Home > Centenary Institute Medical Innovation Award 2018
Centenary Institute Medical Innovation Award
Centenary Institute Medical Innovation Award
Centenary Institute Medical Innovation Award
Centenary Institute Medical Innovation Award

Centenary Institute Medical Innovation Award 2018


About the Prize
Why is a Prize like this important?
Our Adjudicators
What the Finalists receive
Further Information
Meet our Sponsors

Winners Announced!

For all the information on this years winners please check out the Media Release.

About the AWARDS

The Centenary Institute Medical Innovation Awards (CIMIA) recognise and honour Australia’s bold young researchers who are taking the risks to ask the big and challenging questions of today – those questions that have most people saying “but that’s impossible”.

These Awards are an exciting initiative that promotes innovation and creativity in medical research and is committed to encouraging a domestic culture of scientific excellence.

It inspires and advances Australia’s most promising and talented scientists and is perceived as one of the premier awards for scientific recognition. We would like to significantly build its popularity and have it seen as the Archibald Prize for spirited young post doctoral scientists tackling the challenging and bold questions in biomedical research in Australia.

“An award like this, particularly for early career researchers, is unbelievable. It can be very difficult to get funding this early in your career. Awards like this help us convince the ‘big guys’ our ideas have merit, and that people are excited and interested in them.” Dr Kate McArthur, 2018 In Memory of Neil Lawrence Prize Winner from Monash University in Victoria.

“This award, I believe, will provide us with some flexibility and could help us drive our innovative research towards the next stage.” Dr Yiqing Lu, 2018 2nd Place Prize winner from the Macquarie University in New South Wales.

Follow this link to read about the Previous Winners

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Why is a prize like this important?
  • 80% of the biggest scientific discoveries for humanity (Nobel laureates) have come from researchers younger than 45 years of age.
  • There are only 20,000 early to mid career researchers in Australia. Only a handful get funding to test their own creative ideas. The vast majority have to leave research all together.

“Exceptional young scientists can be hard to keep in Australia and we hope this award will not only celebrate their achievements but also encourage a domestic culture of brilliance in medical research,” Centenary Institute Executive Director, Professor Mathew Vadas AO.

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Director of WEHI, Professor Doug Hilton, BSc Monash BSc (Hons) PhD Melbourne FAA FTSE

3 “The Centenary Institute Lawrence Creative Prize is a wonderful initiative to award early career medical researchers who are embarking on their independent program. At a time where they haven’t built up the track record to compete with established, senior researchers, recognizing their creativity and innovation with the Lawrence Creative Prize not only offers them financial support but also boosts their profile, giving them a competitive advantage when applying for research funding.

I urge Australians and sponsors alike to get behind the Lawrence Creative Prize. You will be supporting our young scientists who have the brilliance to think of new ideas and the courage to test them out, in their common quest to advance our knowledge of the diseases affecting today’s society”.

Executive Director of Garvan Institute of Medical Research, John Mattick AO FAA FRCPA(Hon)

“I am writing to say how influential and important the Centenary Lawrence Creative prize has become for young investigators in Australian biomedical research.The Centenary Institute is to be congratulated for this initiative, which has brought it great credit and great publicity. It is quickly becoming the premier prize for emerging investigators across Australia and, most importantly, rewards and encourages the beautiful and essential intersection between creativity, logic and achievement in science.I very much hope it will continue, and thank you on behalf of the community”.


Nobel Prize-winning immunologist, Professor Rolf Zinkernagel enthusiastically endorses the prize.


“Typically it is early in their careers that scientists are at their most creative. It’s as PhD students and post-doctoral fellows that they generate the ideas that set the pattern of their studies to come. I should know. My collaboration with Peter Doherty that led to our joint Nobel Prize began as a post-doctoral fellow in Canberra.But because early career researchers have no track record, support from the established funding bodies is hard to come by. So I’m heartened to see a Prize whose purpose is to encourage Australia’s best young biomedical researchers to express their creativity. And it just might encourage them to stay in Australia and build their careers here.”

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Our Adjudicators

The Prize’s stellar line-up of adjudicators comprises of some of the most distinguished and prestigious scientists around the world including members of the Centenary Institute Scientific Advisory Board.

