We get up every morning to change the world. Our people are passionate about creating innovative solutions for the biggest challenges facing our nation and thrive on collaborating to make life better for everyone. The CSIRO Awards honour the teams and individuals that embody that vision. In particular, they recognise achievements of innovative solutions to industry, society and the environment.

Entrepreneurship Award

Awarded to: Colvera blood test for bowel cancer

This award recognises the application of an entrepreneurial approach under conditions of ambiguity and uncertainty. It celebrates those who use passion, persistence and resourcefulness to turn an opportunity into reality.

The team won the award for developing a new, more accurate blood test for bowel cancer. Colvera™ can indicate early molecular changes associated with cancer development which could lead to a reduction in the number of deaths from the disease. Working with our partners Clinical Genomics, Colvera™ has just been released in the US and will hopefully be available in Australia as early as next year.

[An image appears of a row of people in black and white and then gradually some of the people in the row are coloured pink, green and yellow]

Narrator: Every year 15,000 Australians are diagnosed with bowel cancer. When found soon enough it can be treated but for up to half of those Australians it will return.

[Image changes to show a blood drop, a measurer, an exclamation mark, a calendar and a plus sign all in a row and text appears beneath: Current test, low sensitivity, false positives, increased delays, reduced success]

Unfortunately, the current blood test to detect recurrence has low sensitivity and can give false positive results leading to delays in detection that reduce the chance of successful treatment.

[Image changes to show three researchers with text beneath: CSIRO, Clinical Genomics, Flinders University]

To solve the problem our scientists teamed up with Clinical Genomics and Flinders University.

[Camera zooms out and text appears above: Discovered common link in process called, DNA Methylation]

When investigating patient’s cancers, they discovered a common link in a process called DNA Methylation.

[Image changes to show two wavy lines with pink dots below the lines and green dots above the line linked to the line and then the dots change to yellow]

The process controls which genes are normally switched on or off in different cells in a body, such as the liver and muscle but with cancer the process often goes wrong.

[Image shows the dots disappearing and two text boxes appear above and below the lines: Methylated]

The team found two genes that were methylated in almost all bowel cancers.

[Image changes to show an animation model of blood moving through a blood vessel]

Armed with this information they studied the blood of bowel cancer patients.

[Image shows DNA fragments moving into the blood stream in the blood vessel]

Cancer cells were shedding tiny DNA fragments into the patient’s blood stream.

[Text appears: Polymerase Chain Reaction, PCR]

They applied a process called polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, a way of investigating DNA.

[Image shows the PCR moving through the blood vessel]

With the PCR they found the methylated fragments of the two key genes they’d identified earlier could be detected in the blood of patients with cancer in their system.

[Image changes to show the researchers raising their hands]

They had found a marker to look for.

[Image of the researchers moves to the left and a highlighted droplet and text appears on the right: ColveraTM]

With that knowledge, they and their collaborators were able to develop and trial a new blood test called Colvera.

[Image moves to the left again and more text appears: 2 x, Twice as sensitive, !, Reduced False Positives]

It’s twice as sensitive as the existing test and doesn’t deliver false positives based on factors like smoking.

[Image changes to show a line graph on the left side of the screen displaying reliability and a line graph on the right of the screen showing recurrence rates]

This far more reliable test vastly increases the ability for survivors to stop bowel cancer recurrence in its tracks.

[Image changes to show a line of people in black and white and gradually some of the people are coloured pink and then green and text appears below the people: Early Diagnosis, Save Lives]

Early diagnosis is the key to successful treatment meaning Colvera has the potential to save lives in Australia and around the world.

[Image moves down the screen and text appears: ColveraTM]

[Music plays and CSIRO logo and text appears: Australia’s innovation catalyst]

Colvera: an accurate blood test for bowel cancer

Medal for Impact from Science

Awarded to: Atlas Of Living Australia

This award recognises exceptional individuals or research teams who have created value for customers through innovation that delivers impact for Australia. 

The team won for developing the world-leading e-research infrastructure which is now being adopted globally to provide solutions to host national biodiversity information portals. The Atlas of Living Australia provides free, online access to information about Australia’s biodiversity. We worked with the Global Biodiversity Information Facility in the development, implementation and uptake of the tools and infrastructure to support the portal globally. 

