Professor Malcolm Horne was awarded the 2019 BGRF Medal for his dedication to researching and treating movement disorders, particularly Parkinson’s disease. Ahead of his time, Professor Horne adopted a cross-disciplinary collaborative approach to create a wearable device to manage Parkinson’s disease. Now used for routine clinical care in the USA and Europe, this device has patent coverage in all the major jurisdictions and has achieved more than four million hours of monitoring over 42,000 patients. Importantly the use of the device has improved the treatment of more than 50 per cent of these patients.
Accepting the award at the presentation ceremony last week, Professor Horne stressed the collaborative nature of medical research and the importance of ensuring that medical research is relevant to the community who pay for it through their taxes. ‘Arguably’, he commented, ‘success is useful rather than clever, conceding that clever is how we become useful’.
A long-serving deputy director of the Florey Neuroscience Institutes, Professor Horne has played a key role in attracting the funding and prestige that has made the Florey and similar institutions one of the world’s leading research hubs. Although he has focused on many areas over five decades, his interest in how the nervous system repairs and reconnects injured nerve cells has been particularly beneficial.
Currently a practicing neurologist at St Vincent’s Hospital, Professor Horne has also had a profound impact as an educator. Of his 25 PhD students, only seven are not yet professors, and five of his 20 post-doctorate students and the 20 registrars he has trained and mentored, are now leaders as well.
Presenting the prize on behalf of the Foundation Professor David Nisbet, one of Professor Horne’s former students, said that his most profound memory of his teacher and mentor was that he always made time for students and listened and cared, a fact confirmed by many including his now adult children. While Professor Horne’s many collaborators admire him for his innovative approach and brilliance, many emphasized his humility and selflessness, rare qualities indeed.
The BGRF awards this medal and a $5,000 gift for an outstanding contribution to clinical research in progressive neurological disorders, stroke or palliative care. Past winners have included the cream of Australia’s research community such as Professor Ian Maddocks, Professor Claude Bernard, Professor Frederick Mendelsohn, Professor Colin Masters, Professor Geoffrey Donnan, Professor Sam Berkovic, Professor Philip Beart, Professor Stephen Davis, Professor Linda Kristjanson, Professor Trevor Kilpatrick, Professor Ingrid Scheffer, Professor Kathryn North, Professor Roberto Cappai, Professor Terence O’Brien and Professor Frank Vadja.