Professor Ian Frazer AO
Translational Research Institute Ambassador and Chair of TRI Foundation Board, the University of Queensland Diamantina Institute, Queensland, AUS

Professor Mathew Vadas AO
Executive Director, Centenary Institute, New South Wales, AUS.

Professor Jane Visvader
The Victorian Breast Cancer Research Consortium Laboratory, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Victoria, AUS.

Professor Michael Good AO
Institute of Glycomics, Griffith University, Gold Coast Campus, Queensland, AUS.

Professor Jenny Stow
Head, Protein trafficking and Inflammation University of Queensland Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB), The University of Queensland, AUS.

Professor Matthias W Hentze
Director, European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), Heidelberg, GERMANY.

Professor Ashley Bush
Director of the Oxidation Biology Unit at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health.

Professor Michael W Parker
Director, Bio21 Molecular Science and Biotechnology Institute (Bio21 Institute), Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Melbourne and Head of Structural Biology ACRF Rational Drug Discovery Centre St. Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research.

Professor Sir Marc Feldman AC
Head, Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology, Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences, University of Oxford.

Professor Peter Leedman, MBBS, PhD, FRACP, FAHMS
Director Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research

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What the Finalists receive

In Memory of Neil Lawrence sponsored by Commonwealth Private – 1st Prize
The winner of the In Memory of Neil Lawrence Prize will receive $30,000 to support their project and a perpetual Nick Mount hand blown glass trophy.

Bayer Innovation Award – 2nd Prize 
The runner-up will receive $15,000 to continue to develop their research.

Val Morgan Award – 3rd Prize
The third place prize winner will receive $10,000 to pursue his/her research goals.

A People’s Choice Award will be voted on by the general public and research community and the successful applicant will be awarded a $2,000 prize.

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Previous Winners

2017 – Dr James Hudson, University of Queensland

“Making human heart tissue for discovery of new drugs”

Since starting his PhD James’ goal has been to create human heart tissue from stem cells for cardiac repair.

Watch James’ application supporting video here or read about his research below.

His initial ideology was to implant the engineered human heart tIssue in patients with heart failure to restore their heart function and cure those patients – an ideology that was and still is consistent with the stem cell field as a whole. However, he now also strongly believes that it is perhaps an even more powerful use of these human heart tissues is for drug discovery applications.

We also have multiple projects underway in our lab to study cardiac disease using human heart tissue. These include diseases caused by environmental damage (eg. diabetes) or genetic disorders (eg. childhood cardiomyopathies). We also hope to make mechanistic insight into these diseases and eventually discover new drug targets for these diseases.

The process of making human heart tissue takes about 4 weeks in our lab. We start off with pluripotent stem cells, which we can culture for years in the lab and grow huge numbers of cells. Most importantly, however, they have the ability to turn into all the cell types in the body. In order to turn them into heart cells we mimic the developmental program that forms the embryonic heart. This is a staged protocol requiring different growth factors (proteins that can activate cell signalling) at precise times and concentrations. After 10-14 days we end up with contracting heart cells in the bottom of flasks (a flask the size of a $5 note contains ~30 million heart cells). We then take these heart cells, enzymatically disperse them so that they are single cells, and put them into a 3D collagen matrix. We put this collagen/heart cell suspension into our culture platform where over 2-5 days they form 1mm tissues, which spontaneously contract as seen in the video. We then place the tissues in conditions that mimic the switch in metabolism coinciding with breast-feeding in order to mature the tissues for a further 11 days.

This process yields human heart tissue in 4 weeks that is about as mature as the early postnatal human heart. This is important as it means that we can accelerate the developmental process to have tissues ready for drug screening more quickly.

2016 – Dr Anne Rios, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (Victoria)

Dr Rios has been awarded the $25,000 prize for her research titled ‘A journey into the unexpected: a 3D view of Breast Cancer’. Dr Rios has devised a new method for seeing breast tissue in 3D and tracing by an introduced colour individual cells. Armed with these techniques she has understood not only the cellular basis of lactation but also the origins of cancer.

2015 – Dr Greg Ebert, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (Victoria)

Dr Greg Ebert was recognised for his discovery and development of a new therapy to treat, and potentially eliminate, chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection – a completely novel innovation in the treatment of infectious diseases.

