Media Release - National Foundation for Medical Research and

 ABN: 85 001 422 895
Media Release
Embargo: 6.30pm, 11 December 2014
[SYDNEY,NSW] – Dr John Dixon Hughes OAM announced today that A/Prof Guillaume Lessene
has been hailed as the inaugural recipient of the National Foundation for Medical Research and
Innovation’s (NFMRI) Dr John Dixon Hughes Medal for Medical Research Innovation.
A/Prof Lessene was recognized at the NFMRI Awards in Sydney for having broken boundaries in
his research to discover and develop drugs that target apoptosis, and for his links with industry in
commercialising products for clinical use. Apoptosis is a form of programmed “cell suicide” that
normal cells undergo, but that some cancer cells have developed ways to resist.
Having been nominated by pre-eminent peers, A/Prof Lessene’s discoveries have led to a potential
new anti-cancer agent that could trick cancer cells into committing suicide.
The new class of drugs, the so-called ‘BH3-mimetics’ could have a profound impact on cancer
A/Prof Guillaume Lessene’s research into apoptosis (cell suicide) has contributed to the
discovery of a new class of drugs called BH3-mimetics. Some BH3-mimetics have already
demonstrated profound responses in patients with blood cancers.
Inaugural award includes $50,000 prize to support A/Prof Lessene’s research
The inaugural award came with a prize of $50,000 to further supplement A/Prof Lessene’s research
at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research into new and improved cancer therapies.
“The clinical potential from this new class of drugs is extraordinary,” says Professor Doug Hilton,
director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute. He adds, “Other drugs in this class have already
demonstrated profound responses in patients with blood cancers. We are very excited about the
potential of the new agents being developed by Guillaume and his team for treating cancers that are
resistant to cell death.”
Professor Hilton stressed that while the impacts of A/Prof Lessene’s and his team’s work was
already playing out in both the clinical and commercial spaces, it would take decades for the full
implications to be realised.
Dr Noel Chambers, CEO of the NFMRI noted that A/Prof Lessene was a model example of what
could be achieved when a strong vision and goals were fueled with determination and
supplemented by collaboration. “A/Prof Lessene’s achievements demonstrate the type of impact
and research mindset that the Foundation has set out to support.
The next award will be presented in 2016.
About the Awards
The NFMRI awards the Dr John Dixon Hughes Medal for Medical Research Innovation every two
years to researcher under the age of 45 who is nominated by his or her peers for outstanding
contribution towards the development and advancement of a biomedical innovation related to the
nature, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and incidence of disease and other health problems that
have a significant impact on the health of humans.
The award is named in honour of the NFMRI’s longest-standing Trustee and Chairman of the
Research Advisory Committee, Dr John Dixon Hughes OAM, who was a founding member of the
Foundation in 1977 and remains an active, dedicated and passionate board member to this.
The NFMRI’s primary objective is to support innovative areas of research to help benefit mankind
through the prevention or eradication of diseases. By focusing on advancing innovations and
enabling collaborations, the Foundation aims to address the critical gaps that prevent industry
uptake to bring diagnostics, devices, vaccines, tools and medicines into the hands of those in need
in the community. The Foundation also seeks to partner with researchers and donors to identify,
evaluate and support innovative quality research projects with identified impact objectives. NFMRI’s
culture is one where we look to make a social investment in medical research. By partnering with
researchers to provide support and knowledge, we aim to maximise the social returns from our
For further information or for interviews, please contact:
Dr Noel Chambers, Chief Executive Officer
M: 0412 357 893
E: [email protected]
GPO Box 9986 Sydney, NSW 2001