‘Dream big’: Scientist recognised for work on inflammation and cancer

Immunologist Professor Si Ming Man has been awarded the Gottschalk Medal by the Australian Academy of Science for his contribution to research into inflammation and cancer.

He leads a team from the Department of Immunology and Infectious Disease at the Australian National University (ANU) investigating the role of innate immunity in the host defence against infectious diseases and how uncontrolled inflammation can lead to the development of cancer, autoimmunity and inflammatory diseases.

The Gottschalk Medal, which recognises outstanding research in the biomedical sciences by researchers up to 10 years post-PhD, was one of 22 honorific awards announced this week [link here].

The Australian Academy of Science said Professor Man’s work had significantly advanced understanding of inflammation as an underlying mechanism of health and disease .

“We have identified different immune sensors… which can be activated in response to different types of pathogens and what is exciting about this research is that we can harness the power of this immune system and turn them into drugs,” Professor Man told the Academy.

“I believe that our drugs can cure multidrug resistant bacteria, which is what we have been showing in the lab.

“We believe that these peptides can bind directly to the surface of the bacteria and basically rip open the envelope, the outer surface of the bacteria, so it can no longer survive and replicate within the cell.”

Following the promising results in the the laboratory, Professor Man said the next step would be to improve the safety profile and stability of the drugs before moving to clinical trials.

His team is also working with doctors at the Canberra Hospital to improve early detection methods for bowel cancer by looking for inflammation biomarkers.

“I think this medal will continue to inspire me and other young scientists to continue to take risks with their research and dream big,” Professor Man said.

The Canberra-based researchers are developing a new class of antimicrobial drugs that they say could help improve the global issue of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

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