[Images appear of small coloured birds, trees, flowers, echidnas, bacteria and stingrays connected by dotted lines]

Narrator: Our planet has a stunningly complex and diverse array of living things all interacting with each other in a series of connected ecosystems.

[Text appears in the centre: Biodiversity]

We call this biodiversity.

[Image shifts to the left and more text appears on the right of the screen: Cleans Air & Water, Creates Food, Shelters Life, Forms Fabric of our Home]

From wattle birds to wattles, to nitrogen fixing bacteria, biodiversity cleans air and water, creates food, shelters life and forms the fabric of the only home we have.

[Image moves to the right and a pink line appears through the word “biodiversity” and gradually the coloured pictures of animals and plants disappear]

If you remove any species or population an ecosystem can collapse.

[Image changes and a businessman, a worker and a researcher appear and then the camera zooms out and text appears joined by a line through the people: Biodiversity Data, Effective Decisions]

Decision makers, researchers and practitioners are in constant need of biodiversity data to make effective decisions on its management.

[Image shows the line joining through them moving up and down causing the people to move out of line and text changes either end of the line to read: Fragmented, Inaccessible]

However, doing so is made difficult by fragmented and often inaccessible data both in Australia and around the world.

[Images of the three people move out and three dotted circles appear next to the people displaying trees, birds and fish inside them]

Scientists and researchers are often left with small pieces of the puzzle to work with while others struggle with their own pieces in isolation.

[Image changes to show the ALA logo and text “Atlas of Living Australia” and then the image moves to the left and new text appears on the right: Aggregating Australian Biodiversity Data, Wide Range of Sources]

The Atlas of Living Australia, or ALA is addressing this problem by aggregating Australian biodiversity data from a wide range of sources

[Image changes to show animation images of a university, museum, Parliament House and the CSIRO building and text appears below the buildings: Universities, Museums, Government, CSIRO]

including universities, museums, the Australian Government and the CSIRO.

[Image changes to show three circles containing a dollar symbol, the ALA logo and books and text appears beneath two of the circles, NCRIS National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy, CSIRO]

The ALA is an NCRIS funded national research facility posted by CSIRO.

[Camera zooms in on the centre circle and text lines appear one after the other inside the circle,

73 000 000 entries, 120 000 species, Birds, Mammals, Insects, Fish, Plants, And More]

It now contains over 73,000,000 entries covering over 120,000 species including birds, mammals, insects, fish, plants and more.

[Image changes to show a keyboard and screen and text appears below: Free online, Clear picture of Biodiversity]

The database is freely accessible to anyone online allowing Australians to see a clear picture of our biodiversity.

[Camera zooms in on the keyboard and screen and a circle appears around them and text appears above: ALA Platform]

And now it’s stretching to the rest of the world.

[Text lines appear showing names of countries joined by dotted lines to the circle and then more text lines appear showing countries not joined to the circle: Scotland, Spain, Estonia, Costa Rica, France, Argentina, Brazil, Portugal, several other countries are currently investigating its use]

The ALA platform has been implemented in countries like Scotland, Spain, Estonia and Costa Rica.

[Image changes to show coloured animals birds and fish gradually appearing to form the shape of a map of the world and the image moves to the left and text appears: Global picture of biodiversity, Freely accessible, Governments, Organisations Individuals]

Not only do these databases build an understanding of the biodiversity within those countries, we are developing a community of practice to create a global picture of biodiversity.

[Image changes to show a business man, a worker and a researcher and ticks and text appear below them: Better Informed Decisions, Securing Significant Efficiency Gains, Data Management and On-Ground Actions]

With this knowledge freely accessible around the world, governments, organisations and individuals have been able to make better informed decisions about our planet’s broad and complex biodiversity, securing significant efficiency gains for data management and on ground actions relating to biodiversity.

[ALA logo and text appears: Atlas of Living Australia]

[Music plays and CSIRO logo and text appears: Australia’s innovation catalyst]

Atlas of Living Australia: Creating a global picture of biodiversity

Chairman’s Medal for Science Excellence

Awarded to: Cereal rust disease prevention

This award recognises teams who have made significant scientific or technological advances that create value for our customers through innovation that delivers positive impact for Australia.

