VIIN scientists win prestigious awards

21 August 2017


Dr Catherine Satzke and Dr Hayley Newton, two VIIN research fellows, are the recipients of the 2017 Australian Society for Microbiology’s prestigious Frank Fenner Awards.

The Frank Fenner Award recognises distinguished contributions in any area of Australian research in microbiology by scientists in a formative stage of their career.  Winners are awarded a plaque and cash prize and invited to speak at the ASM Annual Scientific Meeting.

Dr Catherine Satzke was recognised with the Frank Fenner Award for her research, which includes an experimental and translational program on pneumococcal pathogenesis, and how pneumococcal diseases can be prevented with vaccination.  Highlights of the work for which Catherine was awarded include: leading the development of World Health Organization guidelines for pneumococcal carriage (Satzke et al., Vaccine 2013) and leading two projects funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to identify the gold-standard approaches for pneumococcal serotyping.  These gold-standard approaches are now being applied in her laboratory to determine optimal pneumococcal vaccination strategies for the individual and the wider community (‘herd protection’) in a number of large collaborative vaccine studies in the Asia Pacific region funded by international agencies.  The title of her presentation at the ASM Annual Meeting in Hobart was Pneumococcal vaccines - impact of current vaccines in the Asia Pacific region.  Dr Satzke is an inaugural veski Inspiring Women Fellow, an NHMRC Career Development Fellow, and Senior Research Fellow at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute. She has honorary positions with the Department of Paediatrics and the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at The University of Melbourne, and is VIIN’s Executive Member for MCRI.

Dr Newton was recognised with the Frank Fenner Award for the development and application of techniques to genetically manipulate Coxiella burnetii.  Prior to Dr Newton tackling this problem, tools to study this intracellular bacterial pathogen were very limited and the function or impact of specific bacterial factors in this species could not be examined. During Dr Newton’s post-doctoral studies, supported by an NHMRC fellowship within the Department of Microbial Pathogenesis at Yale University, she produced tools to introduce plasmids into this organism and construct random transposon mutants. Her laboratory has become renowned more recently for the ability to perform targeted gene deletions in Coxiella.  Her pioneering techniques have demonstrated that the secretion system set in motion when the pathogen takes over cells is an essential determinant of virulence (Newton et al, PLoS Pathog 2014).  The title of her presentation at the ASM Annual Meeting was Getting to know Coxiella burnetii, 80 years after we first met.  Dr Newton is a Senior Lecturer and Research Group Leader in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Melbourne, Co-Leader of the Host-Pathogen Interactions Theme at the Doherty Institute and Special Visiting Professor at the Ribeirão Preto Medical School, University of São Paulo under the Brazilian Science without Borders Program.

1 - Unnamed

Dr Hayley Newton (left) and Dr Catherine Satzke with their ASM Frank Fenner Award plaques.  Photo courtesy Australian Society for Microbiology.

We are also pleased to highlight other VIIN researchers who have also been recognised with prestigious international fellowships.

In July, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wellcome Trust, and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation announced the selection of 41 International Research Scholars.  Chosen from 16 countries, the International Research Scholars are exceptional early-career scientists poised to advance biomedical research across the globe.  A panel of distinguished scientists reviewed more than 1,400 applications, and evaluated both the impact of past work, including doctoral and postdoctoral achievements, and the promise of work to come.

Of the six Australian International Research Scholars, five are located in Melbourne and four are members of VIIN:

·         Kathryn Holt, PhD University of Melbourne Australia

·         Laura Mackay, PhD University of Melbourne Australia

·         Seth Masters, PhD Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research Australia

·         Wai-Hong Tham, PhD Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research Australia

VIIN congratulates all these outstanding infection and immunity researchers for their contributions to the field.


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