Awarded each year, on an alternate year basis between the University of Sydney and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the cooperative Sir Zelman Cowen Universities Fund recognises researchers who have made a significant contribution to understanding or the treatment of disease, and who have achieved or have the potential to achieve therapeutic outcomes.
This year, the two University of Sydney award winners are:
Dr Byrne was nominated for his discovery of UV-activated B cells, which is leading to breakthroughs in the understanding and treatment of skin cancer and multiple sclerosis.
Using B-cell-depleting monoclonal antibodies, a form of immunotherapy, Dr Byrne's work has shown that UV-activated B cells play a critical role in allowing UV-induced skin tumours to avoid immunological destruction, grow and metastasise.
His work has also shown that transferring UV-activated B cells into mice protected them from developing a form of multiple sclerosis (MS). More recently Dr Byrne’s work confirmed in humans that B cells play a key role in MS pathogenesis and that artificial exposure to UV modulates MS disease by targeting B cells.
In recognition of his work, Dr Byrne has been identified as a 'world expert in sunlight', and has been awarded multiple international honours, including The Finsen Lecturer Award in 2019.
Dr Lining Arnold Ju was nominated for his work on the development of the ‘Biomembrane Force Probe’ in the field of cardiovascular research.
His most significant achievement has been to bring biomechanical engineering principles and rigour to solve a crucial blood clotting problem - how haemodynamic force is sensed at a molecular level on platelets.
Dr Ju is an emerging leader in biomedical engineering at the University of Sydney and Heart Research Institute, uniting fields of biomechanical engineering, imaging, microfluidics and molecular biology through his fruitful collaborations with renowned cardiovascular bioengineering researchers at the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, and Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University, USA.
Dr Ju was an ARC DECRA Fellow, Heart Foundation Paul Korner Award recipient, and a Sydney Researcher Accelerator (SOAR) Prize awardee. His work has been recognised through Australian and international prestigious awards.