This feedback is anonymous. Please Contact us if you would like a response.

Main navigation

2019 Prime Minister's Prize for Innovation

Main content area

Associate Professor Peter Czabotar, Professor David Huang, Professor Guillaume Lessene and Professor Andrew Roberts

Professors Czabotar, Huang, Lessene and Roberts are recognised for their roles in the invention and development of venetoclax, an effective breakthrough anti-cancer drug.

This is a wonderful example of science translating to commercialisation of an approved therapeutic drug where all members of the team have made significant contributions in research, clinical trials and the eventual development of new anti-cancer drugs. The group's innovation has had substantial commercial, economic and social impact. The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute has already received almost AU$450 million from pre-selling its royalty stream from venetoclax, and sales are forecast to exceed AU$5 billion per annum in five years' time.

Read professional achievements and citations [210KB PDF] [247KB DOCX]
 

Transcript

[Music plays and an image appears of the Australian Government Coat of Arms and the Prime Minister’s Prize For Innovation badge and text appears: Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation, Associate Professor Peter Czabotar, Professor David Huang, Professor Guillaume Lessene & Professor Andrew Roberts, Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science, Celebrating 20 years]

[Image changes to show Professor David Huang talking to the camera and text appears: Professor David Huang]

Professor David Huang: When I was a young doctor I looked after a patient diagnosed with leukaemia and she essentially did very badly.

[Camera zooms in on a profile view of David as he talks and then the image changes to show a facing view of David talking to the camera and then the image changes to show a profile view again]

That was one of the reasons why I wanted to get into research because I thought if I could understand this disease better perhaps we might have a chance of making a difference.

[Images move through of David working in a laboratory, looking at liquid in a test tube, and then Professor Andrew Roberts talking to the camera and text appears: Professor Andrew Roberts]

Professor Andrew Roberts: Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia is the most common leukaemia in Australia

[Image changes to show laboratory workers at work]

…and in many countries.

[Image changes to show a female exiting the Walter + Eliza Hall Medical Research Institute building and then the camera zooms in on the sign on the side of the building]

Over 1,000 people are a diagnosed with it every year.

[Images move through of a lab worker submersing a container in liquid and then the image changes to show Professor Guillaume Lessene talking to the camera and text appears: Professor Guillaume Lessene]

Professor Guillaume Lessene: The aim was to take a fundamental discovery around the understanding of how cancer develops and where we can target it

[Image changes to show Associate Professor Peter Czabotar submersing an instrument in liquid and then the image changes to show Peter looking into a microscope]

…and to transform that discovery into a product or a new medicine that can help patients. [Image changes to show a hand dotting liquid on to a microscope slide and then the image changes to show Guillaume drawing a diagram on glass]

Venetoclax targets the Achilles heel of certain cancers.

[Image changes to show Associate Professor Peter Czabotar talking to the camera and text appears: Associate Professor Peter Czabotar]

Associate Professor Peter Czabotar: Cancer cells often have too much of the protein that this drug targets.

[Image changes to show Guillaume drawing a diagram on to glass and the camera zooms in on his hand holding the pen and then out to show him drawing the diagram again]

That protein keeps the cells alive. This drug makes the cells die by neutralising that protein.

[Image shows a cell structure diagram superimposed over Guillaume drawing on glass and then images move through to show David talking to the camera, and Guillaume working on a computer]

Professor David Huang: It’s almost like a precision medicine that’ll allow you to avoid many of the side effects that you see with conventional intensive chemo and radiotherapy.

[Images move through of the group looking at a model, Andrew talking to the camera, a researcher at work in a laboratory, a petri dish, and David and Peter looking down at the petri dish]

Professor Andrew Roberts: The first person in the world to know that the drug was working was the first patient to receive it.

[Image changes to show a microscope lens and then the camera zooms out to show David watching a female laboratory worker look through the microscope]

Within hours of taking the first dose that patient said to me, “Oh doc, I think it’s working”.

[Image changes to show a rear view of Peter walking through the laboratory and then the image changes to show Andrew talking to the camera]

I had to wait until the next day and I looked at the blood tests but the patient was right. It was causing leukaemia to melt away.

[Image changes to show profile and facing views of David talking and then the image changes to show David and Peter looking at something and smiling]

Professor David Huang: That to me was wow there’s something very special has happened.

[Image changes to show Peter and David standing in a laboratory talking and then the image changes to show Peter talking to the camera and then the image changes to show Peter watching a lab worker]

Associate Professor Peter Czabotar: One of the great things about this award is it recognises the value and importance of teams in making big discoveries and making big differences.

[Images move through of David talking to the camera, laboratory workers at work, David squirting liquid into a container, and then Peter and David talking at the laboratory bench]

Professor David Huang: We all had this idea and we, of course we weren’t sure that it was going to work but we were very excited about the challenge of doing it.

[Image changes to show David talking to the camera]

We felt that we were breaking new ground almost every time we got together.

[Images move through of Andrew and a lab worker walking towards the camera, Andrew talking to the camera, a rear view of Andrew and the lab worker walking down a corridor]

Professor Andrew Roberts: Looking forward, we’re anticipating the trials will show venetoclax to be a significant advantage

[Image changes to show David looking through the microscope, and then the image changes to show a research laboratory and the camera pans down the corridors showing researchers at work]

…in some other blood cancers and I think the impact will grow to hundreds of thousands of people around the world.

[Music plays and the image changes to show David, Guillaume, Peter and Andrew standing in a corridor and smiling at the camera and the camera zooms in on them]

[Image changes to show the Australian Government Coat of Arms and the Prime Minister’s Prize For Innovation badge and text appears: Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation, Associate Professor Peter Czabotar, Professor David Huang, Professor Guillaume Lessene & Professor Andrew Roberts, The Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science, Celebrating 20 years]