Australia's top medical researchers for 2012 announced

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Finalists for one of Australia’s longest running and most prestigious awards for medical research were announced today. This year’s winner will join a list of alumni winners that includes many of the country’s most respected scientists.

Now in its 32nd year, a record number of 50 nominations were submitted for the 2012 GlaxoSmithKline Award for Research Excellence (ARE) which includes an $80,000 research grant. The 11 finalists include:

  • The creator of a revolutionary approach to treating Rheumatoid Arthritis;
  • A pioneer bringing new understanding to the cause of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimers;
  • A geneticist who discovered the tremendous importance of genetic material previously called ‘junk.’

Judged by an independent panel of ARE alumni and other leading Australian researchers, the 2012 recipient of this prestigious award will be announced on Tuesday 11 September at an event at the Melbourne Museum.

Renowned Australian virologist and winner of the 1982 ARE, Professor Ian Gust AO, will speak at the celebratory event, sharing insight into the role of serendipity in the development of the Hepatitis A vaccine and his thoughts on the importance of Australia’s continued support for medical research. 

“While in my time the technology available and the approach to research was very different, what hasn’t changed is the value of this award in advancing research programs and the professional respect it brings,” says Professor Gust.

GSK Australia Medical Director Dr Andrew Yeates said the calibre of this year’s finalists demonstrates the significant global contribution Australia makes to the advancement of health and medical research. 

“These finalists have dedicated their careers to pioneering vital research and innovation to improve human health. Their work has furthered crucial fields of study and has the potential to have widespread health, social and economic benefits, while contributing to the work of clinicians and scientists globally,” Dr Yeates said.  “The breadth and diversity of their research is exceptional. It is also wonderful to see finalists based right across Australian states and from a broad range of our top research institutes.”

Finalists for this year’s Award for Research Excellence include:


  • Professor Ranjeny Thomas from The University of Queensland – nominated for a revolutionary approach to treat and prevent Rheumatoid Arthritis, a disease affecting more than 400,000 Australians;
  • Professor Mark Kendall, from the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology – nominated for developing a needle-free vaccination system which could make treatments for diseases like malaria and influenza more affordable and available to global communities.


  • Professor Peter Gibson from the University of Newcastle – nominated for the extraordinary breadth of research into chronic respiratory diseases that has led to major advances in treatments and care for people suffering from asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and chronic cough.


  • Professor George Paxinos from the Neuroscience Research Australia – nominated for developing the brain maps used by scientists around the world for drug development and to improve neurosurgery capabilities;
  • Professor John Stanley Mattick from Garvan Institute of Medical Research – nominated for proving that what was previously dismissed as ‘junk’ within the human genome – about 99% of our DNA – now holds the key to understanding human evolution, development, cognition and complex diseases like type 2 diabetes. 


  • Professor Chris Goodnow from the Australian National University – nominated for his globally recognised research into the function of and treatments for autoimmune diseases like systemic lupus – diseases where a person’s autoimmune system attacks healthy tissue.


  • Professor Ashley Bush, from the Mental Health Research Institute in Melbourne – nominated for his significant breakthroughs in showing how naturally occurring metals may be involved in the development of diseases like Alzheimer’s, Schizophrenia and Parkinson’s;
  • Professor James Whisstock from Monash University – nominated for his research on perforin-like proteins which may help pave the way for drugs that prevent bone marrow transplant rejection and treat certain immune diseases;
  • Professor Grant McArthur from the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre – nominated for developing new treatments for advanced stages of melanoma.


  • Professor Sharad Kumar from the Centre for Cancer Biology – nominated for his wide-ranging discoveries and research on key genes, proteins and pathways underpinning multiple human diseases including cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and development deficiencies.


  • Professor Simon Mallal from the Murdoch Institute and Royal Perth Hospital – nominated for his research into genetic testing to prevent drug hypersensitivity that has led to significant advancements in international HIV treatment guidelines and understanding into drug toxicity.

GSK Award for Research Excellence is one of the most prestigious awards available to the Australian research community. Now in its 32nd year Award, and the accompanying grant of $80,000, recognises outstanding achievements in medical research and facilitates career development. For more information please visit

Professor Ian Gust AO is the Chair of the Bio 21 Cluster, the Victorian Biotechnology Advisory Council and the Therapeutic Innovation Australian’s Stem Cell and Gene Therapy Committees. He is also a Professorial Fellow in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Melbourne. Professor Gust was a recipient of the GSK Award for Research Excellence in 1982 for his revolutionary work that broke new ground 30 years ago in the development of the Hepatitis A vaccine.

GlaxoSmithKline is a global research-based pharmaceutical and healthcare company with a mission to improve the quality of human life. In Australia we have delivered the highest quality medicines, vaccines and over-the-counter healthcare products since 1886. We contribute to Australia’s economy through new approaches to agriculture and manufacturing, and by investing in local research and development. For more information visit


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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