UQ duo makes PM’s list of top 100 “rock star” innovators

15 Dec 2015

Two of The University of Queensland’s most successful and entrepreneurial medical scientists, Professor Maree Smith and Professor Ian Frazer, have earned a new accolade for their contributions to Australian innovation.

Both researchers were listed in the inaugural Knowledge Nation 100, announced by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at a luncheon yesterday hosted by the Knowledge Society and the Office of the Chief Scientist.

The list, published in The Australian, recognises Australia’s leading “visionaries, intellects, founders and game changers” as the heroes underwriting the nation’s future prosperity.

Professor Smith’s research is the basis of new technologies commercialised by Spinifex, a UQ start-up which is developing new drugs for treating chronic pain.

Global pharmaceutical giant Novartis AG acquired Spinifex in July this year for US$200 million plus clinical development and regulatory milestone payments, raising the total potential value up to A$1 billion - the largest deal in Australian biotechnology history.

Professor Frazer was recognised for establishing the Translational Research Institute, co-inventing the technology that led to the world’s first cervical cancer vaccine, and his ongoing development of vaccine technologies for skin cancer and immune diseases such as herpes.

“It’s a great honour to be acknowledged in this way, especially now that Spinifex’s lead candidate, a drug for treating neuropathic (nerve) pain and chronic inflammatory pain is closer every day to becoming a reality for millions of pain sufferers around the world,” Professor Smith said.

Executive Dean of UQ’s Faculty of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences Professor Nicholas Fisk said the inclusion of both Professor Smith and Professor Frazer on the Knowledge Nation 100 list highlighted UQ’s positon as an international leader in translational research.

“Professor Smith and Professor Frazer represent The University of Queensland and Australia on the global biotech stage,” Professor Fisk said.

“We are very proud of their achievements and congratulate them on this highly prestigious and public recognition.”

In The Australian, Knowledge Society chief executive Elena Douglas said the list was “about identifying the people who are the rock stars of the new economy.”

“We need to get the stories out there of the brilliant careers, the exciting lives, the technical achievements and the commercial contribution that these people make towards creating jobs and prosperity. But also the humanitarian one — the discoveries that are going to cure cancer and save lives,” Ms Douglas said.

Professor Smith and professor Frazer will join their Knowledge Nation 100 colleagues, policymakers and key stakeholders at a special summit in March next year. The event will focus on fostering collaboration and promoting innovation-led jobs and skills in line with the recently announced National Innovation and Science Agenda.

The complete Knowledge Nation 100 list is available on The Australian's website and in The Deal magazine.


Media: UQ Faculty of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Kate Gadenne, k.gadenne@uq.edu.au, +61 7 3365 5018, 0438 727 895.