I was born in 1951 in Kalgoorlie, a prosperous mining town 370 miles east of Perth, Western Australia. Kalgoorlie was a gold rush town which sprang up in the desert after the Irishman Paddy Hannan struck gold there in 1892.
At the time I was born my father was 19 years old and in the final year of his apprenticeship as a fitter and turner. My mother quit her nursing training to have me at the age of eighteen years.
We moved quite a bit through my early childhood. After my father finished his apprenticeship, my parents decided to go and work in the new Uranium mine in Rum Jungle in the Northern Territory. They drove their Model A Ford up Australia's west coast about 1000 miles but stopped at Carnarvon when the car broke down. The whaling station at Carnarvon was also offering excellent wages for good tradesmen and my father was one of the best. We lived near the whaling station while I grew from two to four years and my brother William was born there.
My first memories are of life in Carnarvon. I recall a boat trip back to Perth on one occasion and a DC3 aeroplane flight to Perth on another. Our house was on Babbage Island about 100 yards from the beach. We had electricity, an outhouse toilet, dirt floors in parts of the house, a telephone, refrigerator, a car, a cat and a dog. Nearby was a derelictsteam engine on a railway siding. We had neighbours close by and other kids to play with.
By then, my grandparents had the license on the Tower Hotel in Kalgoorlie and periodically we would return there to live. In Kalgoorlie I remember doing all kinds of things as a six and seven year old including making bows and arrows, slingshots and lighting crackers after school.
After a period back in Kalgoorlie, my mother decided to move the family to Perth where my second brother, Andrew, was born in 1958. I was seven years old at the time. I suppose my mother could see the young boys in Kalgoorlie leaving school at 16 and going down the mines to work. It was an attractive proposition for them. They earned high salaries and had a wild social life drinking and partying on their off days. She wanted more for her children and hoped we would study and enter a profession. Moving to the city was the first step. We are lucky she made that decision. My two brothers and sister all went through University and have highly successful careers and happy lives.
In school I sporadically hit the top of the class but mostly did not work hard enough to stay up there. At home I had plenty of interesting reading material. Dad always explained the car engine when he repaired it and he had many technical books so I was making electromagnets by age eight as well as reading my mother's medical and nursing books. I suspect I was born with a boundless curiosity and this was encouraged through my childhood.
Being the eldest of four children, I was expected to be the responsible one and often found myself controlling two younger brothers who shared my exuberant and inquisitive nature. I still feel guilty about the time I advised my younger brother to jump out of a tree and he broke his arm.
My first exposure to fame came at age twelve when I was left in charge of the younger siblings while my mother attended to the grocery shopping. I had a history of responsible baby-sitting by this time so nothing should have gone wrong. During the morning my 18 month-old sister found a milk bottle half full of kerosene and drank some, perhaps also aspirating a little so that my brothers and I found her choking but did not know why. I called the emergency services and an ambulance arrived about fifteen minutes later. During the wait, as I had learned some basic CPR at the Royal Lifesaving Society Swimming training, I tried to perform mouth to mouth resuscitation on my little sister. I know now that it was pointless because she was actually still breathing. However, my close mouth contact enabled me to smell the kerosene and make the diagnosis of poisoning. I featured in the newspaper a few days later, with my fully recovered little sister on my lap. It was a good story about how to call the emergency number, and why you should not put poison into drink containers. Very kindly my mother did not leak to the press the fact that it was I who had left the kerosene within reach of young Marie!
In our dad's shed, my brothers and I had access to all the tools needed to build or dismantle anything. I frequently got into trouble doing both. My favourite book as a child was an old Newne's Children's Encyclopaedia which my grandfather had bought just before World War II and donated to our family after seeing how interested we were in it. Each volume had special chapters called "Things Boys can Do". My brothers and I would pick out interesting projects. As the years went by, and I grew up, I recall building a slingshot, a crystal set, a Morse-code set, various guns, a hydrogen generator for balloons, electric devices and minor explosives. In those days fireworks had been banned, but chemicals were easily available from pharmacies and chemical suppliers so, in the tradition of Alfred Nobel, we would create various explosive mixtures and make firecrackers and bombs. This started rather benignly with simple gunpowder but graduated to more dangerous oxidising agents after a few years. Many times we were in trouble after disturbing the neighbours, but were fortunate never to cause serious injury. I often found myself in trouble with my parents when someone was hurt, but despite the minor punishments, I know my parents were quite proud of my ingenuity.
Occasionally my father, Bob, was on the receiving end of my "brilliant" work. Observing a fraying cord on his electric drill, I repaired it but accidentally swapped the neutral and earth wire. He jumped rather high when he tried to use it a few days later while standing on wet grass. On another occasion my brothers decided to fly lighter-than-air balloons for our team at the school sports carnival. Since helium was not available, we built a device which pressurised domestic house gas and filled the balloons. Our technology was rather primitive however and these balloons contained quite a bit of air as well, but they did float satisfactorily. My father recognised this and warned us that they might be a little dangerous if they came in contact with an open flame. As an example, he demonstrated the risk by touching a lighted cigarette to one of the balloons as it floated under the back patio. He was enveloped in a ball of flame and his eyebrows were singed off. This did not worry us very much because we had seen him in this state before as he often seemed to be washing engine parts in gasoline and then testing the spark plugs of engines nearby.
After high school, at Newman College, although interested in science and mathematics, I felt that my mathematical ability was not strong enough to do electrical engineering, so I chose medical school as an alternative which was at least as interesting, and which did not require daily exposure to calculus! In addition the opportunity to study biological sciences was an attraction, particularly biochemistry which was not available in high school.
