This page belongs to: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science 2020
Professor Mark Dawson
Professor Mark Dawson is a leading clinician-scientist at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. He is recognised for pioneering research in the field of epigenetics and its impact on human health and disease.
He has made a range of ground-breaking discoveries that have revolutionised the treatment of blood cancers. His research has laid the platform for more than 30 clinical trials across more than 20 countries, providing access to potentially life-extending novel therapies for people with cancer. During this time, he has been a named Chief Investigator on major projects receiving over $12.5 million in national and international funding.
Watch a video about his work
Professor Dawson talks about his research and contribution.
[Music plays and image shows the Commonwealth Coat of Arms, the words ‘Australian Government’, the Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year medallion, and the text appears beneath: 2020 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science, Professor Mark Dawson]
[Image changes to show Professor Mark Dawson and another female walking down a corridor towards the camera]
Professor Mark Dawson: My name is Professor Mark Dawson.
[Image changes to show a view of the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre]
I’m a Clinician Scientist at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.
[Image changes to show Mark talking to the camera]
As a Clinician Scientist I’m both a doctor and a scientist.
[Images move through of Mark looking at a computer, a nurse jotting down notes, fluid being syringed into a pipette, droplets being placed in petri dishes, and Mark looking at x-ray type film]
As a doctor I help look after patients with blood cancers, particularly a cancer called acute leukaemia, which sadly remains an incurable disease in the majority of adult patients.
[Images move through of Mark and a colleague in a lab, an image of cancer cells on a laptop screen, a researcher walking into a lab, liquid being syringed, a row of test tubes, and Mark looking at a screen]
This fact inspires our scientific research which aims to understand how cancers develop, how they perpetuate, and how they evade the most effective therapies we currently have.
[Images move through of a side view of Mark in conversation wearing a face mask, a model of a DNA strand and a cancer cell, a close view of Mark working on a laptop, and a close view of the screen]
Ultimately my goal, as a Clinician Scientist, is to develop novel drugs that improve the outcomes for patients with cancer.
[Image shows animated models of DNA strands on the screen and arrows appear pointing to part of the DNA and text appears: Sticking]
Epigenetics is the expression of the right genes at the right place and in the right tissues.
[Image move through to show liquid being syringed into a tray, a researcher using the syringe, models of DNA strands, and arrows appear pointing to the DNA strand and text appears: Changes to DNA code]
What we have learnt over the last decade is that as cancers develop they develop mutations in genes for epigenetic regulators.
[Camera zooms out on the model on the screen and then the image changes to show a rear view of Mark walking into a lab]
And this results in the abnormal gene expression that underpins and drives cancer.
[Images move through to show Mark walking down a corridor, talking to the camera,a young Mark squeezing liquid in a syringe, and then Mark talking to the camera again]
I still remember the time when I looked down the microscope after treating some cancer cells with a new epigenetic therapy and seeing that all of these cells were dead.
[Image changes to show model dead model cancer cells and then the image changes to show Mark holding a piece of film up, and then the image changes to show a close view of a model of a cell]
This really was one of the first fundamental examples that epigenetic therapies may be great anti-cancer drugs.
[Images move through to show a hand operating machine dials, Mark and a colleague walking towards the camera, a researcher taking a sample from a freezer, and a researcher syringing liquid]
Every global pharmaceutical company now has a pipeline for epigenetic drug discovery.
[Images move through of Mark working on the computer, the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre sign on the building, and then an aerial view of the Cancer Centre Building]
And we have contributed to this, including in a recent home-grown example where a collaboration in Melbourne has resulted in a global commercial partnership with a pharmaceutical company to bring forward a new epigenetic therapy into the clinic.
[Image changes to show Mark talking to the camera]
I am incredibly honoured to have been awarded the Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year.
[Images move through of Mark talking to his various team members, Mark talking to the camera, and then Mark and a colleague walking towards the camera]
This recognition is also wonderful for my team and my collaborators to help inspire us to move forward with our scientific vision which is to use discovery science to inform clinical practice.
[Images move through of Mark and a colleague working in the lab and then the image changes to show Mark standing in a corridor wearing a face mask and looking at the camera]
I also hope that my work inspires the next generation of clinician scientists.
[Music plays and the image changes to show the Commonwealth Coat of Arms, the words ‘Australian Government’, the Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year medallion, and text beneath: 2020 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science, Professor Mark Dawson]
See his acceptance speech
Professor Mark Dawson accepted his prize at this year’s live streamed event.
[Image appears of Professor Mark Dawson talking to the camera and the Frank Fenner Prize Life Scientist of the Year medallion can be seen on the left and text appears to the right: Professor Mark Dawson]
Professor Mark Dawson: I’m incredibly humbled to have been awarded the Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year. Let me start by thanking the Prime Minister and the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology for this honour. Whilst I am the grateful recipient of this award here today, it really is a recognition of the amazing clinicians and scientists that have worked in my laboratory over the years.
I’m also greatly indebted to our collaborators, both in academia and in industry. Their partnership and support have underpinned our success. Along my academic journey, I’ve had a great many clinical and scientific mentors. And of the many giants I have leant on along the way, there are two that deserve special recognition, my father and my mother. Whilst neither of them are clinically or scientifically trained, their unwavering support over the years has been the most influential.
[Image continues to show Mark talking to the camera]
Finally, and most importantly, I would like to thank my family. My children, Noah and Jack, who provide me on a daily basis the perspective of what is truly important in life. And to my inspirational wife, Sarah-Jane, who is a brilliant clinician scientist and a wonderful mother and wife. Much of what I have achieved would not have been possible without your help. Thank you.
[Music plays and the image changes to show the Commonwealth Coat of Arms, the words ‘Australian Government’, the Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year medallion and text beneath: 2020 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science, Professor Mark Dawson]