Professor Geoff Burnstock awarded the 2018 Macfarlane Burnet Medal

Geoff Burnstock, pictured in Melbourne in 1970.

The Australian Academy of Science has just awarded Professor Geoff Burnstock the 2018 Macfarlane Burnet Medal. This is an honour he shares with Nobel Laureate Barry Marshall, Australia Prize winner Suzanne Cory and former Australian of the year, Sir Gustav (Gus) Nossal.

In 1970,  Burnstock put forward his theory of “purinergic neurotransmission” which classed ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) as an important neurotransmitter, in addition to its recognised role as the major energy currency of all living cells. It took another 20 years before biomedical scientists accepted that ATP was an extracellular signalling molecule, and in fact, is probably the most widespread of all signalling molecules in the body. Its involvement in basic cellular processes such as pain, cough, cell death and differentiation and wound healing, suggests it is a primitive extracellular signalling molecule.

The therapeutic implications of purinergic neurotransmission came to fruition in 2011 with the registration of clopidogrel (Plavix, a P2Y12 receptor antagonist), used for the treatment of stroke and thrombosis. Other similar drugs presently in development include a P2X3 receptor antagonist, that will be used for chronic cough, visceral pain and hypertension.

In November, he will be returning to Melbourne as Emeritus Professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, and Honorary Professor in the Florey Institute where he plans to work with younger clinicians (Prof Burnstock is 88y old) on the therapeutic development of purinergic neurotransmission.

See October 4th news item on the Australian Academy of Science website.

See report in The Australian published October 4th 2017.