Highlights //

A core of celebrated scientists (2012)

Maurice Wilkins Centre investigators continued to win acclaim in 2012, ending the year with seven medals at the Royal Society of New Zealand research honours event, including the top award.

Margaret Brimble Receives Rutherford Medal

“The awards are very well deserved and we feel enormously privileged to have these talented individuals as part of our network,” says Director Professor Rod Dunbar. Four of the Centre’s principal investigators have now won the Rutherford Medal, the Society’s highest honour.

The 2012 awards for health science, chemical science and research with the potential for human benefit also went to members of this core group, underscoring its strength.

Distinguished Professor Margaret Brimble from The University of Auckland won the Rutherford Medal, which recognises an exceptional contribution to New Zealand society in science and technology. She joins fellow principal investigators and Rutherford Medallists, Distinguished Professors Ted Baker, Bill Denny and Peter Hunter.

An expert in medicinal and natural products chemistry, Margaret (right) synthesises compounds from nature that show promise for medical applications such as the treatment of cancer or diabetes, and for agricultural use. The medal honours her world-leading contributions in the field.

Margaret also won the MacDiarmid Medal, which recognises potential for human benefit, for her work on a new drug candidate that may reduce the impact of traumatic brain injury, and the Hector Medal for an outstanding contribution to the advancement of chemical sciences.

Maurice Wilkins Centre Deputy Director Professor John Fraser, Dean of Medical and
Health Sciences at The University of Auckland, received the Sir Charles Hercus Medal, for excellence in health science.

John is an expert in immunology and infectious disease. He is particularly interested in superantigens produced by the body in response to infection, and virulence factors that help infectious agents to thrive and overcome the body’s immune defences. The medal honours his pioneering studies on bacterial superantigens, which have major implications for understanding and treating a variety of human infectious diseases.

The Centre is delighted that two members of its wider network were also honoured at the celebration. Dr Richard Furneaux, a Distinguished Scientist at Callaghan Innovation, won the Thompson Medal for outstanding and inspirational leadership of carbohydrate chemistry research and its commercial application to biotechnology in New Zealand. Professor David Williams from The University of Auckland received the Pickering Medal, the Society’s top technology award, for his contribution to the development of biomedical and gas sensors, which have been commercialised.


Image: Distinguished Professor Margaret Brimble speaks at the Royal Society of New Zealand's Research Honours Celebration on receiving the Society's top award, the Rutherford Medal, presented by the Hon Steven Joyce, Minister of Science and Innovation. Photograph courtesy of the Royal Society of New Zealand.