$50,000 for biomedical leaders; saving lives with genomes; love, fear and vaccines

Bulletins, Science stakeholder bulletins

In this bulletin:

This Sunday SBS broadcasts JABBED, a powerful documentary on why we immunise our kids, and why it can be a difficult decision for parents. We’ve prepared briefing notes for doctors and others on the cases featured. You can also view a preview.

Then on Wednesday 5 June Sonya will discuss her film and its messages with Gus Nossal, Ingrid Scheffer and Jenny Royle at a public forum in Melbourne. The forum will also be available online.

The first Victorian Enhancing Systems Biology Collaborative will explore neurodegeneration on 11 June. How can we bridge basic, translational and clinical research and use systems biology to understand the whole brain and its degeneration.

Howard Jacob is visiting Melbourne from the US and says it’s time to get personal genomics and systems biology into the clinic. His team is already saving lives at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. He’ll be giving seminars at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute on 3 June, at Monash Uni on 4 June, and he’ll be talking to the press. Contact me for more details.

In Sydney on 6 and 7 June Inspiring Australia, TechNyou and ScienceRewired are holding a summit to map out the next challenges for science communication in Australia. I think they’re a bit too focussed on new technologies and not enough on narrative and old school communication. But I’ll try and nudge them in the right direction. More at http://sciencerewired.org/summit.

If you or your colleagues need a gentle push to engage with the media then consider sending them to one of our courses around the country.

And finally for today – some news on prizes and fellowships.

Do you know someone following in the footsteps of Howard Florey? Nominations are open for the $50,000 2013 CSL Florey Medal.

If you know of a colleague overseas who’s looking to come back to Victoria, encourage them to apply for a veski innovation fellowship. They’re intended to encourage expats to return to Australia, and to support the recruitment of outstanding international scientists.

L’Oreal For Women in Science Fellowship nominations closed last week. We received 230 nominations which suggests to me that more needs to be done to support women scientists in their transitional years.

And finally we’ll be announcing the 12 Fresh Science national finalists next week. The national final will be on from 22-25 July, more details to come later.

Read more about these events and projects below, and please let me know if you’re keen to hear more about anything in this bulletin.

Kind regards,


Seeking Australian researchers who are following in Howard Florey’s footsteps

Nominations open for the $50,000 biennial CSL Florey Medal

Sir Howard Florey took penicillin from an idea to a drug that has saved literally hundreds of millions of lives.

Nominations are now open for the $50,000 CSL Florey Medal, established by the Australian Institute of Policy and Science (AIPS) in 1998 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Sir Howard Florey.

The CSL Florey Medal honours Australian researchers who have had significant achievements in biomedical science and/or in advancing human health.

  • Nominees should have completed a significant portion of their nominated research achievements in Australia.
  • Nominations will be accepted for an individual, and for up to three named persons for joint nominations. Full research teams are not eligible.
  • Self-nominations are not eligible.
  • Nominees must be either permanent residents or citizens of Australia.
  • While the selection criteria focus on research achievements, nominations from those working in industry or government sectors and demonstrating an equally high level of achievement are encouraged.

Past winner Barry Marshall says he’s sure the Nobel Prize committee saw his award as evidence that he’s made an original and important Australian discovery.

“It also prompted me to take an interest in Howard Florey, a man who succeeded in the translational process, bringing a laboratory curiosity out of the lab to where it might benefit so many millions,” says Barry.

The winner will receive a silver medal and a $50,000 cheque at the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes’ annual dinner in Parliament House, Canberra, on Monday 28 October 2013.

Since 1998, the prize has been awarded seven times: Graeme Clark (2011), John Hopwood (2009), Ian Frazer (2006), Peter Colman (2004), Colin Masters (2002), Jacques Miller (2000), Robin Warren and Barry Marshall (1998).

The nomination process is straightforward, with a short online nomination form.

The form along with the selection criteria, eligibility guidelines and conditions are available from www.aips.net.au/news-events/the-florey-medal.

Enhancing systems biology in Victoria – a collaborative approach to neurodegeneration research

Understanding neurodegeneration is one of the big life science challenges. It’s attracting massive international investment but the complexity of the brain means there will be no simple answers.

That’s why neurodegeneration is the topic for the first Enhancing Systems Biology in Victoria collaborative forum on 11 June.

SBI Australia and the Bio21 Cluster invite you to join Danny Hatters, Nellie Georgiou-Karistianis and Collin Masters to explore neurodegeneration from a basic, translational, and clinical perspective and to discuss how a systems biology approach can help us understand the whole brain.

There’ll be a forum and discussion from 4 pm, Tuesday 11 June at the University of Melbourne, followed by a reception.

Details online at www.emblaustralia.org.

JABBED – love, fear and vaccines

JABBED is a documentary on vaccination, by Emmy award-winning film maker Sonya Pemberton.

It premieres on SBS One at 8.30pm this Sunday 26 May, but already a discussion is building around the film. Sonya and the team have prepared some resources for doctors, and are also hosting a public forum in Melbourne.

JABBED: information for doctors from Sonya Pemberton

Vaccine-preventable diseases are still a problem in our community. While more than 90% of Australians support vaccination, some people are delaying or refusing vaccines. Whooping cough and measles in particular are appearing again. Meanwhile, some parents are anxious about the rare cases of serious reactions to vaccination. JABBED explores these issues.

