Cell death research wins professor Andreas Strasser 2011 Victoria Prize

November 14, 2011

Professor Andreas Strasser from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research has been awarded the 2011 Victoria Prize for his research into the control of cell death.

The $50,000 Victoria Prize is awarded annually by the Victorian Government to a scientist whose discovery has significantly advanced knowledge.

Programmed cell death, or apoptosis, is an important biological process that removes unwanted or defective cells in humans and animals. Professor Strasser's research into the control of cell death has shown that defects in cell death can lead to the development of cancer or autoimmune disease (where the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys healthy body tissue), and render cancer cells resistant to chemotherapeutics.

Born and educated in Switzerland, Professor Strasser has worked at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute since 1989. He is now the joint head, with Professor Jerry Adams, of the institute's Molecular Genetics of Cancer division. His current research interests include the regulation of cell death in blood cells and cancer cells, and how anti-cancer treatments can be improved by increasing cancer cells' propensity to die.

Professor Strasser said he was honoured to receive the Victoria Prize. "I have been fortunate in my research career to have been surrounded by many outstanding scientists," he said. "I am particularly grateful to have been mentored by Suzanne Cory, Jerry Adams and Alan Harris. With David Vaux, they laid the critical groundwork in cell death and cancer research that I was able to build upon. I have also been fortunate to have been surrounded by many outstanding laboratory members, and had many fruitful collaborations with other institute researchers, such as Philippe Bouillet and David Huang."

Professor David Vaux, head of the institute's Cell Signalling and Cell Death division, said Professor Strasser had made many significant discoveries into the control of cell death. "In the 22 years that I have collaborated with Andreas, cell death research has grown from small beginnings into a huge field that is important in many areas of medical research," Professor Vaux said. "Andreas can take credit for driving many advances during this time. He discovered key molecules that regulate cell death in mammals, and was the very first to establish the link between defects in cell death and autoimmunity."

Professor Strasser is the institute's fourth Victoria Prize winner since the prize's inception in 1998. Previous winners have included Professor Don Metcalf (2000) from the institute's Cancer and Haematology division, Professor Vaux (2003) and Professor Peter Colman (2008), head of the institute's Structural Biology division.

The director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Professor Doug Hilton, said Professor Strasser had made a huge contribution to medical research. "Andreas is held in immense regard by his peers," Professor Hilton said. "He is a very deserving winner of Victoria's highest prize for science and technology."

Professor Strasser has received many awards recognising his scientific achievements, including the Friedrich Miescher Prize from the Swiss Society for Biochemistry, the Dr Josef Steiner Cancer Research Prize and the Glaxo Wellcome Australia Prize, which he shared with Professor Vaux.

The Minister for Innovation, Services and Small Business, the Hon. Ms Louise Asher MLA, today presented Professor Strasser with the Victoria Prize. The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute will receive the $100,000 Anne & Eric Smorgon Memorial Award, provided by the Jack and Robert Smorgon Families Foundation to the Victoria Prize winner's organisation.
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Walter and Eliza Hall Institute

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