Bupa Foundation recognises immune system researcher

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Dr Jennifer Huynh of the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute (ONJCRI) has won the 2018 Bupa Health Foundation Emerging Health Researcher Award for her research focused on identifying new therapies for colorectal cancer using the immune system.

Dr Huynh will receive $25,000 to further her research.

The Bupa Health Foundation is one of Australia’s leading corporate foundations dedicated to health. It was established in 2005 and has invested more than $31 million to support over 120 projects.

Annette Schmiede, Bupa Health Foundation executive leader said the award was created to provide financial assistance to early career researchers as well as recognise the important contribution they make to the health of Australians.

Dr Huynh has an interest in understanding how the immune system works and how cancer cells can evade detection by the immune response.

She has discovered that a molecule produced in the body called IL-11 can drive the growth of tumours by preventing the immune system from attacking and killing colorectal cancer cells.

Dr Huynh is currently actively working with clinicians, researchers and industry to develop and test drugs that can block IL-11 to deliver a new therapy for cancer patients.

“It’s quite clear Jennifer is a fantastic scientist and I think she stands out as one of the people that will eventually go on to run her own independent research lab,” said Professor Matthias Ernst, who nominated Dr Huynh.

An additional three early career researchers were acknowledged as award finalists. Each received $5,000 to continue their research.

“Our finalists are a diverse group - clinician researchers, biomedical researchers, public health researchers and health system researchers,” said Ms Schmiede.

“The diversity among the award finalists is a reminder of the depth and breadth of the research sector as well as the scope of the health challenges we must tackle.”