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QIMR Berghofer researchers recognised as Tall Poppies in science

Two up-and-coming scientific leaders at QIMR Berghofer have been recognised with prestigious Tall Poppy awards for their outstanding research that will help improve the health of Australians.

The head of the Institute’s Mucosal Immunology team, Associate Professor Severine Navarro, and Associate Professor James Hudson, who leads the Organoid Research Group, were awarded the honours at a ceremony in Brisbane on Friday night.

Associate Professor Navarro’s research focuses on finding new ways of manipulating the immune system and the gut microbiome to prevent and treat chronic allergic and autoimmune diseases.

Her projects include developing hookworm protein-based treatments for conditions such as allergy, asthma, inflammatory bowel diseases and even mood disorders.

Associate Professor Hudson has been developing new technologies to grow miniature human heart muscles in the laboratory that he has used to identify potential new heart regeneration drugs that could eventually help combat cardiac disease.

He has also extended his research program to develop other tissues in the lab that could be used to develop treatments for other conditions.

Associate Professor Navarro said she was honoured to be awarded a Tall Poppy.

“I love what I do and it’s wonderful to be recognised for my passion for medical research,” she said.

“Working on projects that could improve the lives of people, and particularly children, with chronic inflammatory disease is personally rewarding and I’d urge any young person interested in STEM to explore career possibilities in medical research.

“Communicating science and especially our research findings to the public is vital. It not only gives hope of a brighter future for people living with chronic debilitating illnesses, but also inspires the next generation of scientists.”

Associate Professor Hudson said the Tall Poppy Awards played an important role in highlighting the significance of science and technology in Australia.

“It’s humbling to receive this award and to be given the opportunity to mentor and inspire future generations of scientists,” he said.

“Australia has a vigorous research community that is constantly working to improve the health and wellbeing of our society. It’s gratifying to know that our efforts are being recognised.

“I think new human organoid models have the potential to enhance the discovery of new drugs around the world. I am delighted that the hard work of my team has been recognised with this award and am excited that we can share our new technologies not just with the scientific community, but now also the public.”

QIMR Berghofer’s Director and CEO, Professor Frank Gannon, said the Institute was proud to have such highly regarded young scientists leading research groups.

“It is true recognition of the quality and potential we have at QIMR Berghofer and of our efforts to foster some of the best scientific minds in the world,” Professor Gannon said.

“We are very proud of their achievements and their commitment to being inspiring ambassadors for medical research.”

The Tall Poppy awards were created by the Australian Institute of Policy and Science in 1998 to recognise and celebrate the achievements of Australia’s outstanding young scientific researchers and to encourage young people to follow in their footsteps.

Tall Poppy awards are presented in each state each year.

The award recipients participate in education and community outreach programs such as school visits, seminars and workshops to inspire school students and the broader community about the possibilities of science.