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28 Mar 2024

Professor Sharon Lewin lauded for leadership in clinical medicine and science

University of Melbourne’s Professor Sharon Lewin, Director of the Doherty Institute and Melbourne Laureate Professor of Medicine, has been awarded the NHMRC Elizabeth Blackburn Investigator Grant Award (Leadership in Clinical Medicine and Science) for being the highest-ranking female applicant (Leadership category) to receive a NHMRC Investigator Grant in the basic science pillar. 

Professor Lewin was awarded a $2 million dollar Investigator Grant in 2023, in support of her multidisciplinary research project that will leverage cutting-edge technologies to develop novel interventions to treat and cure acute and chronic viral infections. 

In accepting the award at the NHMRC Research Excellence Awards ceremony in Canberra last night, Professor Lewin said she was deeply honoured. 

“I am grateful to the NHMRC for this recognition, and to women like Elizabeth Blackburn who is an outstanding scientist and a trail blazer for women in science,” said Professor Lewin.   

Professor Lewin’s research aims to tackle viral infections by combining gene editing, mRNA technology and immunotherapy.   

“Our goal not only is to improve HIV treatment, so people don’t need lifelong antiviral medication, but we also aim to apply our findings to other significant viral threats like SARS-CoV-2, potentially transforming the way viral infections are treated,” she said. 

Professor Lewin and her team will use advances in gene therapy to develop highly specific approaches to activation of the HIV virus.  

Professor Lewin has dedicated over 25 years seeking a cure for HIV, improving clinical outcomes for people living with HIV, and most recently, exploring innovative treatment strategies for COVID-19. She is internationally recognised for her pioneering work in developing laboratory models to study HIV latency, the mechanism by which the virus persists indefinitely in the body. She also led groundbreaking early-phase clinical trials to eliminate HIV latency.  

In his congratulatory letter, Professor Steve Wesselingh, CEO of the NHMRC, said the Council was “proud to be able to support and acknowledge such excellence.” 

The Elizabeth Blackburn Investigator Grant Award is one of nine Research Excellence Awards given annually to top-ranked researchers and teams following peer review of applications to NHMRC's highly competitive grant schemes. 

The award is named to honour the achievements of the Australian Nobel Laureate Professor Elizabeth Blackburn AC FRS FAA FRSN. A molecular biologist, Professor Blackburn received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2009 together with Professor Jack Szostak and Professor Carol Greider for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase.  


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