Triathlete turned scientist Professor Mark Febbraio wins 40th GSK Award for Research Excellence

Metabolic diseases are fast becoming a silent but global pandemic.
Research demonstrates that over 60% of cancers are linked to obesity1 and Type 2 diabetes costs the Australian health care system more than $6 billion annually and affects more than 1.5 million Australians2.

Advancing novel treatment options is critical in the search for new therapies that could potentially stop, or even reverse, the progression of metabolic diseases. Professor Mark Febbraio, Head of the Cellular and Molecular Metabolism Laboratory within the Drug Discovery Program at the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Science, has received the 2020 GSK Award for Research Excellence for his work pioneering the development of such a new treatment.

Professor Febbraio’s ground-breaking research synthesized a protein (called IC7Fc). This protein has the potential to treat metabolic diseases – like obesity, diabetes and muscle mass loss – that are known to be protected by exercise, by improving glucose metabolism and preventing weight gain.

The researcher and his team are preparing for phase one clinical trials to determine the application of this discovery in developing a treatment to address currently unmet treatment needs. The $80,000 prize that comes with the GSK Award for Research Excellence will support this research.

Professor Febbraio (whose research interests stem from his former life as a professional triathlete) said that being the 40th winner of the GSK Award for Research Excellence was a great honour, especially as he joins an esteemed group of Australian medical researchers whose work has been recognised over the last four decades.

“I am proud to be a part of this story that highlights incredible science and innovation. In medical industry, collaboration is everything. So to my team, colleagues, mentors, industry – know this award is not mine, it’s ours,” said Professor Febbraio.

Dr Andrew Weekes, Medical Director, GSK Australia said GSK is proud to be supporting Australian researchers with this award, now in its 40th year.

“The work of Professor Febbraio is an outstanding example of how home-grown innovation and collaboration can potentially impact the lives of patients around the world. We are honoured to recognise his achievements that will enable further discoveries and better outcomes for people suffering from obesity and diabetes,” said Dr Weekes.

The GSK Award for Research Excellence is one of the most prestigious awards available to the Australian medical research community. It has been awarded since 1980 to recognise outstanding achievements in medical research and facilitates career development with potential importance to human health and Australian research.

The Award, which comes with an $80,000 grant, was first presented as the Wellcome Australia Medal and then as the Glaxo-Wellcome Medal before receiving its current name.

References

  1. Monash University Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences Alchemy: https://www.monash.edu/pharm/alchemy-33/track-to-laboratory-professor-mark-febbraio-and-his-sprint-to-the-finish-line
  2. Diabetes Australia, 2012. Diabetes: the silent pandemic and its impact on Australia < https://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/wp-content/uploads/Diabetes-the-silent-pandemic-and-its-impact-on-Australia.pdf>