2021 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science presented

Medallion with australian government logo reading prime minister's prize for science

The 2021 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science were presented last night at an online event by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Melissa Price, the Minister for Science and Technology.

The Prime Minister’s Prize for Science was awarded to Professor Edward C. Holmes from the University of Sydney for his transformative role in the scientific response to COVID-19, and his ground-breaking research into the evolution of viral diseases.

Holmes received the $250,000 prize for almost 30 years of pioneering research on genome sequencing data, providing invaluable insights into diseases such as HIV, Ebola, SARS and most recently, COVID-19.

Last year Holmes was the first person in the world to publicly share the SARS-CoV-2 genome sequence. This crucial data enabled scientists to start vaccine design within days. 

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Professor Edward Holmes. Credit: Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources

“Science has been at the forefront of our minds for the last 18 months, and Professor Holmes’ contribution to accelerating the development of the COVID-19 vaccine – doses of hope, as I call them – saved countless lives,” said the prime minister.

The $250,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation was awarded to Professor Anthony Weiss, also from the University of Sydney, for his research into accelerating and improving the repair of human tissue. In 2008, Weiss founded Elastagen to commercialise his research and inventions.

Minister for Science and Technology Melissa Price said research-based innovation leading to commercialisation demonstrated the value and importance of the work of Australian scientists.

The other prize recipients are:

Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year: Professor Sherene Loi, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. Loi was recognised for translating scientific findings into innovative treatments that can improve the survival of breast cancer patients in Australia and around the world.

Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year: Dr Keith Bannister, CSIRO, for his pioneering research into fast radio bursts – short, sharp pulses of radio waves that last a few milliseconds and are extremely hard to detect – which are now solving several of the big astronomical mysteries of our generation.

Prize for New Innovators: Associate Professor Michael Bowen, University of Sydney, for his ground-breaking discovery and development of KNX100, a novel molecule that is now being commercialised to help treat addiction and other disorders of the brain and mind.

The Prime Minister’s Prizes for Excellence in Science Teaching went to Megan Hayes, from Mudgeeraba Creek State School, in Queensland (Primary Schools) and Scott Graham, from Barker College, NSW (Secondary Schools).

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