Professor Andrew Roberts and Professor John Seymour AM

2018 Victoria Prize for Science & Innovation

Professor Andrew Roberts and Professor John Seymour AM has been awarded the 2018 Victoria Prize in recognition of their pioneering research that enabled a basic science discovery in Melbourne 30 years ago to be transformed into a breakthrough new anti-cancer drug for patients with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia worldwide.

Venetoclax is the first drug of an entirely new class of medicines to become routinely available for clinical use. Together Roberts and Seymour led the very first trial of this drug in humans, building on laboratory-based research by Roberts and colleagues at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute that had established how the drug worked and identified which types of cancer were most promising for initial clinical trial testing.

With the first three patients to receive the drug in 2011, the remarkable potential for Venetoclax to rapidly melt away chemotherapyresistant leukaemia was immediately apparent. Venetoclax is now approved all around the world for routine use in patients with chronic
lymphocytic leukaemia that has returned or never gone away after initial treatment with chemotherapy. This is the first of many expected uses for this breakthrough drug which can work where conventional chemotherapy does not. Flowing from these discoveries, there are
now more than 100 clinical trials underway around the world using Venetoclax alone or in combinations.

Professor Seymour is Director of the Department of Haematology at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and the Royal Melbourne Hospital. He was awarded the Member in General Division of the Order of Australia and elected to Fellowship at the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences in 2015. In 2011 he was the recipient of the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the MD Anderson Cancer Center,
in Houston USA.

Professor Roberts is Head of Clinical Translation at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Metcalf Chair of Leukemia Research at the University of Melbourne, and a clinical haematologist at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and the Royal Melbourne Hospital. He was (jointly) awarded the 2016 Eureka Prize for Innovation in Medical Research and he is currently Chair, Cancer Research Advisory Committee, Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre and Co-Chair, Global Research Awards Committee, American Society of Haematology.