Congrats to Wael and Adam: Winners of the Early Career Researcher Publication Prizes for 2021

The Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences (MNHS) is committed to developing Faculty-based Early Career Researcher (ECR)* initiatives, to assist our ECRs in the development of their research careers. In addition to the emphasis placed on a strong track record in research publications and competitive funding, there is also the requirement for ECRs to secure competitive Prizes & Awards. In support  of  this,  the  Faculty Research Office offers the MNHS ECR Publication Prize.

*In FMNHS, an Early Career Researcher (ECR) is defined as academic staff (Levels A-C) within 10 years of their PhD conferral (taking career disruptions into account).

ECRs are invited to nominate one research publication from the previous year for the MNHS ECR Publication Prize. Up to six ECR Publication Prizes are awarded per year, a maximum of one prize per discipline:

  1. The Robert Porter Prize for Laboratory Based Sciences
  2. The John McNeil Prize for Public Health Research
  3. The Henry Krum Prize for Clinical Sciences
  4. The Jenny Keating Prize for Nursing and Allied Health
  5. The Leon Piterman Prize for Social and Educational Research
  6. The Jenny Redman Prize for Psychological Sciences

In addition, up two Faculty prizes are also awarded for the best publications from ECRs who hold an externally-funded Fellowship.

Congratulations to our 2021 Early Career Researcher Publication Prize Winners

Robert Porter Early Career Researcher Publication Prize for Laboratory Based Sciences
Dr Wael Awad, Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, School of Biomedical Sciences, Biomedicine Discovery Institute.
The molecular basis underpinning the potency and specificity of MAIT cell antigens Nature Immunology

Wael says
It is a great honour to receive the 2021 Robert Porter ECR Publication Prize for Laboratory Sciences. I am incredibly grateful to the fantastic team of collaborators who worked together so effectively across multiple research platforms and institutes in this exciting study. In particular, I’d like to express my sincerest appreciation to my mentor Professor Jamie Rossjohn for his enduring efforts and support throughout this project’s journey. In this study, we used a range of innovative structural biology and immunology approaches to unearth the molecular principles underpinning how microbial metabolites could be presented by the antigen-presenting molecule MR1 to specialized T cells, called MAIT cells, triggering an effective immune response against the invading microbes. This research provided an important framework for rationally designing improved MAIT inhibitors and activating ligands that could pave the way for the development of novel T-cell therapies. To help promote the science explored in this paper, I intend to use this prize towards travel costs for an international meeting next year.

Early Career Researcher Fellows Publication Prize for Laboratory Based Research
Dr Adam Shahine, Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, School of Biomedical Sciences, Biomedicine Discovery Institute.
A single-domain bispecific antibody targeting CD1d and the NKT T-cell receptor induces a potent antitumor response Nature Cancer

Adam says
It is an absolute honour to be the recipient of the 2021 ECR Publication Prize – Fellows Publication Prize for Laboratory Sciences. I would like to acknowledge all co-authors and collaborators who took part in this exciting study. In particular, my co-first author Roeland Lameris from Amsterdam UMC, who partook in a lab stay within our laboratory for this project, as well as my key supervisor and mentor Professor Jamie Rossjohn. This study was a fantastic collaborative effort between academic and industrial institutes including Lava Therapeutics, Amsterdam UMC, Monash University, and the University of Melbourne, which married together a multidisciplinary body of work to describe a novel immuno-oncology approach for the potential treatment of rare cancers. Here, we have described the bispecific properties of a VHH antibody, supported by cellular, biophysical, structural, and mouse model data, that target and boost the interaction between two key immune cell receptors within the CD1d-Natural Killer T cell axis, resulting in a more effective immune response towards multiple myeloma and acute myeloid leukemia. These new findings will serve as a model for the potential generation of new and effective treatments towards a broad range of cancers. I aim to use these funds to attend the 16th Congress of the Federation of Asian and Oceanic Biochemists and Molecular Biologists to be held in Christchurch, NZ, in November 2021.


Adapted from The Pulse News from the MNHS Research office

“My Goodness” – exploring what your digestive and immune system looks, sounds and feels like

Oh My Goodness!  *(My Goodness Me)

In celebration of National Science Week 2021, the United Nations International Year of Fruit and Vegetables and the International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development, Monash University is launching a multisensory book and exhibition titled ‘My Goodness’ – a tactile and interactive exploration of the science behind gut health, nutrition, and immunity.

Designed for low vision, blind and general audiences alike, the books will read to you and also entertain.

