Centenary Institute Medical Innovation Awards finalists


Meet the 2016 Centenary Institute Medical Innovation Awards finalists and the People’s Choice Award winner

Dr Paul Mason from the Woolcock Institute has been recognised by the voting public as the winner of this year’s People’s Choice Award.

Project title – Educational children’s book about tuberculosis

Watch Dr Mason’s application video here

paul-borderDr Mason is a medical anthropologist with undergraduate training in biomedical science at the University of Melbourne and postgraduate training in cultural anthropology at Macquarie University. He has conducted laboratory research in Australia and France (2000-2006), archival research in Holland (2009), and ethnographic fieldwork in Brazil (2009), India (2012), Indonesia (2007-2008), and Vietnam (2014-2015). In 2011, his PhD research was interrupted for six months when he moved to Melbourne to look after his mother who was in the early stages of early-onset dementia. While dementia is still sadly an incurable disease, his experiences looking after his mother led him to orient his research career towards conditions where treatments are available but are not reaching the patients.

Recognising cultural experience as a central force shaping human interactions, Dr Mason uses qualitative research methods from anthropology to study the context of human behaviour. Interventions, such as the medical diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis, will ultimately only prove successful if the cultural context is supportive of clinical and biomedical practices. In low- and middle-income countries where tuberculosis is prevalent, medical interventions can interact multifariously with stigma, gender and the illness experience. Dr Mason’s research is aimed at addressing these cultural barriers to diagnostic delay and treatment noncompliance. His educational book about tuberculosis is aimed at destigmatising this disease by teaching children and their families about the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of this curable disease.

Introducing (in alphabetical order by surname) the finalists in the 2016 Centenary Institute Medical Innovation Awards with the winner of the $25,000 In Memorial of Neil Lawrence 1st Prize to be announced at the Awards Ceremony, Thursday 1st September.

Dr Michael Bowen – University of Sydney

michael-borderProject title – Discovering treatments for forgotten disorders

Watch Dr Bowen’s application video here


Dr Bowen’s research background is in neuropsychopharmacology and behavioural neuroscience. He conducted his doctoral training in the Faculty of Science at the University of Sydney under the supervision of Professor Iain McGregor and also spent time working in Germany with renowned neurobiologist Professor Dr Inga Neumann on a Go8/DAAD collaborative project.

Dr Bowen was a postdoctoral research fellow in Professor Mary Collins Pharmaceutical Neuroscience Laboratory in the Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Sydney before returning to the Faculty of Science when awarded a prestigious NHMRC Peter Doherty Biomedical Fellowship in 2015. Dr Bowen was promoted to Lecturer in his department in 2016. In January of the same year he accepted a leadership position within the Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics, a role he fulfils alongside his NHMRC Fellowship.

Dr Bowen’s research has been recognised in many ways in recent years. It has led to clinical trials, patents, many highly-cited papers in top peer-reviewed scientific journals, over $1.2 million dollars in competitive research funding, 19 high-profile national and international research awards and honours, more than 20 invited talks at national and international conferences and public forums, and worldwide media coverage. Furthermore, novel drug-treatments that he co-invented are in the process of being commercialized with offers and serious interest from pharmaceutical companies, investors and other potential partners. They are in the process of carefully determining which option will give our novel treatments the best chance of making it to the clinic.

Dr Bowen was recognised at the 2015 NSW Premier’s Prizes for Science and Engineering where he was named Early Career Researcher of the Year. Emphasising the global recognition of his research, he was recently invited to join the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Young Scientist Community of 40 of the top scientists under the age of 40 from around the world in recognition of his “track record of advancing the frontiers of science… in areas of high societal impact” and exhibiting through his work “exceptional creativity, thought leadership and high growth potential”. As a member of the Young Scientist Community, Dr Bowen contributed his scientific expertise to exploring the opportunities and challenges of the fourth industrial revolution at the 2016 WEF Meeting of the New Champions (the “summer Davos”). Further emphasising the global impact and reach of his research, he was awarded the 2016 International Behavioral Neuroscience Society’s Early Career Award and he is one of the 3 finalists for the 2016 Australian Museum Eureka Prize for Outstanding Early Career Researcher. Some other recent awards include the University of Sydney Rita and John Cornforth Medal for PhD achievement, the Australian Psychological Society Prize for the top PhD thesis in Psychology or a related discipline, the Tasman Lovell Medal for the Top PhD awarded in his department, the 2013 Glenn I. Hatton Memorial Award from the International Neuroendocrine Federation, and the 2011 Young Investigator Award from the World Congress on Neurohypophysial Hormones.

Dr Elizabeth New – University of Sydney

elizabeth-borderProject title – The illuminating journey to understanding human health and disease.

