Peter Mac’s Professor John Seymour and Professor Andrew Roberts, from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, have jointly received the 2018 Victoria Prize for Life Sciences.

The life sciences prize - which provides $50,000 - recognises Prof Seymour and Roberts’ collaboration and research which delivered a new anti-cancer drug for patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) worldwide.

Venetoclax is the first drug of an entirely new class of medicines to become routinely available for clinical use.  It is based on a basic science discovery made 30 years ago in Melbourne.

Profs Seymour and Roberts led the first in-human clinical trial and the first three patients to receive the drug, in 2011, demonstrated its remarkable potential to rapidly melt away chemotherapy-resistant leukaemia.

Venetoclax is now approved around the world for routine use in patients with CLL which has returned or did not respond to initial treatment with chemotherapy. More than 100 clinical trials are also underway to test the drug in other cancers.

Prof Seymour is Director of the Department of Haematology at Peter Mac and the Royal Melbourne Hospital. Professor Roberts is Head of Clinical Translation at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Metcalf Chair of Leukemia Research at the University of Melbourne, and a clinical haematologist at Peter Mac and Royal Melbourne Hospital.

The life sciences prize is one of two major awards presented by veski annually as part of the Victoria Prize for Science and Innovation. Professor Doug MacFarlane, from Monash University, was awarded the 2018 Victoria Prize for Physical Sciences.

The awards recognise research of international significance which is occurring in Victoria. See the full list of prize and fellowship recipients and hear Profs Seymour and Roberts discuss their research below.