Three veski innovation fellows welcomed home

22 March
2012 veski innovation fellows: Dr Seth Masters, Associate Professor Tiffany Walsh and Professor Cameron Simmons.

Three international science ‘super stars’ join the growing family of veski innovation fellows and return to Victoria this year with their eyes set firmly on solutions for the future.

Their innovative research aims to use super computers to mimic nature’s manufacturing process, fight chronic inflammatory diseases with MicroRNAs and combat dengue by infecting mosquitoes.

Victoria’s Minister for Innovation, the Hon Louise Asher, announced the three recipients of the 2012 veski innovation fellowships at a special ceremony held at Zinc on Thursday, 22 March 2012 attended by family, friends and colleagues.

This year’s recipients are chronic inflammatory disease expert Dr Seth Masters, computational materials expert Associate Professor Tiffany Walsh and global tropical disease specialist Professor Cameron Simmons.

All three have enjoyed illustrious careers working overseas at institutions including Oxford, Trinity College and Cambridge but have been lured back to Victoria thanks to the veski innovation fellowships worth $150,000 each, which are matched by their respective host organisations in cash and in-kind.

Dr Masters has returned from the prestigious Trinity College in Dublin to work at Melbourne’s Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research alongside two other veski innovation fellows.

Seth, who discovered a new disease and made major breakthroughs as a key member of research teams in both the USA and Ireland, will be investigating potential treatments for chronic inflammatory diseases such as type-2 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.

He’s hoping to discover new ways to prevent inflammation and treat, vaccinate and prevent the spread of viruses such as herpes simplex and Epstein-Barr, and is delighted to see Victoria’s support for science, technology and innovation.

“Knowing science, technology and innovation is recognised by government and financially supported is a fantastic thing. Without that impetus, people are going to drop out of science and technology, and if we don’t have that money we can’t do what we want to do, we can’t generate innovative ideas, technologies, and therapies for medical research,” Seth said.

Returning to Victoria after a stellar career in the UK, fellow recipient Associate Professor Tiffany Walsh will be working at Deakin University’s Institute for Frontier Materials in Geelong.

Tiffany is the first veski innovation fellow to work outside the Melbourne CBD and will use computer simulations to show how nature manufactures strong and durable materials such as shells, teeth and bones using non-toxic ingredients.

She will take advantage of the State’s new super computing capabilities at the Victorian Life Sciences Computation Initiative (VLSCI) located in Carlton, and says it was one of the main draw cards for her return to Victoria.

“It was such a big draw card for me to come and be able to use the VLSCI, and a chance to really invigorate my existing research program and begin to grow my research in a number of directions,” she said.

“I want to learn how we can mimic nature’s manufacturing processes to pave the way for products to be made using these techniques, which could transform manufacturing in Australia and overseas,” Tiffany said.

The third recipient of a 2012 veski innovation fellowship, Professor Cameron Simmons, will return to the Nossal Institute for Global Health at the University of Melbourne after 10 years working in Vietnam.

He will continue his global research into dengue, leading to improved tools for doctors to diagnose and treat patients with dengue in the tropics.

Cameron is also looking forward to playing a major role in the newly established Peter Doherty Institute, which he believes is a world first.

“I’m particularly looking forward to being a part of the Peter Doherty Institute. I’ve visited many similar institutions around the world but none match the plans for the Peter Doherty Institute,” Cameron said.

The three veski innovation fellows also bring their partners and families back to Victoria with them; all three of their partners work in research and technology meaning a two for one return on investment for the State of Victoria.

Ms Asher’s speech outlined the importance of her Government’s continued support of the organisation, which enables Victoria to attract Australia’s brightest scientific talents to come back home, and took pleasure in officially welcoming the Fellows to Victoria.

“We encourage our scientists to gain valuable experience overseas; when they return home to Victoria they bring new knowledge and insights, expertise and collaborations because of their time overseas. They boost our capacity to be innovative,” Ms Asher said.

“Victoria has world-class universities and research institutes that continue to attract highly skilled researchers who want to work in Victoria.”

Professor Snow Barlow, veski chairman said Seth, Tiffany and Cameron join an impressive group of the world’s leading scientists calling Victoria home.

“veski continues to help organisations such as Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, the Institute for Frontier Materials and the Nossal Institute bring these world-class researchers back to Victoria,” Professor Barlow said.

Watch a video about each of the 2012 veski innovation fellows and their research.

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