2016 John James Foundation Tony Ayers Prize awarded to Professor Robyn Lucas

26 October 2016

Professor Robyn Lucas has been awarded the 2016 John James Foundation Tony Ayers Prize for Excellence in Translational Medicine.

Professor Lucas, Director of the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, was recognised for her work investigating links between sun exposure, Vitamin D and multiple sclerosis.

She said she was both honoured and amazed by the news.

"In population health and public health, we always seem to be fighting an uphill battle to be seen as medical researchers," she said.

"So I was very surprised but pleased that the judging panel recognised that the work that I do, which is really translational public health, could be considered translational medicine."

"In a way I am also a little embarrassed by it - because all of my work is done within teams and it is the teams that are really doing the translational work, rather than any individual."

Established in 2014, the $5,000 Tony Ayers prize is awarded to a mid-career researcher. The prize is awarded annually to remember long time John James Foundation Board Member and Federal Departmental Secretary Tony Ayers AC who died in April this year. 

Professor Lucas' research has shown that people with early signs of MS have lower vitamin D levels than those without signs of the disease. However, the studies also showed that, even after taking account of Vitamin D, people with early signs of MS had lower sun exposure over their lifetimes than did those without signs of the illness.

In Australia, about 23,000 adults have MS, the most common neurological disease in young adults.

Professor Lucas is currently involved in two clinical trials to prevent MS in people at high risk. One study is looking at using different doses of Vitamin D supplementation, while the other is looking at using artificial UV radiation to prevent MS developing.    

As part of the Foundation award, Professor Lucas will give a free public lecture at 5.30pm on Monday 31 October at The John Curtin School of Medical Research, Finkel Lecture Theatre, 131 Garran Rd. For more information phone 02 6125 2577.