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Cheryl Critchley
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The University of Melbourne’s Professor John Hopper, a genetic epidemiologist, has been awarded the Victorian Government’s prestigious Victoria Prize for Science and Innovation.

The award recognises the important role innovation plays in Victoria’s economic future and the need for people to be skilled in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“These are Victoria’s most prestigious awards for scientific discoveries and technological innovations that advance knowledge, produce commercial outcomes and benefit our community,” said Victorian Minister for Industry, Lily D’Ambrosia.   

Professor Hopper won the Life Sciences category and received his award from Minister D’Ambrosia at a ceremony in Melbourne on Thursday 15 October, 2015.

Professor Hopper is the Director (Research) at the University of Melbourne’s School of Population and Global Health, and a NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellow with a PhD in Mathematical Statistics. He received the Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for service to public health and biomedical sciences in 2008.

“Professor Hopper has made seminal contributions to understanding the roles of genetic and environmental factors on Australia’s major cancers and other diseases with significant clinical and population health significance,” Minister D’Ambrosia said.   

“These advances were underpinned by his mathematical and statistical innovations, and by the establishment of major Australian family and twin studies that bring an epidemiological or population-wide approach to finding ways to prevent disease and improve health.”

Since 1990, Professor Hopper has been the Director of the Australian Twin Registry (ATR), which connects researchers with twins to undertake studies on environmental and genetic factors in health and disease to benefit the whole population.

Under his leadership, the ATR has facilitated over 400 twin studies Australia-wide, contributing transformative insights into health conditions such as cancer, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and mental health.    

Today the ATR is the world’s largest volunteer research resource of twins and their families.   

Professor Hopper also leads the new NHMRC-funded Australian Centre of Excellence in Twin Research, and has played a leading role in establishing the International Network of Twin Registries.

In accepting the award, Professor Hopper joins a select group of 23 other leading Victorian scientists who have received the Victoria Prize since 1998.

“This is recognition of the work of a great many researchers and staff who have understood the value of large scale population studies to provide information that will benefit people’s health,” Professor Hopper said.

“None of these achievements would have been possible without the generous donation of information and bio specimens from more than 100,000 Australians with the undertaking that these would be used for research of global significance. This has contributed to Victoria being a stand out contributor to international research particularly in cancer.”

The Dean of the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, Professor Mark Hargreaves, congratulated Professor Hopper on his award.

“Professor Hopper’s leadership of the Australian Twin Registry has made a profound contribution to public health through an enormously diverse range of research projects. We wholeheartedly congratulate him on receiving this well-deserved honour,” Professor Hargreaves said.