THE 2011 LEMBERG MEDAL: MICHAEL PARKER
St Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research
Professor Michael Parker is Deputy Director of St Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne where he is Head of the Biota Structural Biology Laboratory and the ACRF Rational Drug Discovery Facility. He is an Australian Research Council Federation Fellow and a Professorial Fellow at the Bio21 Institute, University of Melbourne.
Michael carried out his undergraduate work in chemistry at the Australian National University where he learnt protein NMR under the supervision of Howard Bradbury and John Carver. In those days crystal structures were essential for interpreting NMR spectra and hence Michael decided to undertake his doctoral studies in protein crystallography under the supervision of Sir David Phillips (later Baron Phillips of Ellesmere) and Dr Colin Blake at Oxford University, both of whom were involved in the determination of the very first protein crystal structures. After obtaining his DPhil in protein crystallography, Michael took up the post of staff scientist at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Germany under the supervision of Professor Demetrius Tsernoglou, a pioneer of protein crystallography in the US.
In 1991 Michael returned to Australia as a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow to re-establish a protein crystallography laboratory at St Vincent’s, which had previously flourished for almost a decade under the stewardship of Neil Isaacs. The work of Michael’s laboratory is internationally recognised with the determination of nearly 100 crystal structures including those of membrane-associating proteins, detoxifying enzymes and protein kinases. This work has provided insights into a number of diseases such as cancer, bacterial and viral infections, and neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. He has published over 200 papers and his work has been recognised with numerous awards including the 1999 Gottschalk Medal of the Australian Academy of Science and the GE Healthcare Bio-Sciences Award of the Australian Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in 2004. He was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science in 2010.