COVID sequencer awarded scientific honour

A pioneering virologist who first shared the genome sequence for COVID-19 has been awarded one of Australia’s most prestigious science honours.

Professor Edward Holmes has taken out this year’s Prime Minister’s Prize for Science for his work on genome sequencing.

The University of Sydney professor received the $250,000 prize during a virtual ceremony held on Wednesday.

Prof Holmes said he was honoured by the achievement.

“It’s also recognition for more than 30 years of work in trying to understand how viruses emerge and evolve,” he said.

“My goal now is to try and help stop a global pandemic like this ever happening again.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Prof Holmes’ work had led scientists to start developing a COVID vaccine just days after the sequencing was shared.

“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 saved countless lives,” Mr Morrison said.

“Professor Holmes exemplified why we placed our trust in science to effectively respond to COVID-19.”

Prof Holmes’ work over a 30-year career has also led researchers to gain critical insights into other infectious diseases such as HIV, Ebola and SARS.

He said his interest in science and viruses started with being fascinated with evolution as a child.

“Over time I’ve become more interested in the evolution of viruses because they evolve so rapidly,” he said.

“You can actually see the evolution happen in real time.”

Other award winners honoured on Wednesday included University of Sydney professor Anthony Weiss.

He was awarded the $250,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation for his research into improving the repair of human tissue.

Physical Scientist of the Year was awarded to Dr Keith Bannister for his work to help solve astronomical mysteries using the CSIRO’s radio telescopes.

The prize for new innovations went to Associate Professor Michael Bowen for his scientific discoveries on serious brain disorders that lack treatment

The Life Scientist of the Year went to Professor Sherene Loi for her work on translating scientific findings into treatments for breast cancer patients.

The Fort News