AAHMS highlight: Jian Zhou Medal

This year marks 10 years since the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences was formed. Celebrate with us as we reflect on a decade of advancing research and innovation to improve everyone’s health. This article is the first in a series that highlights 10 of the Academy’s major achievements since it was formed in 2014.

When molecular biologist and virologist Professor Jian Zhou died at just 42, he had already had an impact on human health that would help save hundreds of thousands of lives.

Dr Zhou, working alongside his wife Dr Xiao Yi Sun, and the Academy’s inaugural president Professor Ian Frazer, developed and patented the technology underpinning the Gardasil and Cervarix vaccines.

The vaccines protect against viruses that cause cervical cancer, the fourth most common type of cancer in women.

It was a significant achievement which has had a lasting global legacy and demonstrates the way innovative science can improve health.

Two men standing and looking at the camera.
Professor Ian Frazer and Dr Jian Zhou at the Seattle HPV international conference in 1991.
“Jian was an exceptional clinician-scientist. He approached his work with innovation and enthusiasm, and was always generous with his time and knowledge in mentoring others.”
Ian Frazer
Founder of the Jian Zhou Medal

In 2019, the Academy established the Jian Zhou Medal, created specifically to celebrate and encourage  early- or mid-career researchers who are making an impact translational medical science.

The medal was created with a donation from Frazer Family Foundation, and first awarded in 2020. It was designed by the Royal Australian Mint and includes an illustration of the virus-like particle Dr Zhou created.

“Jian was an exceptional clinician-scientist. He approached his work with innovation and enthusiasm, and was always generous with his time and knowledge in mentoring others,” Professor Frazer said.

“This medal recognises the extraordinary research that’s being pursued by talented early-to-mid- career scientists around Australia.

“Each year, it has been a pleasure to meet the medallists and learn about their achievements and their passion to improve healthcare, and a wonderful way to remember and honour Jian.”

Medal winners include:

  •      Professor Laura Mackay FAHMS (2023 medallist), who discovered the “first responders” of our immune system, a unique population of T cells based in our skin, gut and other barrier tissues.
  •          Professor David Ziegler (2023 medallist), who is working on treatments for fatal brain stem tumour DIPG, Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, as well as driving the development of the national Zero Childhood Cancer (ZERO) project.
  •           Professor Sant-Rayn Pasricha FAHMS (2022 medallist), whose global anaemia research program aims to reduce anaemia in children and pregnant mothers and has been translated into iron policies by the World Health Organization.
  •           Professor Sherene Loi FAHMS (2021 medallist), who challenged the dogma that immunotherapy was not possible with breast cancer and led a series of treatment trials that are already changing the lives of her patients.
  •           Professor Di Yu FAHMS, (2021 medallist), whose research revealed the differentiation and functions of T cells in human health and disease, research which has enabled new diagnosis and therapy for autoimmune, allergic and infectious diseases, and the improvement for vaccine efficacy.
  •          Professor Sarah-Jane Dawson FAHMS (2020 medallist), whose research has pioneered fundamental advances in the clinical application of cancer genomics and the development of personalised biomarker approaches using circulating tumour DNA. 
  •           Professor Andrew Steer FAHMS (2020 medallist), a recognised international leader in paediatric and tropical infectious diseases research, whose landmark studies have changed clinical and public health understanding and practice.

Learn more about the Jian Zhou Award on our program page. Nominations open in October each year, and close 30 April. Nominate now and learn more about the award here.

Professor Ian Frazer and Dr Xiao Yi Sun. © EPO

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