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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 31 March 2018
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 31 MARCH 2018 7 NEWS key invaded the top half of Cyprus so it was visible from our house where the fighting happened. When our area started getting bombed our parents took us to the mountains where my mother's grandparents were, and we spent four weeks up there." After an announcement on the radio was made that nonCypriot passport holders could go to a British base and be flown to safety the family, who were Australian citizens, fled. "The day that we were at the British bases to leave, Morphou got taken over," she says. "We lost everything and got air lifted to the UK. After flights back to Australia my family had to start over again after 1974." Growing up in Sydney, Kavallaris' passion for science started to grow and she laughs when she looks back at how she got her start in the field. "I left school in year 10, it was a bit terrible as I was a high school dropout," she says. "I went and did my pathology technician course at TAFE and once I finished that course I wanted to do that at university. Then I got my first job at a laboratory at the University of Sydney and 2017 Australian of the Year Professor Alan Mackay-Sim was the one that trained me. "I realised that there were all these opportunities to do science degrees and do honours so I thought I was definitely going to do a degree." But while she was studying for her undergraduate degree Kavallaris suddenly had a number of tragedies befall her and her family. "I got cancer when I was 21 and during that time I had to go through treatment and therapies," she says. "I got extremely ill and it made me appreciate that we needed to make treatment better. I saw a lot of people around me who didn't make it. I was already in cancer research and I thought when I finish my undergraduate degree I'm going to do a PhD and that's what I did. "I got through my treatment, I survived it otherwise we wouldn't be talking, and while I was doing the first year of my PhD my brother got pancreatic cancer and died within six weeks of diagnosis. It was a terrible and confronting situation." Kavallaris says her personal experiences at that time had a profound influence on her career. "People often ask me what drove me and there is no doubt that the impact of three things affected me," she says. "First my brother, who didn't have the option to have any treatment, second my illness, and three seeing these young kids – from toddlers all the way to teenagers – and witnessing their world being turned upside down due to their health." When Kavallaris finished her PhD she worked at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York where she identified medicine that focused on skeleton of the cells. The discovery, related to ovarian cancer, the same cancer she survived at 21, saw her receive an award from the American Association for Cancer. So when she returned to Australia she applied her knowledge at the Children's Cancer Institute. It led to Kavallaris receiving major grants from Cure Cancer Australia that allowed her to kickstart her career in cancer research. "Being a full-time researcher was very important to me and I was able to stay in that and build my own research team," she says. "I went from those early days to now having about 19 scientists working with me. But it's not easy, and while I did have success there are also a lot of failures in between as well. The thing is to persevere as it was something I really wanted to do." Although current Australian of the Year Professor Yvonne Simmons is being recognised for her work, Kavallaris feels more needs to be done to assist women in the field of science. "Yvonne is an outstanding scientist and a wonderful role model and passionate about supporting female careers," she says. "I also mentor a number of male and female scientists, and three-quarters of my team are women. There is still a lot of unconscious bias in terms of how women are assessed and how they are promoted. A lot of that is changing in universities where there is a real effort to make sure women are given the same opportunities." While Kavallaris' work in cancer research has affected many lives in a positive way her main focus is on finding the next big breakthrough and the next generation of researchers. "I'm passionate about making sure that I try and drive my research to be a step ahead and to see what sort of new technologies and what new opportunities will make a difference," she says. "For me one of my biggest achievements is being able to put my love of cancer research into the people I train to become future scientists. Because we are going to need them as medical research is becoming increasingly important for future treatments and discoveries." Victorian government invests in life-saving DNA tests for medical treatment of children Victoria is the first Australian state to use the ground-breaking genomic sequencing procedures Victoria is leading the way in scientific research, investing $33.3 million in genomic sequencing, a cutting-edge process allowing for quick diagnosis of rare genetic conditions. "These tests help our sickest babies with rare conditions get diagnosed faster so they can get back home sooner, and, hopefully, lead happy and healthy lives," said State Minister for Health, Jill Hennessy, who presented the project, alongside Premier Daniel Andrews. Genomic sequencing tests provide quicker results and diagnosis for babies and children facing rare and undiagnosed diseases, who might otherwise have to spend months or years in intensive care waiting for expensive and complex tests to uncover genetic conditions. In some cases, the timeconsuming tests come up fruitless, never finding the cause of illness and thus children not receiving appropriate treatment. Rapid genomic sequencing tests can speed up diagnosis and deliver results up to 10 times faster than more traditional tests, according to the study conducted by the Melbourne Genomics Health Alliance, the Murdoch Children's Research Institute, the Royal Children's Hospital and the Monash Children's Hospital. This process not only quickly identifies the cause of illness, ensuring they can get the (often life-saving) treatment they need so they can leave hospital and return home with their families, but it is also more cost effective. This particular study, conducted for 18 months and involving 40 infants, some no more than 28 days old, hospitalised at the neonatal intensive care units at the Royal Children's Hospital and the Monash Children's Hospital, managed to save more than $500,000 in tests and hospital stay costs. "These are more than just results," Premier Andrews said, speaking of the study, which has been published in the Genetics in Medicine journal. "This is proof that our investment in this worldleading technology is saving the lives of some of our sickest babies and kids, and saving families thousands of dollars in expensive medical tests." The Victorian Premier and Health Minister met four-year-old Louis, one of the children who partici- pated in the study. Diagnosed with Leigh Disease, a rare condition resulting in progressive decline in neurological function, Louis was not expected to live more than a few years. Thanks to genomic sequencing, doctors have found the gene responsible for his condition, and against the odds, were able to use this information to determine a targeted treatment. Louis is now responding to treatment and is no longer considered terminal. "As a parent I can only imagine how awful it would be to have a seriously sick child and not know what was wrong with them or what the best treatment is," Premier Andrews said. "This technology is changing that and giving parents peace of mind." George Paxinos launches new book The Brain Atlas Scientia Professor George Paxinos AO spoke at Federal Parliament in Canberra on Tuesday as the keynote speaker for the Brains on the Hill event as part of the Australian Brain Alliance hosted by the Australian Academy of Science. His talk “Is The Brain The Right ‘Size’?” was given to an audience of world-leading scientists and parliamentarians. The event was aligned with the launch of two new books in his Brain Atlas series, The Rat Brain in Stereotaxic Coordinates and The Atlas of the Developing Rat Nervous System. The series has been indispensable to neuroscientists and surgeons for decades and has made him the most cited neuroscientist in the world Showcasing Australia's cutting-edge neurotechnologies, Brains on the Hill provided parliamentarians with an opportunity to meet Australian brain scientists, learn about the latest advancements in brain research, and explore the future of next-generation Australian neurotechnologies. Professor Paxinos, who is the president of the Neuro- Professor Paxinos (R) with his partner Melpo and the Federal Member for Calwell Maria Vamvakinou. science Research Australia Institute, has spearheaded research on neurology and neuropathy contributing significantly towards finding a cure for Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases. He has received numerous awards for his studies and has published 38 books on human and animal brain structure. He often visits Greece, where he was born and raised, and even though he calls Sydney home, he remains an honourary professor at the the Kapodis- trian University of Athens, a member of the Academy of Athens, and is the honourary president of the Psychology School of City Unity College of Athens, and editor of several international scientific reviews and magazines.
24 March 2018
7 April 2018