UNSW cell biologist awarded prestigious President's Medal

08 Sep 2021
UNSW cell biologist awarded prestigious President's Medal

Professor Peter Gunning has been recognised by the Australia and New Zealand Society for Cell and Developmental Biology for his research which potentially impacts a broad range of diseases including childhood and adult cancers.

Professor Gunning from UNSW Medicine & Health has been awarded the 2020 President’s Medal by the Australia and New Zealand Society for Cell and Developmental Biology (ANZSCDB), the highest honour of the society. The award is in recognition of his “highly distinguished” scientific research career focused on actin and tropomyosin molecules.

“I love science and the pure joy of discovery. That has been my passion. But when I was told I had been awarded the President’s Medal I felt a wave of elation that my work had been recognised by my peers. It’s a very satisfying feeling and the smile on my face lasted days,” Prof. Gunning said.

“I remember being fascinated by a book on the human body when I was younger. The body is such an amazing feat of engineering. When I came to university, I discovered biochemistry and later cell biology, and it all screamed to me ‘we can use science to understand how it works!’”

Prof. Gunning says he wanted to understand how to build the cells of the body and that took him down the path of isolating the genes that give the core building blocks.

“From that point we could then manipulate the building blocks and understand how they give us the architecture of cells. I cannot believe we have gone so far in my lifetime. If you asked me when I started ‘how far do you think you will get?’ I would never have imagined we could get to this level of understanding.”

UNSW Dean of Medicine Professor Vlado Perkovic congratulated Prof. Gunning on the award.

“This award is a wonderful recognition of the work and impact of Professor Gunning, as a true leader in his field. We are delighted that his work continues and look forward to even greater impact into the future,” Prof. Perkovic said.

Prof. Gunning’s research career has focused on the actin and tropomyosin molecules. Through both basic research and translation, he and his colleagues have developed first-in-class tropomyosin-based therapeutics now being advanced through the launch of a company and industry partnerships, that will potentially fill a much-needed niche in cancer treatments and other human conditions.

Prof. Gunning has undertaken research at Monash University, Stanford University (USA), Children’s Medical Research Institute, Children’s Hospital at Westmead, The University of Sydney and UNSW. A career-long focus on childhood and adult cancers has been a driving force for his research.

He works in many scientific, community and academic settings to advance research and translation, exemplified through his involvement with professional societies (Australian Society for Medical Research, Australian and American Societies for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, American Society for Cell Biology and ANZSCDB), Hunter and Combio conferences and research networks (Children’s Cancer Cytoskeleton Consortium and The Kids Cancer Project).

The ANZSCDB works to enhance Australian and New Zealand research in cell and developmental biology and encourage international collaborations. The President's Medal recognises outstanding contributions to the disciplines of cell and/or developmental biology by scientists in Australia and New Zealand.