Royal Society of NSW News & Events

Royal Society of NSW News & Events

Society Fellows awarded 2020 NSW Premier's Science and Engineering Prizes

NSW Premier's Prizes for Science and Engineering 2020Four Society Fellows have been recognised at the NSW Premier’s Prizes for Science and Engineering, with Professor Edward Holmes FRSN FAA FRS, of the University of Sydney, being awarded the 2020 NSW Scientist of the Year.

In the other awards, Professor Suzanne O’Reilly AM FRSN FAA of Macquarie University received the Prize for Excellence in Mathematics, Earth Sciences, Chemistry or Physics; Professor Merlin Crossley FRSN of UNSW Sydney was a joint recipient of the Prize for Excellence in Medical Biological Sciences; while Professor Ewa Goldys FRSN FTSE of UNSW Sydney received the Prize for Leadership in Innovation in NSW.

Professor Holmes was recognised for his 30 years of research into the emergence, evolution and spread of viruses, with a focus on how viruses can jump species and manifest as epidemics and pandemics. However, as is reported in the Sydney Morning Herald on 27 October 2020, he came to international prominence in becoming the first to publish the genome sequence of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus on 5 January 2020, following communication with a colleague in China. It was this act that triggered the release of genome sequencing data from China, and the start of research efforts to understand the virus, develop rapid testing, and commence the development of vaccines.

In speaking with the Australian Academy of Science, Professor Holmes spoke of the “tremendous honour to receive this award, which is built on the hard work of my team and collaborators over many years”, noting that he was “so thankful and proud to be living in a state and country in which the science has been listened to and used to help build such an effective response to COVID-19.” Commenting in the Sydney Morning Herald, the Chief Scientist and Engineer of NSW, Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte said “Professor Holmes’ early identification of the devastating potential of the coronavirus cannot be overstated”.

Professor Holmes receives $60,000 as prize money, with category winners each receiving $5,000.

For further information and background, please read the article on the Australian Academy of Science website and in the Sydney Morning Herald

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