The Curtin Medal for Excellence in Medical Research

The Curtin Medal is awarded annually to a person who has made an outstanding contribution to medical science and is an Australian citizen, or an Australian resident, or a person whose work has a significant Australian relevance.

The award may be made for either a major discovery or for a lifetime's achievement in medical research. The medal was designed and struck by the Perth Mint. It carries a relief etching of John Curtin on the obverse, and the name of the recipient and the date of the award on the reverse. It hangs on a ribbon which carries the words: The John Curtin School of Medical Research, The Australian National University.


Emeritus Professor Rolf Zinkernagel

The Curtin Medal for Excellence in Medical Research for 2013 has been awarded to Swiss Nobel Laureate, Emeritus Professor Rolf Zinkernagel, for a lifetime achievement in immunology. Professor Zinkernagel, who spent 34 years at the University of Zurich, was a Visiting Fellow at The John Curtin School of Medical Research during the early 1970s, where his research with Professor Peter Doherty won the pair a Nobel Prize in 1996.

JCSMR Director, Professor Chris Parish, said Professor Zinkernagel had made a major contribution to immunology. “It is appropriate that he has been awarded the Curtin Medal, particularly, seeing he carried out his Nobel Prize winning work here at The John Curtin School of Medical Research,” Professor Parish said. “One of the interesting things about Rolf is that he was able to do his Nobel Prize winning work while he was a PhD student which is quite remarkable. It just highlights that Nobel Prizes are based on the excellence of science. It doesn’t matter how old you are or what stage of career you are at.”


Professor Elizabeth Blackburn

Professor Elizabeth Blackburn was awarded the Curtin Medal for Excellence in Medical Research at JCSMR, for her discovery of the telomere and its function, and her continued achievements since that discovery. Professor Blackburn pioneered the study of telomeres, caps that protect chromosomes in cells, and is a discoverer of telomerase, an enzyme that does the protecting. Her work has opened a new field of science, raising the possibility of such medical breakthroughs as understanding the ageing process in cells and interfering with cancerous cells. The Medal was presented at JCSMR by NHMRC CEO Professor Warwick Anderson AM. Tasmanian born Professor Blackburn was the first female Australian recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, which she received jointly in 2009.


Professor Judith Whitworth

Former Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer and past director of The John Curtin School of Medical Research Professor Judith Whitworth has won the 2010 Curtin Medal. Professor Whitworth's research in the laboratory overturned conventional dogma on how anti-inflammatory steroid hormones raise blood pressure and has set the scene for development of safer and more effective medications. On top of this her research in the clinic has helped in slowing progression of chronic kidney disease and improving management of blood pressure world wide. Finally her research into policy has heightened awareness of the need for research and evidence in formulation of health policy as well as health practice.


Professor Samuel Gershon

Professor Samuel Gershon was awarded the Curtin Medal at a ceremony at The John Curtin School of Medical Research on 16 August. The award recognises Professor Gershon's lifetime of achievement as one of Australia's most distinguished career psychiatrists and his groundbreaking research into uses of lithium in the treatment of bipolar and other related manic depressive conditions.


Professor Suzanne Corey

One of Australia’s most distinguished cancer biologists, Professor Suzanne Cory, was awarded the Curtin Medal for 2008. The award recognises Professor Cory’s research on the molecular genetics of cancer and her lifelong contribution to research in the fields of molecular biology and biotechnology. Her research produced groundbreaking ideas on the contribution of gene rearrangements to cancer development. More recently, Professor Cory and her colleagues have shown that the development of many tumours can result from preventing cell death.


Professor Marc Feldman

Professor Marc Feldmann was awarded the 2007 Curtin Medal. Professor Feldmann is the Head of the Cellular Immunology Department, and Rheumatology Division of the Kennedy Institute at Imperial College London. He was awarded the Medal for outstanding achievements throughout his career, particularly in the discovery of the role of the cytokines in autoimmune disease, and subsequent development of therapies which have improved the quality of life of millions of people worldwide with rheumatoid arthritis.


Professor Bruce Stillman

Professor Bruce Stillman was awarded the 2006 Curtin Medal. A PhD graduate of The John Curtin School of Medical Research, Professor Stillman studied in the Department of Microbiology with Dr Alan Bellett and is now Director and president of the Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory. This private institution in Long Island, New York, specialises in research on cancer, neurobiology, plant genetics and bioinformatics. Professor Stillman's research is focused on the mechanisms and regulation of DNA replication which he studies in both human cells and yeast. This process is essential in ensuring accurate inheritance of genetic material from one cell generation to the next.


Professor Samuel Berkovic

The Curtin medal for 2005 was awarded to Professor Samuel Berkovic, head of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Program at the Austin Hospital and the Epilepsy Research Centre of the University of Melbourne. Professor Berkovic is a neurologist and clinical researcher who has strong collaborations with basic scientists in many Australian and international laboratories. He seeks to understand the basic neurobiology of human epilepsies, using varied approaches to gain insights that can be used for diagnosis and treatment of patients.


Professor Ian Frazer

Professor Frazer, Head of the Epithelial Tumour Immunotherapy Program at the Centre for Immunology and Cancer Research, University of Queensland, received the Curtin Medal for his ongoing research in the field of immunoregulation, and in particular his ground breaking work on the development of vaccination against human papilloma virus which causes cervical cancer in women. "The implications for women's health globally are enormous" Professor Whitworth said. "Professor Frazer's work is an excellent example of the principle of basic fundamental research translating into clinical practice, and we wish him every success with this research".


Professor Peter Doherty

The inaugural Curtin Medal for Excellence in Medical Research was awarded to Nobel Laureate Professor Peter Doherty by the Minister for Science, the Hon. Peter McGauran at the National Portrait Gallery during the launch of the exhibition Australia and the Nobel Prize.

Updated:  27 July 2017/Responsible Officer:  Director, JCSMR/Page Contact:  Web Manager