Prof Sally Dunwoodie AO

Prof Sally Dunwoodie AO

Order of Australia awarded to the Institute’s Professor Sally Dunwoodie

26 January 2024

The Governor General today announced the Institute’s Deputy Director Professor Sally Dunwoodie has been recognised with an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for her remarkable career dedicated to understanding the causes and possible preventatives of birth defects.

Professor Sally Dunwoodie in her laboratory at Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute

The Institute can think of no one more deserving than Professor Dunwoodie who is internationally recognised as an embryologist and geneticist. Her discoveries have redefined our understanding of the causes of congenital heart disease.

Commenting on the Award, Professor Dunwoodie says she is incredibly proud to receive the award:
“I am surprised, honoured, and grateful to the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute for building such a creative and supportive research environment. I am also very grateful to the numerous dedicated and talented research scientists I have worked with and learned from over three decades. Importantly, we could not have conducted this research without the generous and courageous patients and their families.”

Professor Jason Kovacic, Director of the Institute and CEO, adds: “Professor Dunwoodie is one of the most accomplished scientists I have ever worked with. She has not only broken new ground in the field of congenital heart disease, but she is also one of the country’s most respected scientific leaders. Our Institute has long recognised her achievements, and we are not surprised she has been honoured with this award today.”

Associate Professor Eleni Giannoulatou, who has worked alongside Professor Dunwoodie for many years, adds:

“I extend my heartfelt congratulations to Professor Sally Dunwoodie on being awarded the Order of Australia. As a devoted colleague and mentor, she has been an unwavering force in championing women in science and nurturing the next generation of scientists. Her impact on my career and other young scientists is immeasurable, and this commendation recognises her enduring commitment to excellence and inclusivity in the scientific community.”

Professor Dunwoodie and her team are currently working on a potential new treatment for preventing some types of birth defects and miscarriages. In 2017, Professor Dunwoodie discovered that being deficient in a common molecule called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) can impact the development of the embryo. Her team is now investigating a promising potential solution through vitamin B3 supplementation and is progressing towards world-first clinical trials.

Professor Dunwoodie and her team

About Professor Dunwoodie

Mother of two Professor Dunwoodie believes every child deserves a healthy start to life, and as a result, her research program at the Institute is directed towards understanding the genetic and environmental causes of birth defects.

As well as her groundbreaking NAD work, Professor Dunwoodie’s team has also identified some 20 genes that cause birth defects of the heart, vertebra, kidney and/or palate. This has changed clinical practice with diagnostic genetic tests for these disorders resulting from this research now available in more than 34 centres globally.

With the aim of embedding genetics into Australian health care, she is on the Steering Committee of Australian Genomics and is the Co-Lead of the Australian Functional Genomics Network.

Professor Dunwoodie is also a great proponent of basic discovery research, contributing as the President of the Australian and New Zealand Society for Cell and Developmental Biology (2016-2017) and in March 2024, she will become President of the International Society of Differentiation.

Professor Dunwoodie was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences (2019), received the Australian Museum Eureka Prize for Scientific Research (2018), and the NSW Premier's Prize for Excellence in Medical Biological Sciences (2017).

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Acknowledgement of Country

The Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present.

Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute - The Home of Heart Research for 30 Years