Class of 1994
Head – Cell Division Lab, Microscopy and Flow Facility Manager, ANZAC Research Institute
Andrew Burgess believes that in the future, cancer will become like getting a cold.
‘You’ll get sick, but we will know how to treat it and it’s not going to be a death sentence.’
That’s the optimistic view of one of Australia’s pre-eminent cancer researchers who has devoted his career to understanding how and why excessive cell division leads to cancer.
His research began as an Honours student in 1998 at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research following his science degree. His PhD research was ground-breaking and led to the development and approval in 2010 of a drug used for the treatment of lymphoma.
‘That was really a nice little moment. To think that I helped get a whole new class of drugs approved that never existed before and patients are now receiving it and are responding well.’
On completion of his PhD in 2004, Andrew was awarded a NHMRC CJ Martin Post-doctoral fellowship, which took him to the French National Research Centre in Montpellier, France. During his time in France he continued to explore the mechanism of how cells control the division process. His work identified a novel mitotic gene (Greatwall Kinase), which redefined the understanding of the basic mechanisms controlling cell division. His work was published in world leading journals including Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Science Cell, and The EMBO Journal, and has been cited over 1,00 times since 2010. He was awarded two additional French fellowships, which allowed him to remain in France for seven years.
At the beginning of 2012, Andrew received a prestigious five-year Future Research Leader Fellowship from the Cancer Institute of New South Wales. This allowed him to return to Sydney to establish his own independent research group at the Garvan Institute at the Kinghorn Cancer Centre.
In 2017 he accepted the positions of head of the Cell Division and the Lab and Microscopy and Flow Facility Manager at the ANZAC Research Institute. and was promoted to Associate Professor at the University of Sydney. Andrew continues to publish widely, and is regarded as an emerging world-authority on how defective cell division drives cancer.
But Andrew’s expertise may never have been realised had he not changed from an economics degree at the very last minute!
‘I realised I had no interest in economics and only enjoyed it because of Barry Neighbour.
Looking back his time at school (1990 – 1994), Andrew includes Des Thureson and Jeff Henderson amongst his most influential teachers and has strong memories of playing basketball and College musicals.
‘John Paul College provided fantastic foundations. I am thankful that I had the opportunity to try so many different activities and had access to great facilities and teachers. It sparked my interest in wanting to learn.’