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Eye researchers vie for illustrious Eureka Prize

07/08/2019By Myles Hume
Lions Eye Institute (LEI)-led research that discovered a method to manage a life-threatening viral infection in transplant patients has been nominated for a prestigious Australian Museum Eureka Prize.

The team of Western Australian researchers, led by Professor Mariapia Degli-Esposti and includes Dr Chris Andoniou and Mr Peter Fleming, is one of three finalists in the UNSW Eureka Prize for Scientific Research award category this year.

They collaborated with investigators from the Brisbane-based QIMR Berghofer, headed by Professor Geoff Hill at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, to produce research into improving the outcomes of viral infections in bone marrow and organ transplant recipients. Their work was published earlier this year in the journal Science.

Professor Mariapia Degli-Esposti
Professor Mariapia Degli-Esposti
“This discovery is the result of a fantastic collaboration between viral and transplant immunologists who want to see patients protected from the life- threatening impact of CMV”
Mariapia Degli-Esposti, LEI

Using a world-first pre-clinical model, they discovered a way to prevent the emergence of Human Cytomegalovirus (CMV) using antibodies when they are matched to the infecting strain of cytomegalovirus. CMV can be life-threatening and is thought to potentially contribute to ocular complications in transplant patients.

“I’m thrilled that our team has been selected as a finalist for this illustrious research award,” said Degli-Esposti, who is now based at the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute but remains as head of the LEI Experimental Immunology Group.

“This discovery is the result of a fantastic collaboration between viral and transplant immunologists who want to see patients protected from the life- threatening impact of CMV.”

Australian Museum Eureka Prizes are considered the country’s most comprehensive national science awards, recognising excellence in research and innovation, leadership, science engagement, and school science.

Other finalists in LEI’s Scientific Research category include The Invisible Catalyst Team, a collaboration between the Australian National University (ANU) and Curtin University, which has shown electric fields can be used to manipulate chemical reactions, potentially leading to greener and safer methods for fabricating materials.

The third finalist is The Australian Attosecond Team, from Griffith University and ANU, which was the first to demonstrate that the process of quantum tunneling is instantaneous, a significant finding for the precise validation of theoretical models in quantum mechanics.

Recently-appointed LEI managing director Professor Bill Morgan added: “The Eureka Prize is among the nation’s most prestigious and well-known scientific research prizes. Being named a finalist is a reflection of the potential of this research to improve outcomes for patients not just in Australia, but globally.”

The winners will be announced at a ceremony in Sydney on 28 August.


More reading:

Researchers find way to prevent fatal viral infection
LEI and Monash Uni partnership sealed with new appointment


IMAGE CAPTION: (From left) QIMR Berghofer’s Dr Paulo Martins, along with the LEI’s Dr Chris Andoniou, Professor Mariapia Degli-Esposti and Mr Peter Fleming.

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