I met my wife Adrienne, a psychology student, at the University of Western Australia and we married in 1972 while I was doing my fifth year in medicine. I graduated from the University MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery) in 1975 and thereafter performed internship and residencies in internal medicine at the Queen Elizabeth II Medical Centre (Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital). In those days I had no definite goals in medicine, but was interested in all aspects of clinical medicine including geriatrics, oncology and rheumatology. I was more interested in an academic career combining research with clinical medicine in a university hospital environment. I began my training as a specialist physician in 1978. In 1979 I moved to Royal Perth Hospital in order to become more experienced with cardiology and open heart surgery, which was only performed at that hospital in Perth.
Although we didn't appreciate it at the time, my wife Adrienne and I must have been very busy during those years. We had four children, Luke, born in 1973, Bronwyn in 1975, Caroline in 1978 and Jessica in 1981. Adrienne was finishing the honours year of her psychology degree as Luke was being born. She was working in-between babies as a counsellor with the Education Department. My non-medical time was spent delivering children to various child-minding facilities, renovating our house, and indulging in my hobby of computers and electronics.
In the second half of 1981, my rotation took me to the gastroenterology division. It was there that I met Robin Warren. As part of my training I was encouraged to perform a clinical research project each year. I was already totally engrossed in a study of heat stroke in "fun runners" and might have progressed to sports or environmental medicine from there. However, I asked my boss, Dr Tom Waters, if there was a gastroenterology project I could start. He told me that Robin Warren had given him a list of patients with curved bacteria present on their stomach biopsies and needed someone to follow-up the patients to see what clinical diseases they had. I was especially interested because one of the people on Robin's list was a woman I had seen in my ward, who had severe stomach pain but no diagnosis. In desperation we had referred her to a psychiatrist and commenced antidepressant medication for want of a better treatment. The only abnormal finding had some redness in the stomach and Robin's bacteria on the stomach biopsy.
So I called Robin in the basement area of Royal Perth Hospital where the Pathology Department resided. It was to be the first of many afternoon visits in the next year. In those days, Robin used to drink strong black coffee and smoke small cigars, "cigarillos" I believe they were called. I too used to indulge occasionally, and would try out one of Robin's cigars from time to time during our meetings. In our first meeting, Robin showed me slides of the curved bacteria he had seen, and explained the histopathology of the gastric mucosa to me.
I am often asked what made me listen to Robin and take up the research with him. Clearly this was an interesting thing to study, previously undescribed bacteria living in the acid-filled stomach. But I may have had other advantages compared with colleagues Robin had approached over the previous two years.
I was undifferentiated in that I wasn't coming from a background in gastroenterology so that my knowledge and ideas were founded in general medical basic science rather than the dogma one was required to learn in specialist medicine. As a trainee general physician with broader training, I was comfortable with the notion of infectious disease and antibiotic therapies. I am told by others that I have a lateral thinking broad approach to problems, sometimes to my detriment. In school my grades always suffered because I was continually mucking about with irrelevant side issues which I often found to be more interesting.
At around that time also, I was aware of publications in the literature describing Campylobacter jejuni as a newly discovered common cause of food-borne gastroenteritis and colitis. Thus, I had seen pictures of campylobacters and could identify that Robin's organisms appeared to be quite similar. In retrospect, one advantage of doing this research in Perth was that, as a modern Western society, H. Pylori was already in decline by 1981, so that rather than 80% of persons having the CLO, bacteria were only present in 30?50%. Thus, in any biopsy collection taken that year, Robin could see both infected specimens with inflammation (gastritis) and uninfected specimens which hardly ever had gastritis i.e. a "control group". A further advantage I did have in 1981 was the new connection we had from the medical library to the National Library of Medicine at the NIH (Medline). Perhaps because of my interest in computer programming, this resource appealed to me and enabled me to enlist the librarians at Royal Perth Hospital to extensively search the past and current literature on gastric bacteria.
By the end of that first afternoon with Robin I was very interested. Over the next six months I followed the literature from book chapters, to their references, to deeper references, to material in library archives. I found that spiral gastric bacteria had been reported again and again but passed over. I could see an interesting paper being produced, perhaps in an obscure microbiological journal, but had no idea at the time of what we were really about to discover.
At the end of 1981, my gastroenterology term had almost finished and my term allocations for 1982 had been chosen. In the midst of all this time consuming and interesting research work I was still a physician in training. I was fitting in the research around education and patient commitments. In the first 6 months of 1982, I was to be a haematology registrar looking after the bone marrow transplant patients. In the second 6 months I was to be the physician at Port Hedland Hospital, a rotation to a point 2,000 kilometres north of Perth which attracted "hardship bonus", i.e. $5,000 extra over 6 months. By then, I was very excited about the spiral bacteria. I had developed a degree of confidence in our methodology, and believed that we could safely carry out a study on 100 or so patients. I was able to keep the work going, continuing the research by fitting it around my other duties.
In November 1981, Adrienne had delivered our fourth child, Jessica. I was beginning a project which would occupy every minute of my spare time for the next 6 months. Adrienne was on maternity leave and was full time at home. It meant I could leave much of the parenting to her. We never did find the time to complete our home renovations and at the last minute in 1986 took out an extra home loan to pay someone to finish it for us. We had to have it in a rentable condition while we were in the USA.
