Support for our outstanding young researchers

Garvan congratulates Drs Liz Caldon, Nenad Bartonicek, Michelle McDonald, Maria Findeisen and Nathan Zammit who were all announced as the research award-winners at Garvan’s Annual Update.

James Ferguson, Kirston Barton and Martin Smith

16 May 2018

Each year, generous organisations support our brightest mid-career researchers to progress innovative research programs. The annual awards, announced at the Garvan Annual Update event on Wednesday, provide critical support for travel and research costs.

The 2018 Ridley Ken Davies Award, presented to Dr Liz Caldon (Cancer Division), was launched in 2016. The annual grant, which honours Mr Ken Davies, a Ridley employee who sadly passed away from cancer in 2015, supports an early to mid-career Garvan researcher to test an innovative research idea.

Dr Caldon will use the Ridley Ken Davies Award to analyse which proteins in breast cancer change as a breast cancer is developing resistance to a promising new class of drugs called ‘CDK4/6 inhibitors’. The outcome of this project will be the identification of potential diagnostic markers of resistance and drug targets, with the aim of developing new clinical tools for advanced breast cancer.

The 2018 Champ Young Pioneer Award, from Champ Private Equity, was awarded to Dr Michelle McDonald (Bone Biology Division). The award is granted to a young researcher to test an early state idea in an innovative research project.

Dr McDonald will use the Young Pioneer Award in her work understanding how to stop the growth of cancers that spread (or metastasise) to bone. She will use a specific imaging technique to study how tumour cells interact with bone cells, and the effects on this interaction of drugs that prevent bone resorption. 

The Palmer Innovation Prize, provided by Joseph Palmer & Sons, is an annual prize to encourage research innovation at Garvan. The prize recognises the development of a product, process or technology and was presented to Dr Nenad Bartonicek and his team: Dr Martin Smith, Mr James Ferguson and Dr Kirston Barton.

The team has formed a small company, Cerebro Biosystems, to develop a diagnostic test for microbial infections using real-time DNA sequencing.

The Heliflite Award supports two of Garvan’s most outstanding early career researchers, with an award to facilitate international travel to conferences and laboratories to foster their career development. The 2018 winners are Dr Maria Findeisen (Diabetes and Metabolism Division) and Dr Nathan Zammit (Immunology Division).

Dr Findeisen is interested in the development of drugs to treat obesity-induced metabolic disease. In December, she will travel to the 18th International Congress of Endocrinology in Cape Town, South Africa to present her work.

Dr Zammit is going to spend 8-9 weeks at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada in the lab of a collaborator to learn techniques to use pig pancreatic islet cells in his work on islet transplantation for type 1 diabetes.

Garvan sincerely thanks Ridley, Champ Private Equity, Joseph Palmer & Sons and Heliflite for their support.

Learn about last year’s award-winners