Three leading researchers from The University of Western Australia and its affiliates, the Lions Eye Institute and WA Institute for Medical Research, are among the winners of this year's WA Young Tall Poppy Awards.
Associate Professor Kevin Pfleger, head of Molecular Endocrinology at WAIMR, Dr Alex Hewitt, a glaucoma genetics researcher from the Lions Eye Institute and Research Assistant Professor Lea-Ann Kirkham, a researcher with the Vaccine Trials Group from UWA's School of Paediatrics and Child Health, were presented with their awards at last night's ceremony at the University.
Professor Pfleger is also Chief Scientific Officer of "Dimerix Bioscience", a spin-out company commercialising the discoveries of his laboratory revolving around interactions of proteins that regulate how cells respond to hormones and neurotransmitters.
He has won several awards, including an Australian Museum Eureka Prize in 2011 for his work on improving the way pharmaceuticals act on the human body.
Dr Hewitt's research examines the molecular profile of cells in the retina of people with blinding glaucoma and compares them with people who have no signs or family history of the disease. Cellular models developed as part of his research will ultimately be used to develop better screening tools and treatment options.
Recently, Dr Hewitt was one of eight international recipients of a prestigious 2012 Alcon Research Institute (ARI) Young Investigator Grant.
Professor Kirkham's research interests lie in understanding the causes of bacterial respiratory infections and strategies to reduce the burden of disease, including development of affordable vaccines. During her PhD she developed a potential pneumococcal vaccine candidate, which led to three international patents. Her vaccine candidate is currently in Phase I clinical trials.
UWA Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Johnson said the work of the University's young scientists would make positive differences in the lives of many people.
"Research is a central undertaking at this University and, as has been the case for almost a century, our research is focused on addressing the needs of the community," Professor Johnson said.
The Young Tall Poppy Science Awards recognise the recipients' research achievements as well as their capacity and commitment to communicate science and its significance to the community.
Carolyn Monaghan (WAIMR Communications Manager) (+61 4) 48 021 932
Dr Alex Hewitt (Lions Eye Institute) (+61 4) 07 359 824
Dr Lea-Ann Kirkham (UWA School of Paediatrics and Child Health) (+61 8) 9340 7907/7054
Michael Sinclair-Jones (UWA Public Affairs) (+61 8) 6488 3229 / (+61 4) 00 700 783