I was fortunate to have a partner who was as enthusiastic about the work as I was. She also enjoys a challenge and shares my sense of adventure. Adrienne's background in Psychology and experimental research was invaluable and she was always around to discuss the design of studies and the results of various other research works I had found. Over the years we took lots of chances. I took jobs on inadequate pay for many years. As my contemporaries were making their careers and achieving success I seemed to be falling further behind. I always had Adrienne's full support. When she urged caution or vetoed some of my excesses, I knew it was time to really listen and re-evaluate. As time went on she became by my unofficial editor. All my early papers were edited by her and she helped with much of the discussion. Her liberal arts background means she is a more fluent writer than I. Over the past 25 years she has also helped to write and edit most of my books and speeches. All of the talks and speeches given in Stockholm were written with her substantial help.
My hobby of electronics was also an important aid in my research. In the evenings during 1981, I continued with my hobby of computing and electronics, so that by the end of that year I had completed the construction of a home computer capable of word processing. I was able to type grant proposals, consent forms and protocols. I was always on the leading edge of technology and my communication with overseas researchers was efficient because of that. It also meant I was able to access information not readily available. By 1981 I could function better as a single unfunded scientist than many units with multiple support staff.
The family moved to Port Hedland in July 1982 and I took all my references and textbooks with me. It was an important period. I had time to do an extensive literature search by correspondence and also had time to digest the results of our study and write it up for presentation. It was a great time for the family too. Winter in Port Hedland was beautiful, every day sunny with a temperature in the 80's. We had a bit of extra money and we spent many weekends travelling in remote communities and camping with the kids under the stars.
In October 1982, I presented the preliminary findings from our study to the local College of Physicians meeting, where it received a mixed response. I found that my contract at Royal Perth would not be renewed the following year. I had successfully completed my training as a physician and now wanted to work in gastroenterology or microbiology to continue the work. These jobs at Royal Perth were not available.
Fortune stepped in when I was approached by Drs. Norm Marinovich and Ian Hislop at Fremantle Hospital who suggested they would find me a senior registrar position and fund me to continue. Fremantle is the third and smallest of the teaching hospitals in Perth and has a tradition of openness and experimentation. In the next two years at Fremantle I had an enthusiastic group of people working with me. Dr Ian Hislop, Norm Marinovich, Harvey Turner, David McGechie, Ross Glancy, Neil Noakes, Graeme Francis, Peter Rogers, Neil Stingemore, as well as great support from the Medical Superintendent, Peter Smith. The only downside of the appointment was that I was forced to halt my collaboration with Robin Warren. Robin did not have an appointment at Fremantle so the pathologist there, Ross Glancy, joined the team.
They were happy and very productive years. I was able to confirm very quickly that our observations of the bacteria at Royal Perth Hospital also applied in other parts of the city, the majority of peptic ulcer patients having the organism. I was still officially unfunded. The hospital was picking up all the costs of my work. It was at Fremantle in those two years that the first effective treatments were devised. I solved the conundrum of why bismuth has been such an effective stomach treatment for the past 200 years. I did my famous self experimentation and the early urease tests were developed.
A great piece of luck in early 1983 was finding Dr Martin Skirrow in the UK. I got his phone number from David McGechie. Skirrow arranged for the first presentation at the European Campylobacter Meeting in September 1983. Harvey Turner arranged a travel grant to take me to Brussels and the Gist Brocades Company, helped so that I could extend the trip, visit Martin in the UK and Guido Tytgat's group in Amsterdam.
In September 1983, I visited Martin Skirrow in Worcester England, and attended an endoscopy session at the Worcester Infirmary. Martin's registrar, Cliodna McNulty, was able to successfully isolate the organism 3 days later, showing that the spiral bug was not merely an Australian phenomenon but was present in ulcer patients in the UK as well. Martin Skirrow in Britain and Adrian Lee in Sydney were enormously encouraging, helping me with the microbiology in those early years.
In 1984 therefore, there were several groups around the world obtaining results which paralleled those of our group in Perth. In Australia, Adrian Lee in Sydney with Stuart Hazel and Hazel Mitchell also Nick Talley, John Lambert and Tom Borody were early researchers who made significant advances in the H. Pylori work. After the Brussels meeting, a core of researchers in Europe immediately picked up the research and much of the most important work on HP has been done by that group: my old friends, Mario Quina in Portugal, Tony Axon and Ashley Price in the UK, Francis Megraud in France, Peter Malfertheiner in Germany, Manuel Lopez Brea and Jose Pajares Garcia in Spain, Penti Sipponen in Finland, Dino Vaira and Giovanni Gasparini in Italy, Colm O'Morain in Ireland, Leif Andersen in Denmark, Alexander Hirschl in Austria, Guido Tytgat, Ernst Kuipers and Erik Rauws in The Netherlands, Michel Deltenre in Belgium, Pierre Michetti in Switzerland, Torkel Wadstrom and Lars Engstrand in Sweden. We became a closely knit group. The European group grew out of the campylobacter group I had met in Brussels in 1983 and today I count the members of that group amongst my closest friends. We have shared a remarkable story together.
In the USA David Graham, Pete Peterson and Martin Blazer began as critics. They set out to disprove the hypothesis but quickly became leaders in the field of HP research in the USA. With Tadetaka (Tachi) Yamada, although he was not directly involved in the HP research, they played an important role in moving various bodies such as the NIH towards action and acceptance of HP as an ulcer cause. In Asia, Takashi Shimoyama, Ken Kimura, Susumu Okabe, Yoshihiro Fukuda, Toshio Fujioka, Bow Ho, and K.L. Goh, were doctors who I was in contact with through the 1980s. They were developing their own HP research and supporting mine. In Asia, the H. Pylori research was taken up very quickly and I made my first visit to Japan in 1985 to present my work. There are too many others to list here. Needless to say, reports that I was alone in the promotion of HP as a pathogen are somewhat exaggerated.
