StudentAssoc - Awards
Student Excellence Awards
The 2012 AusBiotech-GSK Student Excellence Awards were proudly supported by:
Young Queensland vaccine developer takes top student award
Mr Connor O’Meara, from the Queensland University of Technology, was the winner of the 2012 AusBiotech-GSK Student Excellence Award for a novel vaccine design for chlamydia that disarms the bad properties of the disease transforming it into common bacteria.
Judged by an independent panel of science experts, Mr O’Meara took out the title against six other state finalists, following a competitive presentation of their research. The PhD student from Queensland received a $7,000 grant to present his research at an international conference.
In Australia, chlamydia accounts for 84% of all sexually transmitted infections. Cases have steadily increased by around 20% each year to almost 75,000 in 2010. The problem with controlling chlamydia is that up to nine out of ten people show no signs or symptoms of an infection. As a result, many infections persist undiagnosed and untreated, and can eventually lead to infertility. It is estimated that the Australian health system spends $90 to $160 million each year on c. trachomatis-related diseases like infertility.
No vaccine currently exists for chlamydia. Most researchers developing vaccines try to eradicate the infection to prevent infertility, however recent evidence shows that excessive inflammation generated following vaccination can contribute to development of infertility rather than prevention. This suggests that the traditional approach of developing a vaccine that confers a level of resistance to infection may not meet the fundamental criterion of the ideal chlamydial vaccine to prevent the disease.
On receiving the award, Mr O’Meara said: “I’m delighted to be recognised for my research. My advice to people is always to be passionate about your research, and as long as you love what you’re doing, good research follows, it certainly has with me.”
GSK Medical Director Dr Andrew Yeates commended Mr O’Meara for his research: “We are proud to honour such a remarkable young Australian. We hope the award will offer greater exposure for his research on the global stage and encourage other young researchers to pursue their goals.”
CEO of AusBiotech Dr Anna Lavelle said: “With fewer young Australians entering bioscience research, it’s important we continue to reward, recognise and support talented students pursuing this field. The Australian scientific community have a first-class record of discovering successful therapies and innovations, and we must continue to drive this to support Australia’s future in this field.”
The state finalists were:
Hock Tay, University of Newcastle - researching the potential role of microRNAs (miRNAs) in modulating immune responses to bacterial infections.
Tatiana Pereira Soares da Costa, University of Adelaide - uncovered a new compound of molecules that showed to be effective against one of the most drug resistant bacteria, Golden Staph.
Kim Jye Lee Chang, University of Tasmania - investigating the use of Australian microalgae for the production of biofuel, biodiesel, omega 3 oils and co-products.
Jaclyn Sceneay, University of Melbourne - working on a way to identify patients prone to developing metastatic diseases (the cause of over 90% of cancer-related deaths), which would allow treatment to be tailored according to a patient’s individual susceptibility.
Elizabeth Grenik, Curtin University - developing a modified scaffold that can be implanted in the body to repair, heal and grow damaged or lost deep tissue (skin or muscle). This research could be the gateway towards growing artificial organs.
The state finalists of the 2012 AusBiotech-GSK Student Excellence Awards
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is a global research-based pharmaceutical and healthcare company with a proud heritage of supporting Australian research, both through the Student Excellence Awards and the GSK Awards for Research Excellence. They provide about 1,600 skilled jobs across the country, working with researchers and doctors to discover new ways of treating and preventing disease. In 2011 they invested $58 million in local research and development, and supplied $477 million to Australia’s pharmaceutical and medicinal exports.