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University honours leading scientist and innovator

Media release

Faculty of Science
The University of Auckland

25 February 2013

University honours leading scientist and innovator

Renowned scientist and innovator Dr Jillian (Jilly) Evans, who has led drug development programmes in Canada and the United States, is to be honoured for her contributions to the field. She will receive a 2013 Distinguished Alumni Award from The University of Auckland at a gala dinner on Friday 1 March.

Dr Evans’ career in the pharmaceutical industry began at Merck Frosst Canada where she was a senior biochemist on the development of Singulair, which became a valuable therapy for many asthmatics and a drug that generates $US4 billion annually in revenue.

In 2005, she and two colleagues founded Amira Pharmaceuticals, a San Diego-based drug development company that was bought by Bristol-Myers Squibb in 2011 for $US325 million. More recently, she and her colleagues founded PharmAria Therapeutics, in San Diego, where they are developing small molecule drugs to treat cancer and fibrotic diseases.

Dr Evans was educated in rural schools including Waiheke District High School and Onewhero District High School. She completed a Bachelor of Science and then a Master of Science with first class honours in cell biology at The University of Auckland, followed by a PhD at the University of British Columbia, Canada.

Dr Evans is a champion for causes including the promotion of women in science-based careers, alleviating childhood poverty and helping New Zealand to find a good working model for commercialising biotechnology research.

She has won numerous awards and prizes during her outstanding career. Notable among these are an honorary fellowship of the Royal Society of New Zealand in 2002 and the KEA World Class New Zealander Award in 2010.

She returns to New Zealand regularly and is a member of the Advisory Board of the Maurice Wilkins Centre for Molecular Biodiscovery, a national Centre of Research Excellence tackling major human diseases that is headquartered at The University of Auckland.

Dr Evans and fellow Distinguished Alumni will speak at Auckland Live! 20/20 Vision on Thursday 28 February. The ticketed public event is an opportunity to hear from the award winners about their aspirations and inspiration, their vision of the future in both their career and industry, and advice for people interested in their field.

Dr Evans will be joined by 2013 Distinguished Alumni Norman Godden, Kim Goldwater, the Hon Jim McLay and Andrew Patterson, and Young Alumnus of the Year Simon Denny.

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