Medical researcher wins top British award

One of Western Australia’s brightest medical scientists has been recognised with a prestigious award by the British Pharmacological Society.

Professor Kevin Pfleger

Associate Professor Kevin Pfleger, from the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research, has won the Novartis Prize in recognition of his published work, which focuses on receptors throughout the body that are the target of many commonly used medicines.

While many current treatments result in unexplained effects due to a lack of understanding of their mechanism of action at the molecular level, Associate Professor Pfleger’s research will generate new knowledge about these mechanisms with a view to improving the effectiveness of current and future medicines, and reducing their side effects.

The Novartis Prize follows a recent Australian Research Council Linkage Grant of $499,000 over three years to Associate Professor Pfleger and Dr Karl Rosengren from the University of Queensland. They are chief investigators of a project to investigate the “Development of technologies to monitor multi-molecular complexes” in partnership with The University of Nottingham, BMG Labtech, Promega and Dimerix.

Head of Molecular Endocrinology and Pharmacology at the Perkins, Associate Professor Pfleger is also Chief Scientific Advisor of Dimerix, originally a private company spun out from the Perkins and the University of Western Australia to commercialise technology developed by Associate Professor Pfleger and colleagues.

Now a publicly listed biotechnology company Dimerix is on track to publish early results in the coming months from Phase II clinical trials of its flagship drug therapy DMX-200. This therapy is designed to alleviate the suffering of people afflicted with chronic kidney disease, the slow loss of kidney function over time, and has emerged from research carried out by Associate Professor Pfleger’s team.

One in three Australians is at risk of developing chronic kidney disease but less than 10 per cent of people know they actually have it. Symptoms include changes to urination, swelling of legs or ankles, fatigue and skin rashes.

Kidney disease is a global health problem that may lead to kidney failure, cardiovascular disease and premature death. In the US, chronic kidney disease affects an estimated 26 million people.

Associate Professor Pfleger is the recipient of many awards including WA Young Scientist of the Year 2009, NHMRC 10 of the Best Research Projects 2010, Australian Museum Eureka Prize for Emerging Leader in Science 2011, The Endocrine Society Early Investigators Award 2012, WA Young Tall Poppy Science Award 2012, Endocrine Society of Australia Mid-Career Research Award 2014 and NHMRC Research Excellence Award 2014 for the highest ranked fellowship in his category.

He will fly to London to receive the Novartis Prize on Wednesday 14 December at the British Pharmacological Society’s Annual Dinner and Prize Giving.

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