Dr Kristen Nowak

2010 Young Tall Poppy of the Year – Western Australian Institute for Medical Research

Dr Nowak was the first to identify that a group of devastating muscle conditions that cause Floppy Baby Syndrome is due to a defect in a gene known as ACTA1. She has since worked to understand and develop a cure for these diseases which bring high emotional costs and socio-economic effects because of their severity. Along the way, she has developed a screening method that now allows scientists to diagnose and provide answers to families who previously had no knowledge of what was causing this terrible disease in their newborn child, most of whom die before the age of one.

Kristen is now working on screening more than a thousand already approved medications looking for one that might create the same effect in humans and potentially offer a treatment for many patients based on her work with mice, where her team showed that they had cured mice with the disease allowing them to live to see their second birthday, well beyond the previous nine day prognosis.

She hopes that her work will lead to a much greater improvement for a range of muscle diseases.