Infectious diseases, collectively, cause more deaths and suffering than any other single disease. HBV alone has infected more than 2 billion people globally, including over 230,000 Australians. Chronic HBV infection causes liver cirrhosis and liver cancer, which is now the second leading cause of cancer related deaths. Currently, there is no cure for HBV infection. Current standard therapies directly target the virus and reduce its capacity to replicate, but they have never fully eliminated the virus and the therapeutic drugs must be taken for the remainder of one’s lifetime.

Dr Ebert recognised that a cure is urgently required to mitigate the death and illness caused by chronic HBV infection, therefore used a clinical stage drug to specifically kill HBV infected liver cells by initiating a self-destruct signal in the host cells. Only infected cells are susceptible to this mode of killing. His therapy cured HBV infection in preclinical models – something that has never been achieved before and this newly developed treatment is now in clinical trials. He is currently translating this breakthrough to the treatment of other overwhelming and chronic infectious diseases such as HIV infection and tuberculosis.

His discovery progressed to Australian HBV clinical trials this year and the trial will expand into Asia in 2016. He is also now translating this new and paradigm-shifting therapy to treat other infections with high morbidity and mortality, such as HIV and tuberculosis (TB) that cause approximately 4 million deaths each year.

2014 – Associate Professor Geoff Faulkner, Mater Research Institute (Queensland)

Geoff is one of Australia’s current –day most creative young medical researchers with his research focusing on how a common, short piece of DNA affects the operation of the brain.

A/Prof Geoff Faulkner of the Mater Research Institute in Brisbane thinks the differences in the way each human brain functions could be determined by a segment of mobile DNA, which has the capacity to insert itself into the genome of individual brain cells. His work may have consequences for how memories form, for brain disorders such as schizophrenia, and even spills over into diseases such as haemophilia, muscular dystrophy and some forms of cancer.

Geoff’s work has been noted internationally and groups worldwide are beginning to use his techniques to check the mobile DNA’s impact on diseases elsewhere in the body. And the US National Institutes of Health has established a special fund to finance research into DNA mosaicism in neurons. Please see the attached letter from Geoff.

2013 – Dr. Connie Wong, Monash University (Victoria)

Connie’ research looked into the ability to prevent early deaths following stroke with fibre-based diet by using innovative microscope techniques to determine how stroke weakens the immune system. She is now studying how it also induces leakiness in the gut wall, leading to infection and an upsurge in deaths. And the solution may well lie in diet.

On winning the Prize, Connie expressed how it had ‘allowed me to go from a relatively unknown researcher to being widely recognised within the faculty of the university and able to communicate my work to the wider community. In addition, since winning the prize, I have been invited to give seminars in nationally renowned research institutes.

Connie used to partially fund the purchase of equipment required for a small animal stroke surgery set-up, including a new dissecting microscope equipped with a camera so that it makes teaching and demonstrating the surgical techniques much easier.

Also, the prize money contributed to fund novel research into examining what type of bacteria stroke individuals are susceptible to by using bioinformatics tools. The prize money enabled the generation of preliminary data necessary for the application of larger grants of which she has been successful with three major granting bodies.

2012 – Dr Jian Yang, Diamantina Institute (Queensland)

He has developed a widely distributed, novel software tool that other researchers now apply his statistical genetic methods to their data.

Since winning the Centenary Prize, Jian has been awarded $1.2 million to unlock the genetic underpinning of thousands of diseases.

Jian solved one of the great puzzles of human genetics – why the genes typically implicated in inherited diseases like schizophrenia, obesity and diabetes only account for a small amount of their heritability.

2011 – Dr Marie Liesse Asselin Labat, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (Victoria)

Marie-Liesse was part of the team at Melbourne’s Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI) that discovered the breast stem cell. She then worked to meticulously unravel how and why they contribute to the progression of breast cancer.

She now leads a laboratory at WEHI focusing on lung stem cells and their role in cancer, expanding on her earlier work on breast cancer stem cells and the part they play in spreading cancer.

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Further Information

For further information please contact Karen McBrien at k.mcbrien@centenary.org.au or 1800 677 977


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