for Science and Innovation in recognition of his outstanding contributions in the quest to eradicate malaria.
The $50,000 Victoria Prize for Science and Innovation in the life sciences recognises Professor Cowman's significant achievements in malaria research. Professor Cowman has dedicated his nearly 30-year career to understanding what makes the malaria parasite 'tick' in order to create a vaccine that would eradicate this devastating disease. Minister for Innovation The Hon. Louise Asher MP presented Professor Cowman with the prize at an awards ceremony at Parliament House this evening.
Professor Cowman and his research team have made significant inroads into understanding how Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite responsible for the most severe form of malaria, infects humans and persists in the body by evading the immune system. He has made major contributions to understanding malarial drug resistance, unravelling the mechanism the parasite uses to become resistant to some of the most important antimalarial drugs. This has had implications for the development of new antimalarial treatments and opened the way for surveillance of the geographic spread of drug-resistant strains of malaria.
Professor Cowman's work has led to the development of two potential malaria vaccines, one of which reached clinical trials in the US and a second of which is in preclinical development.
Institute director Professor Doug Hilton said he was thrilled to see Professor Cowman's achievements recognised by the Victorian Government's highest award for life science research. "Malaria is a significant global disease burden, infecting up to 250 million people each year," Professor Hilton said. "Alan's research has vastly improved our understanding of malaria biology, which is instrumental for developing new treatments or vaccines to prevent malaria. His discovery of how the malaria parasite develops drug resistance has informed government strategies to prevent or mitigate malaria transmission in many countries, saving countless lives."