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Professor Andrew Wilks elected to the Fellowship of the Australian Academy of Science

June 05, 2023

Congratulations to Aculeus Non-Executive Director, Professor Andrew Wilks, on his exceptional achievement of being elected to the Fellowship of the Australian Academy of Science for 2023. This prestigious honour recognises Andrew’s significant contributions to the field of science and is a testament to his remarkable career.

The Australian Academy of Science is a not-for-profit organisation of individuals elected for their outstanding contributions to science and research. Fellows of the Australian Academy of Science are among the Nation’s most distinguished scientists, elected by their peers for ground-breaking research and contributions that have had clear impact.

A molecular and cancer cell biologist, Andrew’s career began at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research (Melbourne) from 1988 to 1998, where he led the Growth Regulation Laboratory. He and his laboratory made transformative discoveries in the signal transduction field as well as in neurogenesis and angiogenesis.

At the Ludwig Institute, Andrew discovered and patented a number of important drug discovery targets (viz. JAK1 and JAK2), defining their roles in cytokine signalling. He went on to found Cytopia in 1997, one of Australia’s earliest and most successful publicly listed drug discovery companies. It was here that he co‐invented and led the team that delivered the therapeutic JAK inhibitor, momelotinib.

Momelotinib underwent successful Phase III trials for the treatment of myelofibrosis, a rare bone marrow cancer, and was subsequently licensed to GlaxoSmithKline for US$1.9 billion. The anticipated approval of momelotinib by the FDA in mid-September of this year – the second drug invented in Australia to achieve this milestone – further underscores Andrew’s impactful contributions to the pharmaceutical industry.

Recognised as one of Australia’s most prominent translational scientists, Andrew is also a serial entrepreneur. He has been involved in the establishment of multiple Australian biotechnology companies, including co-founding SYNthesis med chem, a global contract chemistry group with laboratories in China (acquired by Viva Biotech in 2020); and The Pharm, a venture-discovery company that funds and manages drug discovery collaborations generated from academia. He is Co-Founder and Managing Director of SYNthesis BioVentures, a venture fund that invests in early-stage Australian life science companies.

Andrew holds Honorary/Adjunct Professorial positions at University of Melbourne and Monash University, and is also an elected Fellow of Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE) (2007), the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences (AAHMS)(2020) . He has been awarded various prizes and awards, including, the Australian BioBusiness Award (2007), AusBiotech and Johnson & Johnson Innovation Industry Leadership Award (2016) the ATSE Clunies Ross Entrepreneur of the Year Award (2017), and the Lackmann Award for Translational Research  (2021).

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