Dr New completed her BSc (Advanced, Hons 1M) and MSc at the University of Sydney, working with Professor Trevor Hambley on analogues of cisplatin. She then took up a Commonwealth Scholarship for PhD studies at Durham University (UK) with Professor David Parker, investigating luminescent lanthanide complexes for use as cellular probes. In this work she discovered that all such complexes enter the cell by macropinocytosis, and developed comprehensive protocols for studying the interactions of metal complexes with cells, which have subsequently been used by many research groups. Dr New was subsequently awarded a Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, one of only six in the Commonwealth, with which she worked at the University of California, Berkeley (US), with Professor Chris Chang. While in Berkeley, Dr New developed magnetic resonance (MR) and fluorescence sensors for the study of copper, and discovered that copper signals lipolysis in adipocytes. For this work she was awarded the Royal Society of Chemistry Dalton Young Researcher Award, given annually to one chemist internationally under the age of 26.

In 2012 Dr New returned to the University of Sydney to take up a lectureship, and an ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award. Since June 2016, she has held a Westpac Research Fellowship. Dr New has sustained an enthusiastic and productive research group of more than ten members, with a focus on the development of chemical sensors for the study of biological systems, particularly for the study of oxidative stress and metal homeostasis in biology. With an h-index of 18, an average impact factor of 6.4 and more than 42 citations per paper, Dr New has attracted over $2.5 million external research funding. Amongst her awards are the 2015 NSW Young Tall Poppy Award and the RACI Nyholm Lectureship for public outreach. Dr New is enthusiastic about teaching, winning many awards including the OLT National Award for Teaching Excellence (2015), and about science advocacy, currently serving on the executive for the Early-Mid Career Researcher Forum.

Dr Jaclyn Pearson –The Peter Doherty Institute

jaclyn-borderProject title – Using ‘clever’ bacteria to understand immune diseases of the gut

Watch Dr Pearson’s application video here


Dr Pearson completed a BSc. with majors in both biochemistry and microbiology at the University of Western Australia in 2006, followed by an honours degree in 2007 at the same institution. In 2009 she enrolled in a PhD with Professor Elizabeth Hartland at The University of Melbourne in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology and completed this in 2013.

During her PhD Dr Pearson investigated the virulence mechanisms of enteropathogenic E. coli (EPEC), a gut pathogen that causes acute diarrhoea in infants throughout the world. Dr Pearson made a number of unique discoveries on how these bacteria specifically evade the host immune response in order to cause disease and disseminate from the host. She has published numerous research articles and reviews on the topic of her research and related areas, including a first author paper in Nature in 2013.

Dr Pearson has won numerous awards for the research she conducted during her PhD, including the prestigious Victoria Fellowship in 2011 and more recently, the 2014 Premiers Award for Health and Medical Research in Victoria. In 2014 she was successful with her application for an NHMRC Peter Doherty Early Career Researcher Fellowship, which provides her with 4 years of funding as a postdoctoral researcher. She is currently conducting research on innate immune signalling in response to bacterial infection, including EPEC and Salmonella using in vitro biochemical assays as well as mouse models of infection. She is particularly interested in two research areas (i) further characterising a family of novel glycosyltransferases from EPEC and Salmonella (ii) understanding the contribution of necroptosis to host defense in bacterial gut infection.

Dr Anne Rios – the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute

anne-borderProject title – A journey into the unexpected: a 3D view of Breast Cancer

Watch Dr Rios’ application video here


Dr Rios began her scientific career as an undergraduate at Marseille University, France where her interests in Developmental and Cell Biology originated. Dr Rios subsequently undertook a PhD in Developmental Biology in part at the Institute of Marseille Luminy (IBDML), France and also the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI) in Melbourne. Her PhD thesis entitled “Morphogenesis of skeletal muscles in vertebrate: a problem of cell fate choice” represented key advances in understanding cell fate decisions during development. This work represented a newly discovered but ultimately common mechanism for cell signalling that triggers the differentiation of a defined subset of cells within a stem pool. Published in the journal Nature in 2011, this work had a major impact on the muscle biology field and is now included in modern textbooks of developmental biology, such as Gilbert’s Eleventh Edition of Developmental Biology.

During her training, Dr Rios developed a strong passion for microscopy, and visualising dynamic biological processes became the driving force behind her scientific career path. The large incidence and impact of breast cancer has always been of personal concern to Dr Rios and she wanted to translate her specialised imaging training to address important questions in the breast cancer field. Over the last 4 years, she has developed a unique method to image the breast tissue using 3D microscopic reconstruction. Dr Rios’ work, using this ground-breaking visualisation method, has already led to two key high impact publications (Nature 2014 and Nature Communications 2016). Dr Rios is currently the only scientist in Australia to use 3D imaging technology to film the activity of cells in breast tissue.

Latest News

$5M grant to investigate relationship between gut and lung in respiratory disease

Australian researchers have been awarded a $5 million NHMRC Synergy Grant for a project that will explore the interplay between gut and lung health to develop new treatments for COPD.

Research recognised with journal cover

PhD candidate Aster Pijning has had her science recognised with an image from her paper selected for the front cover of the prestigious journal ‘Blood’.

New study to investigate lung treatment for COVID-19

Dr Matt Johansen is the successful recipient of the Kenyon Foundation Inflammation Award for 2021. The Award will support study into a potential new COVID-19 treatment.


News Topics



Sign up for our latest News