[ASC-media] Media release: Victorian Tall Poppy Awards

James Shirvill shirvill at gmail.com
Fri Oct 1 07:08:16 CEST 2010

(Posted by James Shirvill on behalf of Pamela McLeod, Tall Poppy Campaign
manager for Victoria and Tasmania)

*Victoria’s Tall Poppies Help us Walk, Talk and See the Light*

Last Thursday evening (Sept. 23rd) the Australian Institute for Policy and
Science unveiled this year's Victorian Young Tall Poppies – young scientists
who have shown leadership in both research and communication of science. The
team of nine inspirational researchers will visit Victorian schools and
communities over the coming year, sharing their enthusiasm for science with
students and teachers.

*Dr Anna Ahimastos* of the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute has
developed a new treatment that could reduce the pain of walking for patients
with narrow, stiff arteries in their legs. The drug, ramipril, is now being
tested in 200 patients.

Like walking, most of us take talking and eating for granted, but half a
million Australian children have problems with speech or swallowing. *Dr
Angela Morgan* of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute is investigating
such children’s brain patterns and DNA for clues to how these disorders
happen, and how they might be treated.

Deakin University’s *Dr Paul Francis* is literally shedding light on a
variety of subjects - The light-producing reactions he studies can be used
to detect and identify everything from biological weapons to bloodstains (as
seen in ‘CSI’), or from illicit drugs to the antioxidants in coffee and
health drinks.

The University of Melbourne’s *Dr Natalie Hannan* hopes to overcome a
problem that renders thousands of Australian women infertile and undermines
most attempts at in vitro fertilisation (IVF). She studies how embryos
attach to the womb lining and hook themselves up to the mother’s blood

Human blood is also the target of an uninvited guest that has killed half
the people who have ever lived, and continues to kill someone every 30
seconds - The malaria parasite. *Dr Chris Tonkin *of the Walter and Eliza
Hall Institute (WEHI), the 2010 Victorian Tall Poppy of the Year, identified
a group of enzymes that allow malaria to invade human blood cells; while *Dr
Justin Boddey* (also at WEHI) has shown how the parasite “renovates” its new
home by exporting its own proteins into the red blood cell. Both mechanisms
are vital for the parasite’s survival, so may be invaluable drug targets.

Cells are normally programmed to commit suicide if they are infected - They
“take one for the team”, says *Dr Marc Kvansakul *of LaTrobe University, to
prevent spread of the infection. Dr Kvansakul is studying how some viruses
can block this process and stop their new home from self-destructing. This
“hijacking” of cells not only allows the virus to breed in safety, but can
also help cells to become cancerous. WEHI’s *Dr Erinna Lee* is investigating
how a new class of drugs reactivate this self-destruct mechanism and kill
off cancer cells.

*Dr Angus Johnston* at the University of Melbourne is developing tiny
capsules, less than a hundredth the width of a human hair, which protect
anticancer drugs from patients’ immune systems and protect the patients from
the often toxic drugs until they encounter a cancer. Specific antibodies on
the outside of the capsules latch on to cancer cells, prompting those cells
to “eat” the capsule and release the drug.

The national Tall Poppy Campaign was created in 1998 to build a more
publicly engaged scientific leadership in Australia and to encourage younger
Australians to follow in the footsteps of our outstanding achievers. The
Campaign is funded nationally by the Department of Health and Ageing and in
Victoria by the Victorian Government, Monash University, The University of
Melbourne, Victoria University and Deakin University.

For more information, contact Pamela McLeod at pmcleod at aips.net.au or 0402
228 507
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