Clunies Ross Award goes to Queensland skin cancer hero

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The Palaszczuk Government has congratulated Queensland scientist Dr Jim Aylward who was awarded this year’s Clunies Ross Knowledge Commercialisation Award at a special ceremony in Melbourne last night (13 June).

Environment and Science Minister Leeanne Enoch said Dr Aylward’s award was in recognition of his work in developing and sharing his knowledge leading to the commercialisation of a treatment for Actinic keratosis, or sunspots – a condition which commonly precedes skin cancer.

“Dr Aylward’s work is an interesting story and it all begins with his mother who used the sap of a common garden weed to treat her own sun spots,” Ms Enoch said.

The weed – radium weed – was brought to Australia in the 1830s by early settlers, the milky sap of which was used as a folk remedy in Europe for treating skin ailments, including warts, ulcers and sunspots.

“This piqued the interest of Dr Aylward who wanted to isolate the key ingredient in the sap and then produce a treatment out of that,” Ms Enoch said.

“So working with scientists at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, he developed the Picato gel.”

Ms Enoch said Dr Aylward set up his own company - Peplin Ltd - in 1998, which Danish biotech Leo Pharma purchased in 2009. A factory was then set-up on the Gold Coast to manufacture the key ingredient – ingenol mebutate or PEP005.

Ms Enoch said this was yet another example of the quality of Queensland research and its commercialisation potential.

“This a great Queensland story, with the original research and development conducted here, the manufacturing site now in Southport, and the raw materials sourced from Queensland farmers,” Ms Enoch said.

“This is why the Palaszczuk Government has put so much effort into supporting the state’s life sciences industry. We can see the potential, not only in terms of business opportunities and jobs, but also in terms of health benefits.”

Actinic keratosis is caused by chronic sun exposure. It is one of the most common skin diseases in Australia, affecting up to 60 per cent of Queenslanders over the age of 40.

Now in their 27th year, the prestigious Clunies Ross Awards are awarded by the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE) in recognition of the contributions by dedicated individuals to the application of technology for the benefit of Australia.

The Clunies Ross Awards are presented in three separate categories: Entrepreneur of the Year, Knowledge and Commercialisation, and Innovation.

Minister for Environment and the Great Barrier Reef, Minister for Science and Minister for the Arts
The Honourable Leeanne Enoch

Queensland Government, Department of Science and Innovation :
GPO Box 5078 Brisbane QLD 4001, Queensland Wide
13 74 68
Queensland Government, Department of Science and Innovation
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