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Statistician Professor Terry Speed wins 2013 PM's Prize for Science

Statistician Professor Terry Speed from Melbourne's Walter and Eliza Hall Institute has been awarded the 2013 Prime Minister's Prize for Science for his influential work using mathematics and statistics to help biologists understand human health and disease.

The Prime Minister's Prize for Science is Australia's highest award for excellence in science research, and was presented to Professor Speed tonight at a ceremony at Parliament House. The award recognises the significant importance of bioinformatics in modern biomedical science.

Bioinformatics is a relatively new branch of science that combines maths, statistics and computer science to solve complex biological problems. Over the course of his 44-year career, Professor Speed has developed mathematical and statistical tools that enable biologists to make sense of the vast amounts of information generated by rapidly advancing (next-generation) genetic technologies.

Bioinformatics has made it possible to look at hundreds of genes in a DNA sequence at once to understand the genetic changes involved in complicated diseases such as cancers, and is integral to the genomics revolution that is driving the sequencing of whole genomes in record times. Professor Speed has developed tools to identify genes that are responsible for different traits, diseases or cancers by sifting through these enormous volumes of data.

In addition to developing tools to help biologists analyse and explain their results, Professor Speed is working with biologists to determine the genetic traits that make normal and cancerous cells different; developing tools to help determine if thyroid growths are benign or cancerous; and determining the risk children in malaria-endemic countries have of developing clinical malaria, which helps to inform prevention and treatment strategies.

Professor Speed said it was a great honour to receive the Prime Minister's Prize for Science. "Australia is full of ma

Contact: Alan Gill
Walter and Eliza Hall Institute

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Statistician Professor Terry Speed wins 2013 PM's Prize for Science
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