Professor Maria Makrides named Scientist of the Year

29 Nov 2022
Professor Maria Makrides named Scientist of the Year

The SAHMRI community congratulates Deputy Director and Women & Kids Theme Leader, Professor Maria Makrides, for being awarded Scientist of the Year at the 2022 SA Science Excellence and Innovation Awards.

Prof Makrides won the top gong for her outstanding research efforts, centring on using nutritional interventions to improve the lives of pregnant women and young children.

“I’m really shocked and humbled to be recognised like this. It’s a reflection of the great work my team has done and continues to do,” Prof Makrides said.

“I credit the more than 20,000 families who’ve participated in our trials over so many years to be able to produce these results.”

Prof Makrides team has recently implemented a world-first omega-3 pregnancy screening program in collaboration with SA Pathology, to prevent preterm birth.

Women with single pregnancies can now opt-in to have their omega-3 levels tested via routine antenatal blood test. This serves to inform whether omega-3 supplementation is needed or if the individual is taking too much, potentially putting the child at risk.

“Recent studies have shown that having an optimal omega-3 status in pregnancy will increase the chances of having a full-term pregnancy and therefore reduce the risk of prematurity,” Prof Makrides said.

“Most mothers aren’t deficient in nutrients, because we have great food supply in Australia. Often our issue is more about oversupply of nutrients, or nutrients being out of balance.”

Prof Makrides is a Professor of Human Nutrition at the University of Adelaide and has been working as a scientist since 1997.

She currently leads a research group of more than 60 staff based at the Women’s and Children’s hospital and SAHMRI, with an impressive track record of highly translational research.

“I had done a science degree and was looking for something more applied. I looked at nutrition and dietetics thinking that was a way to combine good physiological and biochemical science with real-life application.”

South Australia’s Deputy Premier, Susan Close was on hand to present the awards in front of hundreds of guests at the SA Film Corporation’s Glenside studios.

“Each year, I look to this cohort for an indication of South Australia’s STEMM strengths and where our industries are headed,” Dr Close said.

“And with winners representing health, education and geology, as well as the cutting-edge fields of quantum physics and marine bioproducts, our future looks bright!”

Prof Makrides team is aiming to double the current uptake of local women opting in for the omega-3 test, believing it’ll result in a 14% state-wide reduction in preterm birth.