This year’s Bethlehem Griffiths Research Foundation Medal has been awarded to Professor Terence O’Brien in recognition of his internationally-acclaimed research that has transformed the lives of many people with epilepsy as well as traumatic brain injury, dementias and brain tumours.
Patients with difficult to control, drug-resistant epilepsy now have access to more effective treatment options, including surgery, and a better understanding of the adverse effects of long-term medication use. Women with epilepsy have also benefited and now have better information about minimising the risk of medication on their unborn child while maximising the chance of seizure control.
Presenting the BGRF medal on behalf of the Foundation, Professor Stephen Davis, a previous winner of this prestigious medal, reflected on Professor O’Brien’s stellar national and international reputation. ‘Under his inspired leadership the Department of Medicine has grown enormously and his skill as a leader, mentor and collaborator have been at the heart of this success. He builds a bridge between the laboratory and the clinic and is one of Australia’s leading clinical and translational neuroscientists’, Professor Davis said.
Professor O’Brien is the James Stewart Professor of Medicine at the Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH) and The University of Melbourne as well as an esteemed consultant neurologist at the RMH. Accepting the BGRF Medal Professor O’Brien said it was humbling to receive a medal previously awarded to Australia’s most pre-eminent neuroscience researchers. He went on to say that it was a privilege to be recognised by the Bethlehem Griffiths Research Foundation with its important focus on progressive neurological diseases, palliative care and stroke.
Professor O’Brien stressed the collaborative nature of his research and acknowledged the enormous contribution of his team. ‘My achievements would not have been possible in isolation. They are the result of collaboration and the effort of a large translational research team over many years,’ Professor O’Brien said.
The Professor’s group focuses on the pre-clinical identification, evaluation and development of novel therapeutic approaches. But it differs from many traditional preclinical testing programs as it strives to identify disease modifying, rather than just symptomatic treatments, mitigating the progress of epilepsy and comorbidities. This research work formed the basis of a 2016 $25m grant for an international multi-centre pre-clinical and clinical study to advance the development of effective anti-epileptogenic therapies.
The impact of Professor O’Brien’s work can also be seen in his prolific publishing achievements with over 335 peer-reviewed papers.
The Bethlehem Griffiths Research Foundation awards this medal and a $5,000 gift for outstanding contribution to clinical research in progressive neurological disorders, stroke or palliative care. Past winners have included the cream of Australia’s research community such as Professor Ian Maddocks, Professor Claude Bernard, Professor Frederick Mendelsohn, Professor Colin Masters, Professor Geoffrey Donnan, Professor Sam Berkovic, Professor Philip Beart, Professor Stephen Davis, Professor Linda Kristjanson, Professor Trevor Kilpatrick, Professor Ingrid Scheffer, Professor Kathryn North and Professor Roberto Cappai.