Clunies Ross Award
15 May 2008
Professor Colin Sullivan was one of five Australian scientists to be recognised at last night's ATSE Clunies Ross Awards.
The Clunies Ross awards celebrate the achievements of scientists who successfully translate their specialist knowledge and expertise to the economic, social or environmental benefit of the country.
Professor Sullivan is a medical and clinical research pioneer in the area of sleep breathing disorders, and has revolutionised the treatment of obstructive sleep apnoea. He established the first clinical sleep laboratory in Australia at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in 1979, and revealed the extent of sleep apnoea in the community, a debilitating but at the time a largely unrecognised condition.
Thanks to his invention in 1980 of nasal continued positive airway pressure (CPAP), the aggressive surgery that was then the only available treatment for sleep apnoea was no longer necessary. Although many were skeptical of his research and clinical treatments, he pressed on - making air flow generators and other equipment in his University laboratory.
Ten years later, when industry began to see the potential of his work, he became a co-founder of ResCare, now called ResMed.
ResMed is a rare Australian technology commercialisation success stories. From its origins in his laboratory at the University of Sydney, the company has become a leading player in the growing healthcare market. It manufactures and markets devices which treat sleep disordered breathing and other respiratory problems. It continues to manufacture products locally, although the company is based in San Diego in the United States. It is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, with a joint local listing. Sales last year were $US716 million.
"I'm delighted to win the award," Professor Sullivan said. "While it is the result of a lot of hard work, dating back to the 1970s, I have had great support along the way from PhD students and colleagues. It's wonderful that my first two PhD students were able to attend the award ceremony."
"This year's winners are visionary," said Mr Bruce Kean, chairman of the awards committee. "They each have the rare talent that has made them Australia's top commercially successful scientists and innovators by being able to marry technological and business expertise to create true success stories."
Professor Sullivan's current research interests include snoring and sleep apnoea in pregnant women and young children.
"We have found there is a strong link between the onset of snoring in pregnant women with an increase in blood pressure. With young children, there is clear evidence that untreated snoring can affect cognitive development," he said.
Contact: Jake O'Shaughnessy
Phone: +61 2 9351 4312 or 0421 617 861