Victorian 2021 Young Tall Poppy Science Award

Congratulations to four researchers who have received the 2021 Victorian Young Tall Poppy Science Award.

The prestigious annual Young Tall Poppy Science Awards aim to recognise the achievements of Australia’s outstanding young scientific researchers and communicators.

Monash Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences recipients include:

The health disparity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians is a national tragedy.

Dr Fabien Vincent’s research tackles a devastating and currently incurable autoimmune illness called ‘lupus’. Lupus affects about 1 in 1000 people across the population. However, for reasons unknown, this is two to four times more common (and more severe) in Indigenous Australians.

“My vision is to unravel the reasons for this and use this knowledge to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians with lupus.To do this, we first take blood from patients and then measure many thousands of genes and proteins. Using complex data analysis methods, known as bioinformatics, we analyse all these blood markers at once. This study is the first to establish a national Indigenous lupus registry and biobank and will allow doctors in the near future to find the right drug for the right patient. It will also ensure that Indigenous Australians suffering from lupus will not miss out on breakthrough treatments, or be needlessly exposed to ineffective medicines. Ultimately, this is an important step to closing the health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian lupus sufferers.

I am deeply honoured to be awarded a Young Tall Poppy Science Award, and I look forward to working with the Australian Institute of Policy and Science in the near future.” said Dr Vincent.

  • Associate Professor Rachel Hill, School of Clinical Sciences at Monash Health

Schizophrenia is a devastating psychiatric illness that debilitates people for life. Current treatments for schizophrenia are largely ineffective and have severe side effects therefore better treatment options are urgently needed.

Associate Professor Rachel Hill is using cutting edge neuroscience technologies to understand what is happening in the brains of people with schizophrenia. She has identified key brain cells and molecules that are altered in schizophrenia and is developing new targeted therapies to recover brain changes.

Reflecting on receiving the Victorian 2021 Young Tall Poppy Science Award, she says “I am so honoured to receive this incredibly prestigious award. This award is unique in that it recognises the important community outreach work that many of us are passionately engaged in. Particularly within the mental illness research space, community outreach is key to improving mental health outcomes.”

  • Jane Tiller, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine

Jane Tiller is a lawyer, genetic counsellor and bioethics researcher with a passion for consumer protection and has conducted research to gather evidence about genetic discrimination in Australia. As a result of her work, the life-insurance industry introduced a partial moratorium (ban) on using genetic test results in underwriting in 2019. She now leads a national project to monitor its effectiveness for consumer protection, and make recommendations to enable evidence-based implementation of policy to empower preventive genomic medicine.

“Genetic testing can save lives through preventing diseases such as cancer. However, Australian life-insurance companies can legally use applicants’ genetic test results to decline cover or increase policy cost. Research shows genetic discrimination fears deter at-risk individuals from clinical testing and research participation, creating significant barriers to research, clinical outcomes and precision-medicine initiatives. Many countries restrict or ban insurers’ access to genetic test results,” Jane said.

  • Associate Professor James Trauer, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine

From the start of 2020, Associate Professor James Trauer has supported the Victorian Government and many countries of the Asia-Pacific Region to understand and address the epidemic.

“During Victoria’s second pandemic wave from winter 2020, my group provided regular projections of the burden of cases, deaths and health service requirements. In collaboration with the World Health Organization Western Pacific Region, we provided regular support and projections for Malaysia and the Philippines. This has since extended to countries of the Southeast Asia Region, including Sri Lanka, Nepal and Indonesia.

Throughout these activities, we have adopted a capacity-building approach wherever possible, aiming to improve in-country expertise for epidemiological modelling and improve preparedness for future pandemics. Linked to these collaborations, I have also overseen the development of a robust, transparent and publicly available software platform for constructing infectious diseases models," Associate Professor Trauer said.

About Monash University

Monash University is Australia’s largest university with more than 80,000 students. In the 60 years since its foundation, it has developed a reputation for world-leading high-impact research, quality teaching, and inspiring innovation.

With four campuses in Australia and a presence in Malaysia, China, India, Indonesia and Italy, it is one of the most internationalised Australian universities.

As a leading international medical research university with the largest medical faculty in Australia and integration with leading Australian teaching hospitals, we consistently rank in the top 50 universities worldwide for clinical, pre-clinical and health sciences.

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