07.02.2014 – Winner of 2014 FAOBMB Award for Research Excellence: Professor Alan Cowman (Australia)


Professor Alan Cowman

Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Melbourne, Australia

Professor Alan Cowman is the recipient of the FAOBMB Award for Research Excellence in 2014. This award is given annually by the FAOBMB. Professor Cowman has an outstanding reputation in respect of the excellence of his research and his distinguished sustained contributions to the field of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Alan Cowman undertook his undergraduate and honours degrees in science at Griffith University in Queensland. He then moved to Melbourne, Victoria to begin his research career at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in the laboratory of Professor David Kemp and he received his PhD in 1984 through the University of Melbourne. He was awarded a C. J. Martin Fellowship from the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (NHMRC) for postdoctoral work at the University of California – Berkeley where he stayed for two years in the laboratory of Dr Gerry Rubin studying Drosophila eye function and development. Cowman then returned to Australia and the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research where he has set up his laboratory to study malaria and he has remained there to the present. During this time he has received a Fellowship from the NHMRC and was awarded an Australia Fellowship that he held from 2007-2012.

Currently, Professor Alan Cowman is the Head of the Division of Infection and Immunity at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research. He has received a number of awards and in recognition of his contributions to science he was elected as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Sciences in 2001 and to Fellow of the Royal Society in 2011. He is currently the President of the World Federation of Parasitologists.

Alan’s work has been on Plasmodium falciparum, the causative agent of the most severe form of malaria in humans, causing 300 million infections and over 700,000 deaths each year. Globally malaria is one of the most important infectious agents of humans. The work of Alan and his colleagues, over the past 25 years, has greatly contributed to, firstly, understanding how it causes disease, and secondly, its ability to circumvent many of the antimalarial drugs that are used to control and treat it. He has used the technology and knowledge, developed from the basic research he and his team have performed, to devise novel strategies to rationally design candidate vaccines. One of these vaccines has progressed to clinical trails and a second is now in preclinical development.

Professor Cowman has over 280 publications in scientific journals and has received a number of awards including the Glaxo Award for Advanced Research in Infectious Diseases, Gottschalk Medal for Medical Science and Biology from the Australian Academy of Sciences, Boehringer-Mannheim Medal, Glaxo-Wellcome Australia Medal and the Howard Taylor Ricketts Medal from the University of Chicago. He has also received the Victoria Prize from the Victorian Government as well as the Mahathir Science Prize from the Mahathir Science Award Foundation (Malaysia).

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