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University of Sydney leads Prime Minister's Prizes for Science

19 October 2016
Going bush remains crucial for elements of science and the environment.

Biologist Professor Rick Shine has won the 2016 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science, while early career researcher Professor Richard Payne has been recognised in the physical sciences category for his medicinal chemistry developments. 

Evolutionary biologist Professor Rick Shine has won the 2016 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science, while University of Sydney early career researcher Professor Richard Payne has also been recognised in the physical sciences category, at a ceremony at federal Parliament House today.

The awards, which were presented by Malcolm Turnbull, follow last week’s unrelated NSW Premier’s Prizes for Science & Engineering, which were dominated by the University of Sydney, where Professor Shine also took out the main award.

Professor Shine gained the top award at this year’s Prime Minister’s Prizes for his work using evolutionary principles to address conservation challenges. Northern Australia’s peak predators—snakes and lizards—are more likely to survive the cane-toad invasion thanks to the work of the Professor and the team at the Shine Lab.

Professor Shine, who is the only person ever to win Australian Museum Eureka Prizes in three categories, said each of his projects had been supported and made possible by the Australian Research Council.

“I have seen many research funding bodies in operation… and none of them come close to the ARC in obtaining bang for their buck,” he said.

Professor Shine said snakes and lizards were crucial to Australia’s ecosystem: “Australia is a hard place to make a living; the soils are poor, the rains are infrequent and it is the cold-blooded animals that can wait out the bad times.

“The creatures that dominate our ecosystems, they’re the ones we need to understand if we want to keep Australia’s ecosystems functioning.”

The Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year has been awarded to Professor Payne in the University of Sydney’s School of Chemistry for his revolutionary drug development technologies.

Richard Payne holds a beacon filled with liquid.

Professor Richard Payne from the University's School of Chemistry, winner of the Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year. 

Professor Payne’s team is developing new drugs including for tuberculosis, malaria and antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections; as well as developing novel anti-thrombotic drugs and synthetic cancer vaccines. His underlying technologies are being picked up by pharmaceutical companies internationally and are the subject of four patent applications.

“It is a great honour to have been awarded the Malcolm McIntosh Prize, which I share with the exceptionally talented co-workers from my lab, both past and present.

“I would also like to thank the ARC and NHMRC for funding the research that has been recognised by this award.”

You can watch the winners' videos and read more on the Prime Minister's Prizes for Science website.