Eureka! Prof Michelle Haber a finalist in Australian science’s Oscars

28 Jul 2017

We’re proud to share the news that our Executive Director is in the running for a 2017 Australian Museum Eureka Prize.

Presented annually by the Australian Museum since 1990, the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes reward excellence in Australian science. There are 15 prizes awarded in four categories – research and innovation, leadership, science engagement and school science.

Professor Michelle Haber AM, Executive Director of Children’s Cancer Institute, is a finalist for the 2017 CSIRO Eureka Prize for Leadership in Innovation and Science. She is thrilled to be in the running.

Leadership in innovation and science

Michelle was nominated this year for her leadership in innovation and childhood cancer research. She has a long and distinguished history in the field through her work here at Children’s Cancer Institute, where she started as the Institute’s inaugural postdoc in 1984. Michelle has played key roles at the Institute ever since and is now Executive Director. The Institute was started by two dads whose kids had cancer.

“I’m delighted to have led the Institute as Executive Director since 2003. Ours is the only research institute in Australia wholly dedicated to childhood cancer research,” she said.

“I’m particularly proud of the talented researchers who come to work each day in the lab to realise the vision of the Institute’s founders. We’ve seen childhood cancer go from being almost a death sentence barely 50 years ago, to today where survival rates are around 80%, and that has been achieved solely through medical research,” she added.

Prof Haber is also the driving force behind the national personalised medicine initiative led by Children’s Cancer Institute and the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network, Zero Childhood Cancer. The program involves hospitals and research centres nationwide and is in pilot stage.

“The challenge in curing each child of cancer is that the precise genetic and biologic makeup of each child’s cancer is different. That’s why I’m excited about the Zero Childhood Cancer personalised medicine program that we’ve established – the single largest initiative in the country ever for children with cancer,” she explained.

Recognition for childhood cancer research

Prof Haber has been selected as a Eureka Prize finalist, one of 45 across all the prizes, for her leadership in medical research toward a cure for childhood cancer and is widely regarded as a champion of childhood cancer research. She is in good company, among 12 of this year’s finalists from or affiliated with UNSW.

Previous Eureka winners from Children’s Cancer Institute are Professor Maria Kavallaris and Dr Sela Pouha. In 2007, along with Dr Nicole Verrills from University of Newcastle, they were awarded the Voiceless Eureka Prize for Research which Replaces the Use of Animals or Animal Products.

In just over a month, the 2017 Australian Museum Eureka Prize winners will be announced at a glittering gala dinner. Fingers crossed!