Garvan Breakthrough December 2019

The homeland of modern humans A landmark study, published in the prestigious journal Nature , pinpoints the birthplace of modern humans in southern Africa and suggests how past climate shifts drove their first migration. Professor Vanessa Hayes, from Garvan and the University of Sydney, and Garvan’s Dr Eva Chan, in collaboration with researchers from Africa combined the disciplines of genetics, geology and climatic physics to determine where anatomically modern humans first emerged and their subsequent migration. This study provides a window into the first 100 thousand years of modern humans’ history.

Garvan epigenetics leader honoured with NSW Premier’s Prize Only few scientists hold the claim to have pioneered technology that enabled a completely new area in research. Garvan’s Professor Susan Clark is one.

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For her pivotal contributions to the field of epigenetics, Professor Clark was awarded the 2019 NSW Premier’s Prize for Excellence in Medical Biological Sciences.

Prof Susan Clark FAA

Professor Clark, Genomics & Epigenetics Research Theme Leader at Garvan, witnessed the advent of epigenetics in the 1970s – the discovery that modifications to DNA can control how genes are read. She published one of the first research papers to show the significance of epigenetic silencing in cancer. Professor Clark has pioneered the field of cancer epigenetics ever since. A Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science and Senior Principal Research Scientist of the NHMRC, Professor Clark has made seminal contributions to a field whose implications are only beginning to be realised. She has also mentored Garvan researchers for 15 years. “We’re still only seeing the tip of the iceberg of how DNA is read and interpreted and it may well take another 30 years until we understand it completely,” says Professor Clark. “The legacy I want to leave is to share my passion and to see the amazing individuals I’ve mentored continue this work – it’s like seeing lights coming on all over the world.”

Prof Vanessa Hayes learning how to make fire with Ju ’ hoansi hunters in the now dried homeland of the greater Kalahari of Namibia. From left to right: N amce Sao, kun N amce, Vanessa Hayes and kun kunta. Image by Chris Bennett, Evolving Picture.

White Butterfly finds its wings

In October, White Butterfly hosted its inaugural fundraising event at the Woolwich Pier Hotel in Sydney, raising almost $200,000 for Garvan’s breast cancer research. More than 500 people purchased tickets to the White Butterfly Garden Party to raise funds for Garvan in honour of Vanessa Juresic, who tragically lost her life to triple negative breast cancer in May 2018. Guests were joined by guest speaker, Elle Halliwell, MC, Edwina Bartholomew and Garvan’s Associate Professor Alex Swarbrick who explained the current breast cancer research programs underway at the Institute. We extend our sincere thanks to Sophie and the Juresic family for their support and dedication, as well as the White Butterfly committee, the generous sponsors and entertainment and all who donated to our triple negative breast cancer research.

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