But 1984 was a difficult year. I was unsuccessfully attempting to infect an animal model. There was interest and support from a few but most of my work was rejected for publication and even accepted papers were significantly delayed. I was met with constant criticism that my conclusions were premature and not well supported. When the work was presented, my results were disputed and disbelieved, not on the basis of science but because they simply could not be true. It was often said that no one was able to replicate my results. This was untrue but became part of the folklore of the period. I was told that the bacteria were either contaminants or harmless commensals.
At the same time I was successfully experimentally treating patients who had suffered with life threatening ulcer disease for years. Some of my patients had postponed surgery which became unnecessary after a simple 2 week course of antibiotics and bismuth. I had developed my hypothesis that these bacteria were the cause of peptic ulcers and a significant risk for stomach cancer. If I was right, then treatment for ulcer disease would be revolutionized. It would be simple, cheap and it would be a cure. It seemed to me that for the sake of patients this research had to be fast tracked. The sense of urgency and frustration with the medical community was partly due to my disposition and age. However, the primary reason was a practical one. I was driven to get this theory proven quickly to provide curative treatment for the millions of people suffering with ulcers around the world.
Becoming increasingly frustrated with the negative response to my work I realized I had to have an animal model and decided to use myself. Much has been written about the episode and I certainly had no idea it would become as important as it has. I didn't actually expect to become as ill as I did. I didn't discuss it with the ethics committee at the hospital. More significantly, I didn't discuss it in detail with Adrienne. She was already convinced about the risk of these bacteria and I knew I would never get her approval. This was one of those occasions when it would be easier to get forgiveness than permission. I was taken by surprise by the severity of the infection. When I came home with my biopsy results showing colonization and classic histological damage to my stomach, Adrienne suggested it was time to treat myself. I had a successful infection, I had proved my point.
At the end of 1984 I was funded by the Australian Medical Research Council to conduct a prospective double blind trial to see if antibiotics could cure duodenal ulcers. It was conditional on getting a large number of patients into the study so I decided to move back to Royal Perth Hospital where the patient load is far higher. It meant I would be leaving my Fremantle colleagues and it was with some reluctance that I moved. When I returned to Australia in 1996, I was asked to be Patron of the Fremantle Hospital Research Foundation and I take great pride in having that position. At Royal Perth I was again working with Robin, John Armstrong, Len Matz, John Pearman, Stewart Goodwin, Doug Annear and Helen Royce.
Even though I was not officially collaborating with Robin when I was working at Fremantle Hospital in 1983?84, we still met to discuss the papers we were writing for the Lancet and would meet for dinner with our wives. We had one of these dinners only a few weeks after my self experimentation experiment. I was enthusiastic about the results and the severity of my illness. It was also the first confirmation of infection with documented results. I was eager to share the news with Rob and he was equally excited about it. Early the next morning he had a call from a journalist in the USA at 5 am who had his timing totally off. No one is ever able to figure out what time it is in Perth. When asked the usual question about "How do you know it's a pathogen and not a harmless commensal?" Rob blabbed the results of my still unreleased work with "I know because Barry Marshall has just infected himself and damn near died"; a slight exaggeration, but it made for good copy. What he didn't know was that the journalist he was speaking to was from the "Star" newspaper, a tabloid that often features with stories about alien babies being adopted by Nancy Reagan. This was right up their alley. The next day the story appeared, "Guinea-pig doctor discovers new cure for ulcers ... and the cause."
This became one of the serendipitous, life changing events in my life and I have Rob's temper to thank for it. Firstly, I was contacted by a continuous line of patients in the USA who read the story and were desperate for treatment. I was able to help. I was treating patients by proxy in the USA as early as 1984.
Ten years later this became important in a dispute with another doctor who claimed to be the first. I still had the records from some of these patients and was able to get in touch with them to prove my claim to be first.
The second result was that it was read by Mike Manhart, a microbiologist working for Proctor and Gamble in the USA. He tracked down my published letters and realized the economic potential for P & G who made a bismuth drug and set up a business relationship. P & G later patented much of my work and also helped me with patents on my diagnostics. There was little money in any of this for the first 10 years but after 1995 it became a significant income for us. P & G funded a fellowship for me in the USA to replicate and push the research there. We departed Australia, believing that it shouldn't take more than 2?3 years to convince the world that antibiotics would cure most gastric diseases.
It also brought Bruce and Claudette McCarty into my life. Bruce was head of Health and Personal Care products at P & G and became an important mentor. He arranged support funding to set up a lab at University of Virginia. Bruce became a good friend and a keen advocate for H. Pylori research in the USA. He taught me a lot about how business works best in a trusting and responsible way to benefit everyone. It also seemed to me that he and Claudette spent lots of time in their life just having fun with family and friends. Tragically, Bruce died in 2004. It was a great sadness for me and Adrienne that he and Claudette were not there in Sweden to see me receive the Prize. He always believed in me and his faith in the work and great enthusiasm never failed.
The ten years spent at University of Virginia, were a chance to extend my research, particularly in the area of treatment and diagnostics. I became an advocate for treatment though many called me a zealot. They were often hard years for the family particularly the first few years when we were on a financial shoestring. They were rewarding as well. I had continuous stream of letters from patients who had been treated and freed from a lifetime of pain and disruption. I worked with a great team at UVA. Richard McCallum was head of Gastroenterology and Dick Guerrant in Infectious Diseases. McCallum gave me free rein and sponsored my academic rise in the USA. I also did great collaborative work with Dick over the years. David Peura, a long-time H. Pylori enthusiast from the US Army, moved to UVA in 1992. My team included nurse Susie Hoffman, nuclear technician Michael Plankey, post-doc Matthew Coombs, data manager Linda Mosen, programmer Sherry Boyd, assistant Nancy Noblette and many others. We were regarded as being outside the mainstream but were a great enthusiastic group and became lifelong friends.
