Prime Minister's Prize for 2012 Victoria Prize recipient

30 October
Terry Speed (credit: Prime Minister's Science Prizes/ Bearcage)
Terry Speed (credit: Prime Minister's Science Prizes/ Bearcage)

The recipient of a 2012 Victoria Prize for Science & Innovation, Emeritus Professor Terry Speed, has been awarded the 2013 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science for his contribution to making sense of genomics and related technologies.

Professor Speed is the head of Bioinformatics at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research and says he doesn’t expect to see headlines reading “Statistician cures cancer” any time soon. But he knows that the right mathematics and statistics can help researchers understand the underlying causes of cancer and reduce the need for surgery.

A mathematician and statistician, he has written elegant theoretical papers that almost no-one reads. But he has also testified in court, helped farmers and diamond miners, and given biologists statistical tools to help them cope with the genetic revolution.

Twenty years ago biologists looked at one or two genes in isolation. Today they can track thousands of genes in a single cell, but to understand the results they need tools of the kind that Terry develops.

At 70, he is focusing on techniques to sort out the thousands of differences between normal and cancer cells, moving closer to the clinic with ideas to treat cancer more efficiently, and working with industry to create a tool to determine if your thyroid growth is benign or not.

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