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The Harry Perkins Aspire Award consists of a $5,000 grant awarded to a Harry Perkins staff member to assist in their professional development by funding attendance at an international conference. Award recipients have up to 3 years to use the funds.

2020 Harry Perkins Aspire Award Winner, Dr Saskia Freytag and Dr Elizabeth Johnstone

Business Events Perth, in partnership with the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research, is pleased to announce that the inaugural Harry Perkins Aspire Award has been presented to two applicants: bioinformatics researcher Dr Saskia Freytag, and diabetes researcher Dr Elizabeth Johnstone.

Business Events Perth’s Aspire Awards sponsor local academics and researchers to attend (and often present at) a relevant international conference in their discipline, to further their professional development and profile Western Australian experts on an international stage.

Now in its 21st year, the Aspire Awards, has sponsored hundreds of local academics and researchers to attend conferences and make connections with thousands of people around the world.

Business Events Perth Chief Executive Officer Gareth Martin said the organisation was honoured to support both researchers in attending their chosen conferences, where they will be able to increase the international profile of the critical research being undertaken here in Western Australia.

“Attending business events like conferences help experts like Dr Freytag and Dr Johnstone collaborate and exchange knowledge with others in their fields and showcase the expertise of Western Australia on an international stage. We are thrilled to be able to fund the attendance of both winners at international conferences to help them further their research,” Mr Martin said.

Working in the field of bioinformatics, a mathematics based science that translates complex experiments into life-altering discoveries such as the mapping of the human genome in 2001, Dr Freytag leads a research program on applying and developing algorithms to further our understanding of the human brain, with a particular focus on its maturation and changes that occur as a result of focal cortical dysplasia, which causes severe epilepsy.

“As an early career researcher, travel funding, such as the one provided by the Aspire Award, is crucial to promote your research, learn from colleagues and ultimately advance your career.” said Dr Freytag.

Dr Johnstone was recognised for her work that includes her contribution to the mechanism of action studies underpinning drug DMX-200 and its abilities to treat diabetic kidney disease and rare kidney disease focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, currently being assessed in clinical trials.

DMX-200 will also soon be tested in a clinical trial for its effectiveness in treating Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) that can occur as a result of COVID-19 infection, causing fluid to build up in the lungs, preventing them from filling with enough air and consequently reducing the amount of oxygen that is able to enter the bloodstream.

“In my lab, we are doing some really exciting research into potential new drug targets for diseases such as diabetes, and by attending the World Congress of Pharmacology I will be able to present this work to colleagues from around the world,” Dr Johnstone said.

“This is the best way to get insight on my work from world experts and potentially initiate collaborations.”

Perkins Director Professor Peter Leedman congratulated Dr Freytag and Dr Johnstone on winning the Aspire award. 

“The work of Dr's Freytag and Johnstone is testament to the impact that local WA research and innovation can have on a global scale. I'm pleased to see that their achievements are being recognised and I hope they continue to make further discoveries that lead to better health for all of us."

Dr Freytag plans to use her award to attend the useR! Conference, while Dr Johnstone will be attending the World Congress of Basic & Clinical Pharmacology.