I also met Bill and Sandy Fry in 1987. Bill owned a company Tri-Med along with Phil Patterson and Kevin Dye. Bill Fry bankrolled a USA study for my CLOtest diagnostic and launched it in the USA. Later he was to also pick up the C14-Urea Breath Test and shepherded it through the FDA at a cost of several million dollars. I count Bill amongst my closest friends, a brilliant salesman and an example of a team leader. No matter how black things looked, Bill could always find a silver lining for us even though I am certain he was secretly concerned about our chances of success. Bill's credo which he lives by is that "Good things happen to good people". We have done a lot of good stuff together and had many great times.
Patients often wanted to make a donation to the work so I set up a foundation to use the money for patient and doctor education about the research. On one occasion there had been a story about the cure in the Sunday papers across the USA. In the following weeks we received 30,000 letters all with donations of a dollar or two to pay for postage and photocopying of information. We had to hire in students to handle it all.
Over the years the journalists who covered the story helped significantly in educating the public to ask for and later demand the new treatments from unwilling doctors. Suzanne Chazin in the Readers Digest, Terry Monmany in the New Yorker, Mark Ragg in the Bulletin and Larry Altman in the New York Times all wrote detailed reviews of the work that became important sources of information. The BBC show Ulcer Wars produced by Michael Mosley is still shown around the world.
The tide of acceptance began to turn in the early 1990s and by 1992 I could go to meetings and receive as much praise as criticism. 1994 was a watershed year for us. In February 1994 the NIH held a consensus meeting in Washington DC which ended after 2 days with the statement to the effect that the key to treatment of duodenal and gastric ulcer was detection and eradication of Helicobacter pylori.
I had been waiting for ten years for this day and I felt a combination of relief and satisfaction that I had achieved what I set out to do. Years before, I had developed the hypothesis, tested it, proved it and now it had reached official acceptance.
The next year proved to be harder. I began to receive awards and recognition. At the hospital, I was still carrying a full load of patient care and research. However, I was increasingly dissatisfied. Much of my time was being spent attending meetings and travelling. I think the pressure of the previous 10 years was beginning to show. Because I had been so involved in the exponential rise of Helicobacter, I had been unable to update my training in new areas of molecular biology which by then were coming to represent a large proportion of the Helicobacter publications.
In typical fashion Adrienne took over the decision-making and at the end of 1994, I took a year of leave from the university. We cashed in my superannuation and decided to live on that for a year to figure out what would be next in our lives. In that year I still travelled and lectured but my primary work was with Tri-Med, getting the breath test through the FDA regulatory process. I am proud of my diagnostics tests, the CLOtest and PYtest. They are often my forgotten children, eclipsed by my work on treatment. Although less glamorous than high impact papers, reliable cheap and available diagnostics are just as important in medicine as treatments. They don't always get the same recognition. After 1994 my business interests became more important. The diagnostics were starting to earn an income. In Australia, close friend Rod Blechynden took on the role of managing it for me. Rod and Adrienne take care of the business aspects of my work. Their work frees me to focus on my research.
Once I had completed that project, Adrienne decided it was time for us all to go home. I was still unsure but it has turned out to be the best decision for me and the family. We moved back to Perth in 1996. I was awarded the McFarlane Burnet Fellowship which funded my lab at the University of WA for a 5 year period. In 1998, Tri-Med USA bought the manufacturing rights to CLOtest. I was keen to keep the manufacturing in Western Australia. It has been a long term ambition of mine to develop industry here in Perth. I set up a new manufacturing facility here but, sadly, it didn't last. Tri-Med in the US was later sold and the new owners moved all the manufacturing back to the USA. Tri-Med in Perth continues in a small way doing R&D and selling medical products.
Before finishing I want to acknowledge all those scientists who failed to recognize HP. Without them I would have had a very different career. Some of their stories are described in my book "Helicobacter Pioneers". I also want to thank Irvin Modlin for the foreword he wrote for it. He is a great guy and was able to say things about the joy of scientific research that I never could.
One of the truly great things about winning the Nobel Prize in 2005 was that I was living and working back home. I got to share it and celebrate with those who had been involved in the initial work at Royal Perth and Fremantle Hospital.
I continue to live in Perth Western Australia. I have an appointment at The University of Western Australia and still see patients at the gastroenterology department at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital. My other interests continue. I take an active role in Tri-Med and in 2005 began a new project with vaccine company Ondek.
There were many occasions when luck played a role in my life; meeting with Robin, the first culture of the bacteria and chance meetings with many people who helped me and collaborated with me. I look back and am grateful to the many friends and family who helped me along the way, most importantly, my wife Adrienne, and my children, their partners and my grandchildren.
From Les Prix Nobel. The Nobel Prizes 2005, Editor Karl Grandin, [Nobel Foundation], Stockholm, 2006
This autobiography/biography was written at the time of the award and later published in the book series Les Prix Nobel/Nobel Lectures. The information is sometimes updated with an addendum submitted by the Laureate.
