University of Pretoria’s Prof. Bob Millar wins World Academy of Sciences prize in Medical Sciences

Posted on December 17, 2018

The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) has announced that Prof. Robert Millar, Director of the Centre for Neuroendocrinology in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Pretoria, is the prize-winner in Medical Sciences for 2019 along with an Argentinian scientist. Prof Millar’s citation  reads “for his fundamental and translational contributions in the field of neuroendocrinology leading to the development of new treatments for hormone-dependent diseases.”

TWAS is a global science academy based in Trieste, Italy. It was established in 1983 by a respected group of scientists from the developing world, under the leadership of Pakistani physicist and Nobel laureate Abdus Salam. They believed that by building their strength in science and engineering, developing nations could build the knowledge and skills required to address challenges including hunger, disease and poverty. At the outset, the academy has had support from Italian scientists and political leaders.

Prof. Millar has made major research breakthroughs in areas of human reproduction, and the treatment of hormone-dependent diseases such as cancer. His initial research focused on the brain hormone, gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), pioneering the discovery of GnRH receptor and the discovery of novel GnRH subtypes. As a result, great strides have been made in the development of GnRH analogues as anti-cancer drugs. His most recent achievements have been in clinical studies on kisspeptin as a novel regulator of reproduction and the development of antagonists with potential for treating hormone-dependent diseases such as endometriosis, which affects 10-30% of women. He participated in the development of an antagonist of another novel regulator (Neurokinin B) with Euroscreen in Belgium, and proposed that these could be used for the treatment of polycystic ovarian syndrome and postmenopausal hot flushes. These antagonists have now been shown to be exciting new therapies for the conditions in a billion-dollar market.

TWAS’s awards provide an incentive for scientists to do their best work, while winning global recognition. Prof Millar will be awarded a cash prize of US$7 500 (about R100 000) and a medal, which will be presented to him at a special ceremony to be held during the next TWAS general meeting, where all winners will be expected to give a short talk after receiving their prizes.  

Prof. Millar has won numerous awards for his pioneering research. He has received international awards of the Geoffrey Harris laureate and the Bargmann-Scharrer laureate. He is the recipient of gold medals from the MRC/Wellcome and the South African Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. He was awarded the John FW Hershel Medal for 2016, the Royal Society of South Africa’s most prestigious award, for his exceptional contribution to science in South Africa. The MRC awarded him their highest award, the platinum medal, in the same year, and he received the prestigious Harry Oppenheimer Fellowship in 2017 for his work in neuroendocrinology. The Oppenheimer Fellowship is awarded to researchers and academics who show a strong track record of ground-breaking research and intellectual achievement. It is regarded as the top award for research on the African continent. This year he received the African Union’s continental Kwame Nkrumah award in Addis Ababa.

He was elected President of the International Neuroendocrinology Federation (INF) in 2016. Prof Millar has been a faculty member at UP since 2011. From 1998 to 2011 he was Director of the UK Medical Research Council's Human Reproductive Sciences Unit at the University of Edinburgh.

Prof Millar has published over 400 publications in international journals of repute, holds 18 patents, and his research has been cited by other academics more than 20 000 times. He currently serves as the editor-in-chief of the prestigious international journal Neuroendocrinology. He received an A rating this year, the fifth time he has received this accolade.


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