ARE 2011

World-Leading Paediatric Neurologist, Professor Kathryn North, Awarded for Research Into Childhood Muscular Diseases

Professor Kathryn North, Douglas Burrows Professor of Paediatrics and Child Health at the University of Sydney and Head of the Institute for Neuroscience and Muscle Research at the Kids Research Institute, The Children's Hospital Westmead, has today been presented with the GlaxoSmithKline Australia Award for Research Excellence.

The Award, which comes with a Grant of $80,000 (up from $60,000 in 2010), recognises Prof North's body of work as a translational research scientist which includes a world-first discovery of a common genetic mutation that influences muscle function and performance, ACTN3. Now known as 'the gene for speed', Prof North's discovery has been replicated by researchers around the world and all have shown that no Olympic sprint athlete is deficient in ACTN3.

While seemingly poles apart, her research into the way muscles work in elite athletes has informed her research and clinical treatment of muscular disease, and vice versa. She is widely recognised as a world-leader in inherited neurological disorders in children, an area in which she says great things are within our grasp.

 “Some of these genetic disorders in children, such as muscular dystrophy and neurofibromatosis, were previously thought to be incurable. I believe this is an area in which, in my lifetime, we will see major developments in treatments if not cures,” she said.

GSK Medical Director Dr Camilla Chong confirmed that neuromuscular disorders such as muscular dystrophy result insignificant disability from muscle weakness and often cause early death from respiratory failure.

 “Neuromuscular disorders constitute one of the major causes of ongoing disability in childhood. Prof North's research has not only significantly advanced our understanding of these disorders but has had an immeasurable impact on the lives of patients through better diagnosis and disease management,” she said.

Selected by an independent panel of senior members of the Australian scientific and clinical community, Prof North is being presented with the $80,000 Award at an event in Melbourne this evening. The Award is one of Australia's most prestigious and longest-running, celebrating the best Australian scientists and their achievements in advancing our understanding of human health.

 “At GSK we are very proud of this Award. Over the last 31 years, it has recognised and rewarded excellence in scientific achievement and in addressing critical unmet medical needs. With the increased financial component this year, we hope that the Award, and Prof North's achievements, will inspire many other scientists and clinicians in Australia to continue their research to improve human health,” Dr Chong said.

On receiving the Award, Prof North commented: “I feel like I've won the Gold Logie for medical research! It's such an honour, not just for me but for my entire research team. It's a wonderful recognition of what we do,” she said.

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GSK Award for Research Excellence – is one of the most prestigious awards available to the Australian research community. The annual Award, and the accompanying Grant of $80,000, recognises outstanding achievements in medical research and facilitates career development with potential importance to human health and Australian research.