I was born on the 11th of June 1937, in North Adelaide, South Australia, the first child of middle-class parents. I am a fifth generation South Australian. South Australia is a charming state, a little overfull of the fact that, along with Victoria, it was settled by free settlers from England, who took part in a land investment program. There were no convicts. Elsewhere in Australia, the major cities began as prisons for Britain's unwanted, when America became closed to them after the War of Independence. The original settlers arrived in 1836-7 and the beautiful city of Adelaide was chosen as the main settlement. It was imaginatively designed, with the main city square mile crossed by broad streets and surrounded by parkland. Adelaide rapidly expanded during the Victorian era, and by the end of the 19th century it was a bustling city of about 100,000 people.
The Warrens migrated from Aberdeen in 1840. Their eldest son, my great grandfather John Campbell Warren, was a member of the local government, Captain of the Light Cavalry, and patriarch of a family of 16 children. He owned a large estate in the Adelaide Hills. At the turn of the century, he sent his sons to outback South Australia (Anna Creek) and Western Australia (Katanning) to open up huge areas for cattle and wheat. My father, Roger Warren, studied viticulture and became one of Australia's leading winemakers.
My mother's ancestors migrated from England to Adelaide with the first settlers in 1836-7. My grandfather, Sydney Verco, belonged to a dynasty of doctors. The Verco family still make up many of Adelaide's doctors. He died young, leaving my grandmother, Alice, with no income and four children to feed and educate. Somehow with the help of the extended family, she managed to send all the children to private schools. She scratched and saved to get enough money to send her son, Luke, through medical school. My mother, Helen, had desperately wanted to be a doctor, but could not be similarly financially supported. She eventually trained as a nurse instead. I cannot remember my mother ever pressuring me to study medicine, but somehow this always seemed to be my aim. We were all very proud of my uncle Luke Verco, who was a captain in the Army Medical Corps during the Second World War. I still have clear memories of him in his uniform. After the war, he became a country general practitioner, and my favourite uncle.
My parents married during the depression. Life was not easy. When I was born, we lived at the seaside suburb of Brighton, which I only remember from photographs taken by my father. In 1939, we moved to my grandmother's old home in the southern suburb of Unley. My earliest memories were of riding my little tricycle to a local private school, which would have roughly coincided with Japan's entry into World War II. For me, the war was rather unreal. We knew it was something to do with the Japanese up north, who were bombing Northern Australia. I recall attending an exhibition of Japanese submarines caught in Sydney Harbour. There were books about our brave soldiers fighting Germans in North Africa. For children in quiet little Adelaide these were all faraway events, almost an adventure story.
Other things that we saw, without really understanding them, were the almost total absence of cars, and the impossibility of getting electrical goods for the home. One car on our street used a 'gas producer', which burnt coke and produced carbon monoxide to fuel the motor. We used to watch these cars, with rusty black burners attached to the back, in some wonderment. A car near our home had a gas bag on top of the roof, as big as the car itself, filled with coal gas. Petrol was almost unavailable, but this had little effect on me. Food and clothing were rationed, but my mother seemed to be able to keep the family well fed and clothed, even if our idea of luxury was 'bread and dripping', made with fat and meat juices from the roasting dish, smeared on bread. When the war ended, we were able to buy a refrigerator. Previously, food was kept cool in an ice chest.
During and after the war, I attended the local public primary school, Westbourne Park School. Education in those days was much more by rote than today, particularly learning how to spell columns of words and memorize multiplication tables. I suspect the balance now has tilted too far the other way. With the onset of calculators and then computers, arithmetic was no longer done in the head, although I never regret the ability. Rote learning was actually only a small part of our education - certainly not all of it, as the media often seems to suggest today. My children seemed to be expected to pick up spelling as they went along, reading and studying literature, but with the onset of increasing home entertainment they seem to read less than we did. We used to listen to the radio, and I made myself a crystal radio set, which enabled me to hear the radio in bed. My mother made sure that I could get any books I wanted, and I was an avid reader of all the usual boy's adventure stories, both new and classic. I also used to read books about science.
As I grew older, I obtained my first bicycle, which I used to ride to school and visit my friends. In those days, the Adelaide suburbs were remarkably safe. You hardly needed to lock the house to go out (although mother always did). There seemed to be no worry about children being attacked. There were still very few cars on the roads, and the idea that it was unsafe for children to ride alone was a generation away. I also used to amuse myself riding in the Adelaide foothills, sometimes picking wild blackberries (which my mother made into beautiful jam) or catching occasional 'yabbies' (the local wild freshwater lobsters). I watched my father take family photographs with his old Voitlander camera, and I finally persuaded him to buy me a Kodak box camera for my 10th birthday. I soon obtained developing dishes and printing paper, and my lifelong hobby of photography was definitely started.
I was never good at sports at school, although I enjoyed a game of cricket (played at a pretty low level), but I did become more adventurous with my bicycle and camera, touring around the Adelaide Hills and taking landscape photographs. I was a bit of a loner, riding on my own and doing whatever I wanted, not having to worry about how fast or slow companions were. This did somewhat hinder my social skills, but no doubt made my eventual profession in pathology much easier.
As I entered my teenage years, I began my secondary education. This was at the oldest school in Adelaide, St Peter's College, the same school Lord Florey attended. At least two previous generations of Warrens went there. I found my father's name carved into a desk and dated 1917. Life there was quite different from the local primary school. It was much more competitive. The best students were in the top level, with four levels in each grade (year). They had an arrangement similar to English league football, with the bottom students in each term exams being relegated to the class below. This happened to me once, to my extreme annoyance, and I vowed to return to level one and stay there. Most students who later attended university were in the top class. The curriculum there included English literature, two foreign languages (usually Latin and French), mathematics (my favourite subject), physics and chemistry. All were required for matriculation to the science oriented university schools such as medicine or engineering.
