Prof Maria Kavallaris


Prof Maria Kavallaris is the Head of the Tumour Biology and Targeting program, Children's Cancer Institute

She is also the Founding Director, Australian Centre for NanoMedicine, University of New South Wales


Maria, who was an original staff member of the Children’s Cancer Institute when it opened its doors 1984, has made significant contributions to her field of research.

Her internationally acclaimed achievements include identifying how cancer cells respond and develop resistance to anticancer drugs. Specifically, she has discovered how cancer cells are able to change the make up of their proteins to counter anticancer drugs.

Her contributions also include the use of nanotechnology - a cancer therapy significantly less toxic than traditional methods. This treatment involves developing nanoparticles to deliver therapeutic drugs or genetic material directly to tumour cells.


The recipient of Cure Cancer grants in 1999 and 2003, Maria says that funding for early-career researchers is invaluable. “Both of my Cure Cancer grants came at critical times in my early career development and have led to further grants,” she says.

In fact, Maria has gone on to secure over $20 million in research funding; her contributions to her field have been recognised by numerous national and international awards and prizes. She has also mentored and trained over 50 students and postdoctoral researchers.

“Early in my career I realised that research is not a lone journey. Engaging my students, postdocs and research assistants in my vision helped me build a dynamic and rewarding research team,” she says.

Herself a cancer survivor, and somebody who tragically lost her brother to pancreatic cancer aged 30, Maria also actively contributes to fundraising events.

“You do not need to be a scientist to be involved in cancer research,” she says. “You just need the drive to make a difference by raising much needed research funds. As a community, we can all contribute to improving the outcome and survival rates of people diagnosed with cancer.”


Maria is a National Health and Medical Research CouncilSenior Research Fellow, an Australian Institute for Policy and Science board member and a Life Member and former president of the Australian Society for Medical Research

In 2015 Maria was named as an Australian Financial Review and Westpac 100 Women of Influence.

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