Australia Day 2023 Honours List recipients

Murdoch Children’s Research Institute warmly congratulates Professors Melissa Little, George Patton and Martin Delatycki on their inclusion in the 2023 Australia Day Honours list. 

Melissa Little

Murdoch Children’s Chief Scientist Professor Little was awarded a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) for eminent service to medical research through pioneering contributions to regenerative therapies for kidney disease and to stem cell medicine.

Professor Little said, “I am deeply honoured at receiving this award and proud of what I have achieved as a scientist, as a woman and as an Australian. 

“What I have accomplished, however, has involved many and so this recognition is also for all those I have had the pleasure to work for, with and on behalf of.”

Professor Little is recognised internationally for her esteemed career performing ground-breaking research on stem cell-derived kidneys which she and her team use to model kidney disease and develop new therapies. She has also advocated nationally and internationally for stem cell research in her roles with Stem Cells Australia and as President of both the Australasian Society for Stem Cell Research and the International Society for Stem Cell Research.

After receiving her Doctorate of Philosophy in Biochemistry from the University of Queensland in 1990, Professor Little undertook a Royal Society Endeavour Fellowship in Edinburgh until returning to Australia where she was an NHMRC Research Fellow at the Centre for Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Queensland from 1995-2008, Chief Scientific Officer of the Australian Stem Cell Centre from 2007-2008 and Group Leader of the Institute for Molecular Biosciences from 2009-2015. Professor Little was then recruited to Murdoch Children’s in 2015 to head the Stem Cell Biology theme, before she became Chief Scientist in 2021. 

Professor Little was appointed CEO of reNEW, the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Stem Cell Medicine, in 2022. This international stem cell medicine consortium has researchers in Denmark, the Netherlands and Australia and focuses on developing new therapies. Professor Little is a Fellow the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences and the Danish Royal Academy for Sciences and Letters. In recent years Professor Little received the Homer W Smith Award from the American Society for Nephrology in 2021 and the Alfred Newton Richards Award at the World Congress of Nephrology in 2019. 

The Council for the Order of Australia defines the Companion of the Order appointment as achievement and merit of the highest degree for service to Australia or humanity at large. This is the highest award in the Order of Australia.

Professor Patton was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for his distinguished service to psychiatry and developmental epidemiology, to youth health and wellbeing, and to mental health research.

George Patton 3

Hudson Institute of Medical Research Professor and colleague John Funder said, “George Patton is internationally recognised for his ground-breaking contributions to adolescent health. He is in the top 0.1 per cent of cited researchers in the world across all fields of medicine, and is the most highly cited of those working in adolescent health. 

“Professor Patton has driven global policies and priorities around adolescent health and wellbeing from what was previously characterised as benign neglect to a field that is now at the forefront of international agendas. This is a monumental achievement, for which Professor Patton and his legacy are appropriately recognised by the award of the Companion of the Order of Australia.” 

Professor Patton was a Professorial Fellow in Adolescent Health Research at Murdoch Children’s and the University of Melbourne, and a Senior Principal Research Fellow with Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), who sadly died on 7th December 2022. 

With a clinical background in child and adolescent psychiatry and a research background in developmental epidemiology, Professor Patton had extensive engagement globally around child and adolescent health, growth and development. He chaired the 2016 Lancet Commission on Adolescent Health and Wellbeing, led three special series on adolescent health for the Journal as well as publishing sentinel papers on adolescent mortality, burden of disease, the adolescent investment case and intergenerational risks. 

Professor Patton had consultancy and advisory roles with the WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, USAID and the World Bank as well as scientific advisory roles with international groups including Peking University, Tokyo University and the University of Washington’s Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation. He was a member of STAGE, the technical advisory group to WHO’s DG on Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health and Nutrition. 

Professor Patton also led long-term Australian longitudinal studies on the mental health, growth and development of children and adolescents, including a prospective intergenerational cohort. His research extended to large-scale early intervention, prevention and mental health promotion trials from primary-care, community and school platforms in both high resource and low resource settings. 

His wife, Professor Susan Sawyer AM, suggested that George would have felt humbled to have been honoured in this way. 

Martin Delatycki

Victorian Clinical Genetics Services (VCGS) Medical Director Professor Delatycki was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for significant service to medicine, to genetic research, and to education.

“I feel touched that people have taken the time to nominate me for this Award,” Professor Delatycki said. “I don’t know who is responsible, but I do appreciate it”

Professor Delatycki is most proud of the research he and his team have done and the genetic screening programs he has helped set up, including reproductive screening in the Jewish community. 

“I am also proud of the PhD students I have supervised who have gone on to become leaders in their field,” he said. 

Professor Delatycki is a Clinical Geneticist with extensive genomics experience. He has been the Medical Director of VCGS since 1997 and Co-Director of the Murdoch Children’s Bruce Lefroy Centre, which conducts research into genetic diseases, since 2003.

He is Co-Lead Investigator, Chair of the Research Committee, and Co-Chair of the Clinical Committee of Mackenzie’s Mission, within Australian Genomics, and is a member of the Australian Society for Medical Research and the Human Genetics Society of Australasia. 

Professor Delatycki is an Honorary Professor at the University of Melbourne  and Monash University and has authored or co-authored over 350 publications. He has been the recipient of awards including the Bronya Keats International Research Collaboration Award from Friedreich's Ataxia Research Alliance in 2013, and he has made a significant contribution to genetics in Australia.