Sport was an important part of the school curriculum. Unfortunately, I was never much good at it, and did not really enjoy it. However, I continued my weekend cycling and photography. I attended the school's army cadet unit, where I learned army skills and, presumably, instant obedience. I particularly enjoyed the rifle shooting. Target shooting, which I learnt in the school cadets, became the primary sporting activity of my adult life.
I matriculated from the school in 1954, gaining a Commonwealth scholarship. These scholarships were the initial attempt by the Commonwealth government to provide free tertiary education for the masses. I still think it was an excellent idea. There were just about enough scholarships to cover anyone who wanted to enter the major University schools, such as medicine or engineering, so most people attending the University were provided with free education. The situation is much more complex now, with the government paying the fees, but requiring them to be repaid by the students when they start earning money.
About this time I had my first experience of girls. I only had brothers, and somehow my mother did not count. Girls had always been very distant and strange people, especially the snooty-looking ones who walked past our front gate on the way to the local catholic convent school. (I married a catholic girl from a different catholic school, who thoroughly agreed with my description above!) Just before matriculation, the students were expected to attend dancing classes and then invite girls to the annual school ball. At first this seemed a strange affair, trying to learn ballroom dancing with a lot of girls who seemed just as shy as me. However, we soon got the idea, and we began to have a lot of pleasure, with groups of boys and girls developing personal relationships. There was none of the 'going steady' culture, which seems to dominate that period in America, and certainly a generation later with my children. For us, it was all very easygoing and pleasant, nothing serious.
Also, during my matriculation year, an event occurred that was to mark most of my life. One morning, my mother found me unconscious on the back lawn. I recovered without apparent ill-effect, but some time later it recurred. I was soon diagnosed as suffering grand mal epilepsy. I was placed on phenobarbital, and then a variety of other drugs to try and control the seizures, but control remained imperfect. I was unable to obtain a driving licence, a major event for young people at that age. There were apparently numerous comments to my mother at the time from people, both professional, friends and relatives, who should have known better. Many apparently suggested keeping me at home, no university, definitely no medical school, and so on. Thank goodness, none of this filtered through to me at the time; it made life difficult and embarrassing enough as it was at that rather sensitive teenage period. Mother had enough sense to give me a free rein to do what I liked, and none of this was ever mentioned. It was only years later that I came to appreciate just how much my mother had gone through to support my independence and personal maturation. My cycling in the hills continued, never interrupted by epileptic attacks or by admonitions that it was 'too dangerous.' Apparently, mother was worried sick, but she never said a word about it.
I obtained entry to the medical school of the Adelaide University in 1955, and the next stage of my life began. The first year was a wonderful entry to the university environment. Much of the work was a repetition of the final year at school. There was far more freedom. For the first time, we learnt about responsibility; we could work or not, as we liked. The only difference was that at the end of the year, a pass or fail was on the student's own shoulders. Help was always there, if we wanted it, but some of my colleagues revelled in the ability to do nothing. Luckily for me, I was enjoying the work too much to miss it. I particularly enjoyed botany and zoology, new subjects for me. I remember dissecting a frog and setting up its skeleton - my specimen showing a marked absence of any imagination, just bones glued to a piece of cardboard!
Both before and after starting university, I always read widely, including numerous scientific books and medical history books. Astronomy was a particular interest of mine at the time. I remember reading Fred Hoyle's books about the universe. I read the Oxford Junior Encyclopaedia, all 12 volumes. I probably should have spent as much time reading textbooks! Unfortunately, while I found textbooks fascinating to read as my curiosity and interest dictated, when I had to learn them for exams, they tended to lose their charm.
Medicine began in earnest with the preclinical years two and three. I was at the medical school almost full-time. The medical school was set apart from the main university buildings and the direct association with the university during first year was largely lost. Most of our time was spent in the anatomy department dissecting a cadaver or learning bone and joint structure and attachments, then the inner organs and the brain. I have never regretted the chance to learn anatomy (and, in later years, pathology) in such detail, which today's students do not have time for. While I do not remember all the anatomy, it soon comes back with a glance at Gray's textbook.
We also learned physiology, biochemistry, pharmacology, embryology and histology. I illustrated my notes for the latter two subjects with full colour sketches from the practical classes, using purple and pink pencils for haematoxylin and eosin. In those days there was only a very simple range of available drugs and, though we did not realise at the time, pharmacy and pharmacology were very simple in comparison to what the students need to know today.
The next adventure began with the clinical years four, five and six. In those days, the Royal Adelaide Hospital was the only general teaching hospital in South Australia. In both its scattered buildings and in its function, it was like a living museum. Some of the best wards were 'temporary' buildings erected for World War I. One was named Verco Ward, after one of my mother's uncles. Some of the more Victorian wards were like an old English moving picture; a huge barn-like structure, with beds along each wall and Sister at the high table at one end. Nobody argued with Sister, especially not the students, who were assigned patients to study and follow-up and were treated as the bottom of the social ladder (by everyone but the nurses - who wanted future doctors to marry - and the patients, who generally seemed to appreciate our attention). This three-year term of surgery, medicine and obstetrics and gynaecology, passed very quickly. There always seemed to be something new and interesting around the corner.
After medical school, life became very busy. We were called 'Junior Resident Medical Officers' - the equivalent of today's interns. We actually were residents, living at the hospital residents' quarters. A second government hospital opened, and I obtained a position there. At that stage in life, I was still very much an innocent, with very little it exposure to the outside world of finance and employment. All graduating medical students were given Junior Resident positions. These entailed about 100 to 120 hours per week working, with very little payment (I received £17-10 per week). Nevertheless, I was young and fit, and the constant work was actually very enjoyable. I bought a Leica M3 camera, and started to turn my hobby to professional subjects, photographing interesting clinical lesions. I do not think I have ever worked in a branch of medicine that I did not enjoy.
