29 November 2023

Doctor Alastair Stewart of Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute is a leading researcher for major antimicrobial drug development and subsequently has taken home the 2023 Commonwealth Health Minister’s Award for Excellence in Health and Medical Research.

Antimicrobial resistance will cost Australia 10,000 lives and over $400 million each year in healthcare by 2050—and it has been tipped to be the next pandemic event.

In this groundbreaking research project tackling healthcare infection, Doctor Stewart and his team have uncovered pivotal insights into the intricate dance between drugs and bacterial targets, shedding light on new avenues for antimicrobial drug development.

These transporters are known to play a vital role in not only drug absorption, but also drug distribution. Drug transporter proteins are particularly important in the distribution of drugs to organs that are protected by blood-organ barriers.

The Commonwealth Health Minister’s Award recognises Doctor Stewart’s outstanding research in infection control, as well the knowledge generated, which will facilitate therapeutic development in understanding how drugs can interfere with metabolite or drug uptake and excretion.

Presented by the National Health and Medical Research Council Dinner (NHMRC) in Canberra tonight, this annual award is given to NHMRC’s top ranked Investigator Grant in Emerging Leadership Level 2 category in the previous year’s round.

With his Investigator Grant, Doctor Stewart will tackle some ongoing health issues around antimicrobial resistance which he says Australia desperately need novel antimicrobial therapies to fight this resistance.

“Understanding how drugs enter and exit the body plays a central role in therapeutic research and development.” said Dr Stewart.

By accepting this prestigious award, Doctor Stewart will receive a further $50,000 to support his research in addition to his recent five-year NHMRC Investigator Grant.

“Over the next five years, I will extend the research methodologies I have developed,”

“Together with my understanding of biological systems I plan to answer these key biomedical questions of global importance.” said Dr Stewart.

The Investigator Grant scheme is one of NHMRC’s flagship funding schemes and provides five-year funding security for high-performing researchers by providing a salary and a research support package. It is extremely competitive with many high-quality applications from exceptional researchers received in each round.

Quotes attributable to NHMRC CEO, Professor Steve Wesselingh:

  • “The Commonwealth Health Minister's Award for Excellence in Health and Medical Research is among the most prestigious of awards for Australian researchers.
  • ‘It is a privilege to honour the achievements of an exceptional researcher whose work is making a significant contribution.
  • “This research will facilitate antimicrobial drug development and enhance current drug potency and effectiveness, and I congratulate Doctor Stewart on this award.”