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Malaghan Institute head recognised for world-class contribution

4 June 2021

Director of the Malaghan Institute Professor Graham Le Gros has been named a KEA World Class New Zealander. 

The prestigious annual awards celebrate inspirational Kiwis whose global achievements are driving New Zealand’s prosperity, development and international reputation.

Prof Le Gros received his award at a gala ceremony in Auckland on Thursday night for a life dedicated to improving the health of others through understanding and harnessing the power of the immune system.

MC Hilary Barry announced the award describing Prof Le Gros as a world-leading immunologist.

“A prolific publisher across international journals and widely respected, Prof Le Gros shows no interest in putting his feet up and taking it easy anytime soon. Alongside his role leading the Malaghan Institute and its headline work in cancer immunotherapy and COVID-19 vaccine development, he has some audacious research goals of his own: to develop better treatment options for allergic and inflammatory diseases including coeliac disease, asthma, allergy, multiple sclerosis and inflammatory bowel disease.”

In receiving his award, Prof Le Gros said that he could only accept it on behalf of the many great scientists who have driven, prodded, cajoled, educated, supported and even disagreed with him on occasion – people from all over the world.

“We think we’re small, we think we don’t count scientifically. But the research we do here in New Zealand really counts.”

He also acknowledged the many fantastic supporters and funders who have helped create the Malaghan Institute, and the patients and their families who have worked with the Institute and trusted in its discoveries to help future generations.

He commended New Zealand’s science-led response to the COVID-19 vaccine – an approach that was taken ‘with humanity’ – but said we had to do so much more.

“We’ve got real potential here, we can manufacture RNA vaccines. It’s transformative this RNA vaccine technology, we’re going to see a revolution in the way vaccines are delivered across all sorts of areas. We’ve got to invest in that, we’ve got to play our part in the world and be world leaders.”

Graham Malaghan, Chairman of the Malaghan Institute, said the award recognised Prof Le Gros’ hard work, leadership and commitment, which have seen him achieve great outcomes.

“The Institute has seen Graham, as its CEO, build a unique platform over a period of some 27 years, to grow New Zealand’s efforts in immunology – be that cancer solutions, vaccine development, knowledge  gains on allergies and especially infectious diseases. The Institute is today  recognised internationally for its achievements, and is therefore a New Zealand centre of significance thanks to Graham.”