Described as an ‘entire multisensory art exhibition in a single book’, they  are stationed on interactive reading benches using optical scanning technology (fiducials) and webcams enabling the wonderful world of the gut biota to come alive.

Through tactile artworks, audio sonifications, braille-inspired protein molecules, large print, audio narration, and braille supplements, audiences can explore the Books against a backdrop of synthesised music evoking molecular protein foldings and the sounds of the gut biota.

The books have been created by Dr Erica Tandori, legally blind Sensory Science Artist in Residence at the Rossjohn Lab, Monash University Biomedicine Discovery Institute, in collaboration with Stu Favilla, Musician and Lecturer in Interaction Design at Swinburne University of Technology, School of Design and Architecture.

They contain contributions by some of Monash University’s most eminent and world-renowned experts in the field of gut health, nutrition and immunity.

“So much more can be expressed when you add sounds,” says Dr Tandori.  “It really does help to support what’s happening from the visual and tactile level when you can listen to the sounds of a protein or the way microbes are interacting while you are feeling the sculptures and exploring the artworks.

“Stu has brought an amazing plethora of audio design skills to this project including sonification of the artworks, 3D audio and beautiful modular synthesis music evoking the inner universe and machinations of human digestion!”

Mr Favilla adds: “Erica’s tactile artworks are not 3D prints but rather reference a language of touch that we are all familiar with.  Her artworks comprise food grains, clothing materials, wools and many other fascinating textures and multisensory experiences.

“They are driven by her desire to communicate the wonders of molecular biology through her unique artistic understanding and perceptions. The books reference a legacy of prior exhibition knowledge but the exhibition itself is now spatially encapsulated, all in one neat package.”

The Books have also inspired the creation of a pop song called “My Goodness”, co-written by Erica and Stu with Erica singing vocals and Stu performing all instrumentation, rapping and producing the track.

“We hope we can get kids of all ages to sing about the wonders of the gut biota. My Goodness is possibly the greatest song ever written about the gut biota, immunity, fruit and vegetables,” Dr Tandori said.

Following the Launch event, the books are intended for roving exhibitions across metropolitan and regional schools, community groups and disability educational centres in Victoria.

An online version of the books is also proposed as a COVID-19 contingency plan with a range of virtual activities to support the exhibition.

The My Goodness: Interactive Multisensory Science Book Launch and Exhibition is a free online event that will be held on Friday August 20  from 9 am.

This initiative is supported by the National Science Week Inspiring Australia Grant.


About the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute at Monash University

Committed to making the discoveries that will relieve the future burden of disease, the newly established Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute at Monash University brings together more than 120 internationally-renowned research teams. Spanning six discovery programs across Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease, Development and Stem Cells, Infection and Immunity, Metabolism, Diabetes and Obesity, and Neuroscience, Monash BDI is one of the largest biomedical research institutes in Australia.  Our researchers are supported by world-class technology and infrastructure, and partner with industry, clinicians and researchers internationally to enhance lives through discovery.

For media enquiries please contact:

Wendy Smith

Media and Communications Manager

Monash University


T: +61 (0) 425 725 836

For more Monash media stories, visit our news and events site

Congrats Wael on your ARC DECRA

Congratulations to Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute researcher Dr Wael Awad who is one of 15 Monash researchers recognised with Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards (DECRA) from the Australian Research Council (ARC).

Dr Awad’s (Le Nours Lab) project aims to undertake discovery research to investigate the roles of metabolites in T cell immunity. This project expects to generate new knowledge in the areas of cellular biology and immunology by using cutting-edge molecular and immunological approaches. This will provide fundamental insights into the mechanisms that govern microbial metabolite-based T cell immunity, which may advise future research into vaccines or therapeutics.

In addition to knowledge gains, Dr Awad’s expected project outcomes include developing innovative methodology and building international collaborations to enhance national research capabilities. This will place Australia at the forefront of conceptually innovative discovery in the life sciences.

More than $6.25 million has been awarded to the 15 Monash researchers under the DECRA scheme, which provides focused research support for early career researchers in both teaching and research, and research-only positions.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) and Senior Vice-President Professor Rebekah Brown said: “This is great recognition of the excellent research these researchers are doing so early in their careers.”

“This investment allows them to build their career pathway and grow the impact of their research. The diverse range of projects across disciplines and faculties – and the real-world impact of these projects – shows that the future is bright for research at Monash.”

Read about each of the 15 Monash researchers who have been recognised with DECRAs from ARC.

A total of $83 million was distributed in the 2021 round. Read the full details on the ARC website.

Original article