Award Event - 2012
2012 Sir Zelman Cowen Universities Fund Prize For Medical Research Awarded To Breakthrough Virus Research With Implications For Us All
A luncheon co-hosted by the Sir Zelman Cowen Universities Fund and the Australian Friends of the Hebrew University was the occasion for the presentation of the 2012 award of the Sir Zelman Cowen Universities Fund Prize For Discovery In Medical Research to Associate Professor Barry Slobedman, Sydney Medical School and Westmead Millennium Institute.
Professor Slobedman was nominated for discoveries which have profoundly changed our understanding of how the human cytomegalovirus (CMV) can persist in a dormant state for the life of the human host, despite the presence of a huge anti-viral immune response. The discovery provides a novel drug target for development of therapies to interrupt the dormant state of infection, and so limit or prevent the devastating consequences of reactivation from dormancy in immunocompromised individuals such as transplant patients. It may also lead to development of a live CMV vaccine. Its potential for clinical applications has led to an international patent sponsored by Sydnovate, the commercial arm of the University of Sydney.
The Prize, an award of $10,000 and a medal crafted by renowned Melbourne sculptor, Michael Meszaros, was presented to Professor Slobedman by Wendy Morel of The Schwartz Foundation, sponsors of the 2012 award of the Prize.
Professor Jill Trewhella, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), University of Sydney and Professor Shy Arkin, Head of the Authority for Research and Development, Hebrew University both attended the function and spoke about recent highlights in medical and scientific research at their universities, as well as providing their own perspectives on co-operative research between universities.
Professor Arkin emphasised the enormous benefits researchers and universities were able to gain from strategic alliances between research groups at various universities. These alliances allowed a reduction in costs and quicker outcomes as ideas and resources were shared rather than repetitively re-invented for sole use. It was particularly pleasing he said, to have seen many projects flourish, including those between scientists of HU and Sydney University such as the collaborations supported by the Fund’s Blue Sky Research Grant Program between Professors Yehudit Bergman (HU) and Jacob George (USYD).
Professor Trewhella highlighted a number of ground breaking projects currently underway at the University of Sydney, which are coincidently being carried out by scientists who have received support from the Fund to assist them in, for instance, making the trips between universities sometimes needed to set-up and/or progress collaborative projects. One such project involves Professor Tony Weiss, who is developing ways to use his understanding of the properties of human tropoelastin protein to synthesise biomaterials that can augment and repair human tissues. His collaborators include researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
A further example was the work of Professor Nicholas King who also includes HU researchers among his collaborators. He is using nanotechnology as part of his research aimed at developing treatments for autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. These new treatments will work by attacking specific targets involved in the disease rather than by blanket immunosupression which characterises current therapies.
The presentations brought to life for the audience, the impact and value of the Fund’s support and vision in helping to make scientific breakthroughs into medical applications.
Established in 2005 to recognise the work of young scientists, the Prize is presented in alternate years at the University of Sydney and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.