News / 3 July 2018

In the highest of honours (and to the delight of ARMI), neuroscientist and Group Leader, Associate Professor James Bourne was the recipient of the prestigious NHMRC Marshall and Warren’ Award. Presented last Wednesday night, the award was a recognition of the cutting-edge research the Bourne group is undertaking in comprehending visual brain development. 

The award ceremony, held in Canberra at the annual NHMRC’s Research Excellence Awards was a night to remember. Presented to James by the Honourable Greg Hunt (Minister for Heath), the award embodies not just a personal victory, but a victory for his team, whose combined efforts brought him to the stage that night.

“In a sense, my group is my family,” smiled James. “I am so proud to have such a fantastic team behind me to focus our research efforts on unlocking fundamental questions about the brain. This award is a culmination of our hard work, the support from the community and opportunities given to us by the government. I consider myself very fortunate.”

James has always harboured a passion for interrogating the natural world. Similar to his obsession with disassembling kitchen appliances as a child (much to the chagrin of his parents), James has always had a desire to understand how things work. As such, it was no surprise to see him enter into the field of science.

Greg Hunt and James Bourne
Honourable Greg Hunt (Minister for Heath), presenting the award to James Bourne (right).

Beginning his professional career upon the completion of a PhD in Neuropharmacology at King’s College, James joined ARMI as a Group Leader in 2009. Since then, he has established a large and strong team of researchers and spearheaded work at the frontier of the field of visual brain development, a field that is still relatively unstudied.

Devoted to the ultimate goal of improving diagnosis, management and, one day, treatment of brain disorders and injuries, the Bourne Group works to delineate the complex mechanisms that underlie brain development. They strive to do so through three major areas of focus; the development and maturation of the visual brain (in nonhuman primates), determining which brain areas enable sight and understanding the systematic after-effects of stroke.

With the Marshall and Warren Award, the work of the Bourne group has been recognised for its innovative spirit, and in particular, acknowledges that such cutting-edge research may have difficulty attracting funding as it challenges prevailing ideas. Established by the NHMRC and named after Professors Barry Marshall and Robin Warren (who won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 2006), the award seeks to showcase daring and risky research.

“This a high honor indeed,” commented Professor Peter Currie, Director of Research at ARMI. “Seeing our researchers up on the stage, being recognised for their contributions is incredibly satisfying and heartwarming. Congratulations to James and his team.” 

However, despite the exciting and challenging job ahead of them, the Bourne Group took time to celebrate their victory, cracking open some champagne in the office. For them, James’ award acts as recognition, but also as motivation. For James, he was able to enjoy a short trip to Canberra with his partner Toby to spend the night celebrating and reinvigorating his already tenacious passion for neuroscience.

With the future ahead, James takes this award as confirmation, stating “this is an award for the present and the future and we won’t be changing a thing. The roadmap is there, now all we need is to follow it.”

For more information on Associate Professor James Bourne and his group at ARMI, please visit Bourne Group Page. You can contact James Bourne via james.bourne@monash.edu or follow him on Twitter @Neurdboy and/ or LinkedIn.

For more information on discoveries made by the Bourne Group, read their latest press release: A young boy missing the visual centre of his brain retains vision - stunning researchers.

Bourne group members
The Bourne Group (from left to right); Dylan Fox, Anthony Boghdadi, Kevin Chang, Jihane Homman-Ludiye, James Bourne, Inaki Carril Mundinano, William Kwan, Leon Teo, Adrian Yip, Mustafa Hamimi, Jack Scott.