May 2022 Medicinal Chemistry & Chemical Biology (MCCB) Division Awards
Published 14 June 2022
The RACI is proud to announce the following Medicinal Chemistry & Chemical Biology (MCCB) Division Award winners for May 2022:
Dr Christopher Burns - The Adrien Albert Award
The Adrien Albert Award is the premier award of the MCCB Division and is given for sustained, outstanding research in the field of medicinal chemistry or chemical biology.
Dr Burns is an experienced drug discovery leader having worked in various roles in pharma, biotech and academia for over 30 years. After completing a PhD in Organic Chemistry at the University of Melbourne Chris undertook post-doctoral studies in the USA at Penn State University. He then joined Pfizer UK, where he worked on a variety of drug discovery projects. After 5 years he returned to Australia as a Research Fellow at the University of Sydney with the CRC for Molecular Engineering and Technology and after two years moved to the biotechnology company Ambri as Head of Chemistry.
In 2001 Chris moved back to Melbourne to join the biotech company Cytopia as Head of Medicinal Chemistry and later as Research Director. During this time he led teams in the discovery of two anti-cancer drugs that entered clinical trials, including the drug momelotinib which recently successfully completed Phase III studies. Chris was recruited to WEHI as a Laboratory Head in 2013 before taking on leadership roles at the biotech start-ups Metabloq Pharmaceuticals, Certa Therapeutics, OccuRx and, most recently MycRx, where he is now SVP of R&D. Dr Burns is the inventor on over 30 patents and a co-author on over 60 scientific publications and is a co-founder and Non-Executive Director of the ASX-listed biotech Amplia Therapeutics. He is a Fellow of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute and the Royal Society of Chemistry.
Dr Tristan Reekie and Professor Elizabeth (Liz) New - Peter Andrews Award for Innovation in Medicinal Chemistry/Chemical Biology
This award recognises innovation in the development of small molecules as potential therapeutic agents or chemical probes by RACI members who are within 15 years of being awarded their PhD.
Dr Tristan Reekie completed his PhD in 2013 at ANU under the supervision of Professor Martin Banwell. Tristan then completed a postdoctoral position at ETH Zurich with Professor François Diederich before returning to Australia to work with Professor Michael Kassiou at the University of Sydney. He began his independent career at ANU, which he has continued at the University of New South Wales Canberra where he is currently based.
Tristan’s research is focused on small molecule organic chemistry with application to materials, plant science and medicinal chemistry. It is the latter area where he has made the biggest impact, generating new compounds to treat substance use disorders and social disfunction. The success of this research has led to the establishment of a spin-out company, Kinoxis Therapeutics, where Tristan continues to work as their Head of Chemistry alongside his academic role. Tristan leads several of the company’s research programs, helping to advance multiple drug candidates towards first-in-human clinical trials.
In addition to his innovation in research, Tristan is heavily involved in teaching and outreach to enhance interest in science amongst students and the general public. In particular, Tristan has had long-term involvement with programs such as the Australian Chemistry Olympiad and was the recipient of a Tall Poppy Award in 2020 for promoting science among students, teachers and an appreciation of science in the broader community.
Dr Charlotte Franck - The Graham Johnston Best Thesis Award
The Graham Johnston Best Thesis Award is to recognise and encourage outstanding young research scientists at the beginning of their careers. The award is given for the best PhD thesis conferred in the previous two years in the field of Medicinal Chemistry and/or Chemical Biology.
Following completion of her undergraduate and masters studies in biomedical sciences at the KU Leuven, Belgium, Charlotte Franck travelled to Australia as a backpacker where she carried out typical tourist jobs such as cherry picking. Charlotte fell in love with Australia during her travels and decided to move to Sydney to do her PhD in chemical biology under the supervision of Richard Payne (University of Sydney). In her PhD research, Charlotte studied a class of tick salivary proteins called evasins that possess potent anti-inflammatory activities by binding to pro-inflammatory chemokines. Charlotte was responsible for the identification of tyrosine sulfation as a native post-translational modification of this family of proteins and also showed that sulfation led to a significant enhancement in biological activity. Her work lays the foundation for the development of novel anti-inflammatory agents by engineering these tick evasins. Upon being awarded her PhD, Dr Charlotte Franck took up a postdoctoral research associate position at the University of Sydney. Her current research interests include the use of peptide display and protein expression methods with genetic reprogramming for the discovery of peptide and protein drug leads.