07.02.2014 – Winner of 2014 FAOBMB Entrepreneur Award: Professor Anthony Weiss (Australia)


Professor Anthony Weiss

School of Molecular Bioscience, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia

Professor Tony Weiss is the recipient of the inaugural FAOBMB Entrepreneurship Award in 2014. This award is given once every 3 years by the FAOBMB. Professor Weiss has an outstanding reputation in respect of his contributions to scientific research and entrepreneurship in the field of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Tony Weiss is the world leader in molecular studies of human tropoelastin and its assembly to make three dimensional elastin protein biomaterials. His research and development goals are to explore the fundamental biochemistry and produce novel materials and devices. A recipient of many recent awards, he has built on his fundamental studies of tissue elasticity and cell interactions such that he revolutionized elastin research by transforming tropoelastin into structures that can be used for cardiovascular, lung and skin repair.

He constructed a synthetic gene that enables synthesis of multi-gram quantities of full‐length pure recombinant human tropoelastin, and has identified the molecular properties of tropoelastin, its interactions with other extracellular matrix molecules and contacts with cell‐surface proteins. He led the discovery of tropoelastin’s 3D solution structure, demonstrated its extraordinary elasticity at the molecular level, identified the first two saturable human cell‐surface receptors for tropoelastin, discovered two direct integrin interactions with tropoelastin, and demonstrated that human tropoelastin is functionally utilised by elastogenic cells to make elastin.

It is rare to successfully commercialize a human connective tissue protein. Professor Weiss founded a venture capital-backed company Elastagen Pty Ltd that is making industrial quantities of tropoelastin that meets the rigorous safety standards of the human subject regulatory guidelines. He pioneered the large scale production of clinical grade tropoelastin which has facilitated 3 clinical trials focused on delivering tropoelastin molecular constructs into human tissue. The first products are scheduled to appear in the European market with a CE mark. He is an elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry in the UK and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering in the USA. His highly productive translational activities are evidenced by over two dozen awarded international patents, plus patents pending in six distinct families. His collaborations in vascular biology and medicine encompass elastin-based cardiac patches, triggered angiogenesis, hybrid coatings that promote cellular recruitment implantable vascular conduits and biologically smart stents.

Professor Weiss has demonstrated leadership in many other ways. Thus, he established the one of the first multi-university, Massive Open Online Courses – MOOCs – by leading an international online teaching alliance called s-star. This alliance comprised six institutions from five continents: the Karolinska Institute Sweden, the National University of Singapore, Stanford University USA, Uppsala University Sweden, the University of Sydney Australia, and the University of Western Cape South Africa.

With dedicated grants and industry funding, Professor Weiss established and chaired the Department of Molecular Biotechnology, now part of the School of Molecular Bioscience, at the University of Sydney. At the outset, academic staff of the Department of Molecular Biotechnology delivered a combination of novel undergraduate and postgraduate coursework content with a pioneering focus on the translational interface between fundamental science and applied biotechnology.

Professor Weiss is a champion of basic and applied research, as evidenced by his role as national Chair of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology study section at the Australian Research Council. He is a strong advocate for science nationally and internationally on radio and television, participating in many public speaking events to promote science. He has sat on numerous national and international scientific panels. He is on the Editorial Boards of 5 journals (Biomacromolecules (American Chemical Society), Biomaterials (Elsevier), Biomedical Materials (IOP), BioNanoScience (Springer), Tissue Engineering (Liebert)). He is an elected Fellow of three international societies (Royal Society of Chemistry, American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering, and Royal Society for Arts Manufactures and Commerce).

Professor Weiss is a popular supervisor, as evidenced by 26 PhD completions and 47 Honours completions (with multiple university medallists). His appointments and contributions to the development of bioscience entrepreneurship include the Australian Biotechnology Advisory Council, National Enabling Technology Strategy Advisory Council, OECD Bioeconomy 2030, EuroBio, amongst others. Professor Weiss continues regularly promote sciences through public speaking events such as TEDx, and supported commercialization activities as a mentor at INCUBATE which guides young entrepreneurs through the start-up process and helps them get funding.

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