Our agriculture and food rust researchers were awarded for contributing to global food security by protecting cereal crops against rust diseases. We worked with the Grains Research and Development Corporation on this pioneering research.

[Images move through of the different types of rust disease on wheat stems and leaves, an aerial view of a tractor ploughing and then Steve Jeffries talking to the camera and text appears: Steve Jeffries, GRDC]

Steve Jeffries: We have three major rust diseases in Australia, stem, stripe, leaf rust and we estimate that in the order of half a billion dollars of losses can occur if these rust diseases are not controlled.

[Image changes to show Dr Evans Lagudah talking to the camera and text appears: Dr Evans Lagudah, CSIRO]

Dr Evans Lagudah: So, there have been two basic types of rust resistance genes in wheat. There’s the seedling resistance genes and then there’s the adult plant resistance genes.

[Image changes to show a researcher looking at a pot of wheat seedlings and then the image changes to show Jeff Ellis looking at a flower and then the image changes to show rust on a wheat stalk]

To try and understand a bit more about the seedling resistance genes the CSIRO team led by Jeff Ellis used the flax model system that led to the identification of those genes.

[Image changes to show Dr Evans Lagudah talking to the camera]

So, using some really elegant genetics Jeff Ellis and his team were able to isolate the first rust resistance genes.

[Image changes to show an animation of a rust particle attaching to a wheat stem and then a rust coloured line shooting out from the rust particle and making its way into a hole in the wheat stem]

It turns out that they provided the molecular signatures to be able to understand or find most of the rust resistance genes that occur in the seedling group and using the modern tools that we have now in wheat genetics we’ve been able to identify the genes that are involved in these adult plant resistances.

[Animation image model rotations in an anticlockwise direction to show a 3-D view of the structure inside the wheat stem and then the image changes to show Dr Evans Lagudah talking to the camera]

An output of the research we’re doing is to be able to provide molecular tags for each of the resistance genes and this I call the molecular markers and we’ve been able to do that for about 20 different resistance genes.

[Images move through of wheat grains in petri dishes, hands picking up wheat grains with tweezers, researchers looking through microscopes and then Dr Evans Lagudah talking to the camera]

The impact of having these molecular tags is that because breeders are constantly breeding for a wide range of characters, trying to improve yield and grain quality, since 1988 we’ve had continuous support what was then the Wheat Research Council which later on became the Grains Research and Development Corporation.

[Image changes to show a photo of the CSIRO team and then the image changes to show Dr Evans Lagudah drawing up liquid into a syringe and then putting it into a small plastic receptacle]

Steve Jeffries: The CSIRO team have been global leaders in the identification of the genetic control of rust resistance genes which in turn have led to the development of tools that plant breeders can use to effectively and accurately select for resistance genes in a cost effective, accurate way that doesn’t require the generation of an epidemic.

[Image changes to show Dr Evans Lagudah and a female looking at heads of wheat and then the image changes to show Dr Evans Lagudah talking to the camera]

Dr Evans Lagudah: And as a result of this we are now in the position to be able to provide rust resistance genotypes and markers, not only for the Australian market but also for the international market.

[Image changes to show a harvester moving through a crop]

It’s important that we not only protect the wheat that we have in Australia but to be able to also help protect what goes outside of Australia.

[Music plays and CSIRO logo and text appears: Australia’s innovation catalyst]

Protecting cereal crops against rust diseases

Medal for Lifetime Achievement

This award recognises individuals who have a record of sustained and meritorious achievements in science, technology and innovation or the support of science, technology and innovation.

Awarded to: Dr Jennifer Stauber

For her landmark research on the bioavailability and toxicity of contaminants underpinning the development of the national water and sediment quality guidelines for environmental protection in Australasia and globally over 38 years.

Awarded to: Dr Mark Stafford Smith

For over 30 years of international leadership in sustainability science, valued for informing policy and management of human ecosystems under global change and uncertainty, and for supporting our research teams in climate adaptation and sustainable development.

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