The 2019 Garvan Researcher Awards

Congratulations to the seven researchers who were presented with awards or prizes at the 2019 Garvan Researcher Awards event.
12 June 2019

Presented by Professor Marie Dziadek, Chief Scientific Officer at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, these competitive annual research awards provide important seed funding for innovative research ideas from our outstanding early-mid career researchers.

“Research prizes and awards funded by generous organisations and individuals provide great support for innovative science, allowing our researchers to push the boundaries and test ideas in order to support their applications for significant peer reviewed funding.

“We’re extremely grateful to CHAMP Private Equity, Joseph Palmer Foundation and Ridley Corporation, who we’ve had long relationships with, as well as Miriam Douglass whose endowed award from her estate will provide funding into the future,” said Professor Dziadek.

IMG_6045__.jpgThe Young Pioneer Award from CHAMP Private Equity provides $10,000 in funding for initial experiments for an early-mid career researcher to test a new idea.

Dr Nathan Zammit, from the Transplant Immunology Laboratory, received the 2019 award for ‘the TGN1412 trial, an immunological mystery’. The TGN1412 clinical trial tested a novel immunomodulatory drug, that began with great promise to treat autoimmunity and prevent rejection of transplanted organs. However, the trial abruptly ended after multi-organ failure was rapidly developed in the 6 healthy participants.

Dr Zammit has put forward an interesting hypothesis for why this happened and why it was not predicted in preclinical testing, which he will be able to test with the funding from this award.IMG_6042__.jpg

The Palmer Innovation Prize is funded by the Joseph Palmer Foundation. It is a $15,000 prize for a researcher or team of researchers responsible for developing an innovative product, process or technology that has, or will have, a significant benefit to scientific research.

The 2019 Palmer Innovation Prize was awarded to a team of four – Ghamdan Al Eryani, PhD Student in the Tumour Progression laboratory, Dr Mandeep Singh, from the Immunogenomics laboratory, Shaun Carswell, Production Bioinformatics Engineer in the Kinghorn Centre for Clinical Genomics, and Dr Katherine Jackson, from the Immunogenomics laboratory.

The team, have developed a new method called RAGE Seq for ‘disease monitoring and biomarker discovery with single-cell long-read sequencing.’ They have leveraged current technologies to obtain a comprehensive description of gene expression in a large number of cells, that will have applications in many areas of research, including cancer and autoimmune disorders.

IMG_6057__.jpgThe Ridley Ken Davies Award from Ridley Corporation is a $75,000 in memory of Ken Davies, an employee who passed away after being diagnosed with cancer. The 2019 recipient of the award is Dr Eva Chan, from the Human Comparative and Prostate Cancer Genomics laboratory.

Dr Chan is working to identify genomic variations that might contribute to disease, requiring DNA sequences from a personal genome to be compared against the human reference genome. She is developing ways to look in the 10% of the genome that is not able to be sequenced by current methods.

Dr Chan’s research aims to mine this data to understand what we are missing and how this knowledge gap may inform human health.

IMG_6063__.jpgThe Miriam Douglass Blue Sky Endowment Award for an early-mid career researcher to undertake ‘blue sky’ research projects into breast or prostate cancer. The inaugural award of $100,000 was made in memory of Miriam Douglass, a generous and visionary Partner for the Future to Garvan. The recipient of the 2019 award is Dr Christine Chaffer, Head of the Cancer Cell Plasticity laboratory.

The award will support Dr Chaffer’s work in understanding a novel marker expressed by aggressive cell populations in breast cancer that functionally contributes to their aggressive state. Dr Chaffer is hoping to develop novel therapeutic strategies to inhibit the function of a particular enzyme and hence the spread of breast cancer.