Society Fellows awarded 2021 Prime Minister's Science Prizes

Prime Minister's Science Prizes logoThe Council of the Royal Society of NSW is delighted to learn that two of its Fellows have been recognised with the two highest awards in the 2021 Prime Minister's Science Prizes in an online ceremony on 3 November 2021. They are Professor Edward Holmes FRSN FAA FRS, of the University of Sydney, who has won the 2021  Prime Minister's Prize for Science, and Professor Anthony Weiss AM FRSN FTSE, also from the University of Sydney, who has received the 2021 Prime Minister's Prize for Innovation.

The Prime Minister's Prize for Science ($250,000) recognises a significant advancement of knowledge through science, while the Prime Minister's Prize for Innovation ($250,000) recognises the innovative translation of scientific knowledge into a commercially viable product, service, or process that has led to economic, social and, where relevant, environmental benefits.

Professor Edward HolmesProfessor Holmes is a global authority on the evolution of viruses. For almost thirty years, he has pioneered the study of how viruses evolve and jump between species to spread and cause disease, including humans. Using genome sequence data, he has transformed our understanding of diseases that have affected major populations such as HIV, Ebola, and SARS. Most recently, Professor Holmes has played a transformative role in the scientific response to COVID-19, becoming the first person in the world, in early 2020, to publicly release the virus’s genome sequence. This sharing of the data was critical in helping the global response to the pandemic. It fast-tracked research efforts around the world and enabled the design of vaccines within days, saving countless lives. He is now at the forefront of research about the origins and ongoing evolution of COVID-19. The work of Professor Holmes will continue to help protect Australia from existing and undiscovered infections, leading our country and the rest of the world into a new age in biosecurity.

Professor Anthony WeissProfessor Weiss is the world’s leading authority on tropoelastin, the protein building block that gives human tissue its elasticity. For the past two decades, he has pioneered global research into tropoelastin and elastin fibres, which are found in human tissues ranging from the skin to the lungs and arteries. Elastin fibres play a significant role in the repair of the human body and this research lead our recipient to the creation of synthetic tropoelastin-based biomaterials, to accelerate and improve the repair of human tissue. In 2008, he founded the company Elastagen to commercialise his research and inventions. The company raised $35 million in venture capital and grant funding, completed clinical trials, and scaled-up production. The inventions of Professor Weiss have generated an incredible 163 granted patents in 21 patent families around the world. Ten years later, Elastagen was sold to one of the world’s largest biopharmaceutical companies.

The Council of the Royal Society of NSW extends its warmest congratulations to Professor Holmes and Weiss on the highly-deserved recognition of the outstanding research achievements and impact.

For further information and background, please see the article on the Department of Industry website that also includes a video of the online presentation ceremony.

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