WEHI and Monash drug discovery team nominated as finalists in prestigious Eureka Prizes

26 July 2022
Key Researchers
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Profile photo of Anne Voss
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Professor Jonathan Baell, Associate Professor Anne Voss and Associate Professor Tim Thomas
In recognition of their pioneering research, a team of Melbourne scientists from WEHI and Monash University have been shortlisted as finalists in this year’s Australian Museum Eureka Prizes.
Collaborative research team
(L-R) Associate Professor Tim Thomas,
Professor Anne Voss and Professor Jonathan Baell

The team is in the running for the 2022 UNSW Eureka Prize for Scientific Research for developing an entirely new and innovative approach to cancer treatment that essentially “puts cancer cells to sleep”, without the harmful side effects caused by conventional therapies.

The research team, which includes Professor Anne Voss and Associate Professor Tim Thomas from WEHI and Professor Jonathan Baell from the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (MIPS), have been working together for over a decade exploring a new class of drugs that can stop the growth and spread of tumours, without damaging the cells’ DNA.

Cancer kills patients through unrestrained/abnormal cell proliferation. Rather than causing DNA damage, as many cancer treatments do, this new class of drugs cause irreversible cell cycle exit, described as “putting cancer cells to sleep”, or cellular senescence.

Professor Voss said the new class of drugs could provide an exciting alternative for people with cancer, as well as in delaying cancer relapse.

“We are extremely excited about the potential of this new class of drugs as an entirely new weapon for fighting cancer, and it’s an honour that our team has been recognised in the finals of the Eureka Prizes,” she said.

Professor Baell, Director of the Australian Translational Medicinal Chemistry Facility (ATMCF) based at MIPS, said that the research efforts required strong collaboration between experts in cancer research, medicinal chemistry and drug discovery, along with invaluable support of partners and funders.

“This research has been over a decade in the making and has been made possible thanks to the perseverance and commitment of researchers and supporters who have helped us get to this point,” said Professor Baell.

Associate Professor Thomas said: “We are incredibly grateful for this nomination and for the recognition of the importance of this research. Cancer is a devastating disease that impacts the lives of millions of people around the world, and the urgent need for new safe and effective treatments remains.”

The Australian Museum Eureka Prizes honour excellence across the areas of research and innovation, leadership, science engagement and school science, and are presented annually in partnership with some of the country’s leading scientific institutions, government organisations, universities and corporations.

The Eureka Prize winners will be announced on Wednesday 31st August via a live broadcast at 7.15pm AEST. To register visit the Australian Museum website.

This work was supported by the NHMRC, the CRC for Cancer Therapeutics and WEHI.

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