The medal is awarded by The Royal Society, the independent scientific academy of the United Kingdom with a Fellowship of some 1,600 of the world’s most eminent scientists, dedicated to promoting excellence in science for the benefit of humanity.
The Croonian Medal and Lecture was awarded to Professor Holmes for being a global authority on virus evolution and emergence, including playing a key role in the discovery and characterisation of SARS-CoV-2 and the first to publicly release the genome sequence.
Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Sydney Professor Mark Scott, said, “I warmly congratulate Professor Holmes on this outstanding achievement, a fitting tribute to his dedicated work on viruses over decades, with lasting and profound benefits to society.
“The motto of the Royal Society translates to ‘take nobody’s word for it’ which includes an undertaking to verify statements by facts determined by experiment. Professor Holmes and legions of his academic colleagues exemplify what such a commitment contributes to the common good.”
The Croonian Medal has been awarded by the Royal Society since 1738, and past recipients include Francis Crick, who identified DNA and the double helix; Joseph Lister, the pioneer of antiseptic surgery and Howard Florey, the developer of penicillin. In 2022 it was awarded to Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser for playing a central role in two of the most important discoveries regarding the nature and perception of plant hormones, and for contributions to gender equality in science.
Professor Holmes is a recognised leader in the study of viral evolution. He has pioneered the study of how viruses evolve and jump between species, including to humans, to spread and cause disease. His work has laid the foundations for the study of virus evolution, ecology and emergence.
Using genome sequence data, he has helped determine the origin and spread of major human and animal pathogens, including hepatitis C, HIV, influenza, West Nile, dengue, Zika and Ebola.
In 2021 Professor Holmes was awarded the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science for his transformative role in the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Working with international collaborators at Fudan University in Shanghai, Professor Holmes was the first person to publicly share the entire genome of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans.
Professor Holmes works in the Sydney Institute for Infectious Diseases and the Charles Perkins Centre (School of Medical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Health) at the University of Sydney. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society, a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science and a National Health and Medical Research Council Leadership Fellow.
This year twenty-five Royal Society Medal and Award winners were announced including the Copley Medal to theoretical astrophysicist Lord Martin Rees from the University of Cambridge for sustained, outstanding achievements in any field of science.
Sir Adrian Smith, President of the Royal Society said, “On behalf of the Royal Society, I offer my congratulations to all the 2023 recipients of Medals and Awards. The breadth and scope of scientific knowledge and experience reflected in this year’s nominations is nothing short of phenomenal. I am very proud to celebrate such outstanding scientific contributions from so many different specialisms around the world.”