Well-known medical leaders in the area worked with us to ensure the material in the film is evidence-based. They include acclaimed immunologist Sir Gustav Nossal, the co-inventor of the cervical cancer vaccine Gardisil, Professor Ian Frazer, and Professor Ingrid Scheffer, who has explored the link between the genetic basis of Dravet syndrome and vaccines. Jabbed acknowledges the risks of vaccines, but reminds us of the far greater consequences when community protection to communicable diseases breaks down.

Cases explored in the film include Osman Chandab, an infant at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne with whooping cough. He was hospitalised after contracting the disease before his first vaccination at eight weeks.

The film shows the impact of whooping cough on Osman and the emotional toll on his family-particularly his mother Joumana-and the nursing team. Osman has fully recovered, but more than 38,000 cases of whooping cough were reported in Australia in 2011, and about one in 250 of the babies hospitalised dies.

Read about the other cases at www.scienceinpublic.com.au/jabbed.

And you can find more discussion and a preview at www.sbs.com.au/shows/jabbed.

JABBED: public forum in Melbourne, Wednesday 5 June

With Sonya Pemberton, Sir Gus Nossal, Prof Ingrid Scheffer and Dr Jenny Royle.

  • Why are Melbourne babies getting whooping cough?
  • Why are measles epidemics appearing in Europe?
  • Why does vaccination remain so controversial?
  • While more than 90% of Australians support vaccination, why are many of us delaying or refusing vaccines?
  • What’s going wrong with the community conversation about vaccination?

Diseases that were largely eradicated forty years ago are returning. Across the world children are getting sick and dying from preventable conditions because nervous parents are skipping their children’s shots.

Yet the stories of vaccine reactions are frightening, with cases of people being damaged, even killed, by vaccines. How do people decide whether to vaccinate or not, and what are the real risks?

JABBED travels the globe to look at the real science behind vaccinations, tracks real epidemics, and investigates the real cost of opting out.

At the forum Sonya will discuss why she made JABBED and how it has changed her view of vaccination and the conversations we need to have.

Then she’ll join a conversation with:

  • Melbourne paediatric neuroscientist Ingrid Scheffer who discovered why a form of epilepsy (Dravet syndrome) is sometimes associated with vaccination
  • Immunologist Sir Gustav Nossal

When: Wednesday, 5 June, refreshments from 5pm, presentation from 6pm

Where: University of Melbourne, The Spot Basement Theatre, Bldg 110, Business & Economics, 198 Berkeley St (corner Pelham St)

More details at: http://ict4lifesciences.microevents.com.au/event/jabbed-love-fear-and-vaccines

Bringing back Australia’s best expat scientists – veski fellowships

Apply for $50,000 per annum to come back to Australia with a veski innovation fellowship

Do you know an outstanding Australian researcher living overseas? Or are you looking to recruit a leading international scientist?

The veski fellowships support Australian expatriates and globally competitive individuals who are currently overseas to relocate to Victoria.

The fellows receive up to $50,000 per annum for a maximum of three years, which must be matched with funding and in-kind contributions from a Victorian host organisation such as an academic or research institution.

Since 2004, veski has awarded 16 veski innovation fellowships to scientists and researchers working across a range of basic, applied and clinical research fields from modern health issues such as cancer, dengue and obesity to innovative studies into nanotechnology and organic semiconductors.

Past fellows include:

  • Prof Andrew Holmes, who was awarded the first veski fellowship to came home from Cambridge to work at the Bio21 Institute
  • Mark Shackleton and Michael Cowley, who both won the Science Minister’s Prize for Life Science
  • Assoc Prof Tiffany Walsh, who established the Institute of Frontier Materials at Deakin’s Geelong campus

With additional funding from the Victorian Government, veski will award additional fellowships in the next few years and bring more scientists and researchers back to Victoria.

Application close on Friday 28 June 2013, more details at www.veski.com.au.

Who benefits? A question about the future of health and medical research

Last night NHMRC CEO Warwick Anderson spoke at an ICT for Life Sciences Forum about community and government expectations that publicly funded research will reap benefits more quickly and fully.

He also noted that most of our science icons: Graeme Clark, Barry Marshall, Ian Frazer, Peter Doherty, Liz Blackburn and ResMed’s Peter Farrell did their award winning work in their 30s. He asked tongue-in-check if the NHMRC should have an age ceiling.

Warwick’s talk will be available at www.ict4lifesciences.org.au soon. You can also view the Gates Foundation’s policy director, Geoff Lamb, giving his Graeme Clark Oration.

Media training for scientists in Melbourne and elsewhere

We hold regular media training courses for scientists in Melbourne and around Australia.

  • Melbourne: Tuesday 6 August, Tuesday 3 September, Tuesday 15 October
  • Townsville: Wednesday 21 August
  • Adelaide: Tuesday 17 September
  • Perth: Tuesday 1 October
  • Sydney: Monday 11 November

These courses are designed to help you understand what the media need to bring your work to life; and to teach you how to help the media tell your story accurately. They are fundamentally different to corporate media training.

Our course features two experienced science communicators as presenters and three working journalists from television, print and radio who will interview you during the course of the day.

The course will help you with all your non-scientific communication with stakeholders, customers and the media. And it will give your media advisors confidence that you will be a good performer when media opportunities arise.

We’re also happy to consider one off sessions tailored for your organisation, and we welcome expressions of interest for possible future courses anywhere in Australia.

Read more about the course and book online at: www.scienceinpublic.com.au.