This period changed my life around again. The new hospital also provided a second obstetrics facility for the medical school. The obstetrics students lived in the resident's quarters. Some of the students were young women. Their dormitory was near mine. We soon became good friends, and then I found myself very attached to one Winifred Williams. In fact, before we knew what had happened, I was spending all my spare time at her home. I remember one magic day, we wandered through the Botanic Gardens together, and it started to rain. Next thing we were arm in arm in the glasshouse, but we did not notice the flowers. Soon we were engaged and, a year later, married. For me, that was the biggest and best decision of my life, and so easy to do at the time.
I remained a little innocent about the big bad world outside. I did not realise how easy it was for us, with automatic positions provided - even if it was almost slave labour. Law students for instance, had to find clerking positions with private firms to complete their Articles of Clerkship, before they could practice at all. Other students had to find employment for themselves. I learned a valuable lesson at the end of my resident year. I assumed it was good manners to only apply for the second year position that I wanted, registrar in psychiatry. I did not get the post and found myself, to my surprise, unemployed. Luckily there were still a few positions available, and the one which appealed to me most was Registrar in Clinical Pathology at the Institute of Medical and Veterinary Science, attached to the Royal Adelaide Hospital.
In practice, 'Clinical Pathology' meant mainly laboratory haematology, which I thoroughly enjoyed. We had a good deal of freedom and responsibility. Although the usual work entailed reporting on blood smears and bone marrow, we had a wide range of other tasks, including examining faeces for parasites, examining urine and testing skin and nails for fungus. I put my drawing skills to work again, with detailed sketches of the various ova, amoebae and other organisms we saw. It really was an excellent all-round position to give one an overall feeling for pathology.
By the end of that year, Win graduated MB BS, and we had our first baby on the way. My pay was just about double what I earned in the intern year and, in pathology, my time of work was largely during the day. Life was settling into an enjoyable routine, if less adventurous. I had learnt about employment by them, and I applied for every position advertised at the end of the year. My first choice was Temporary Lecturer in Pathology at the Adelaide University, and I obtained the position. The work there consisted largely of morbid anatomy and histopathology, under the guidance of Professor Jim Robertson, which completed my overview of pathology and convinced me to go for membership of the (then) new College of Pathologists of Australia. Our baby boy, John, was born and we thought he was so wonderful, we had to start another. Of course, the baby soon started to crawl around, still wonderful, but a constant handful. By the time we realised our mistake, it was too late and our second baby was on the way. Win was still trying to fit in her intern year (it took her four years in bits and pieces to finish).
Again I applied for every position possible, both in Australia and overseas. As it turned out, I was offered the position of Clinical Pathology Registrar at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. We moved to Melbourne, for one of the happiest periods of our lives. The pathology community in Melbourne was much bigger and more active than in Adelaide, and Sydney was only a short distance up the coast. Everything seemed to be at our fingertips. The work was similar to that at the Medical and Veterinary Institute two years before. A couple of years of clinical pathology under the tutelage of Dr David Cowling and Dr Bertha Ungar enabled me to pass the college exams in haematology and microbiology.
After this, I became Registrar in Pathology, for training in morbid anatomy and histopathology. All hospital deaths received a post-mortem examination, for which we were responsible each morning. After morning tea, we examined the day's biopsy slides and presented them in a Grand Round, using a primitive old slide projector that was lit with two arcing rods of carbon. It really was quite an entertaining and educational show, with most of the surgeons present. Dr Doug Hicks, the head of department, would bark out questions to the resident and comments or answers to other questions. We had to work hard and fast, but Dr Hicks was an excellent teacher, and everybody learned from the show.
After four years in Melbourne, I finished my College membership and was a fully-fledged pathologist. Our second son, David, was born during our first year in Melbourne. Win somehow managed to fit in her intern year between babies. This was complicated by the unexpected arrival of twin sons, Patrick and Andrew, two years later. We had four sons under 31/2 years old! After this we decided that the Catholic Church methods of contraception needed assistance! Win was now able to practice, if only part time. This was very difficult, in an era when 'women stayed home'. Part-time positions required a lot of talking, with promises to leave if she was not suitable (she was never asked to leave).
I was trying to obtain a position as pathologist at Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea, which was then in the process of obtaining independence from Australia. I thought I could obtain experience with some of the more exotic and unusual diseases. However, this had to be done through the Department of Foreign Affairs, and government red tape was extraordinarily slow. I was working in my room one afternoon, when a thickset man with a strong Germanic accent walked in and said, "You are working with me next year." and walked out. There was no chance for explanation or argument. I discovered he was Professor Rolf ten Seldam, the Professor of Pathology at the University of Western Australia and the Royal Perth Hospital. He was apparently a man no one argued with, or at least not twice. So I gave the Department of Foreign Affairs one day to settle the position in Papua and when they failed to reply, I accepted the position in Perth, Western Australia.
We arrived in Perth in January 1968. In Melbourne, we had no trouble renting a flat for the family. In Perth, there was nothing to rent, especially with four children. We had little money and no experience of buying property. Luckily, our first real estate agent was a good choice. He found us a good house to buy and a rental property in the interim. What I had not realised was that he told the owners that I was 'the new doctor at the Royal Perth' - quite true, but the owner thought he meant the new medical superintendent, who had received a good deal of newspaper publicity, and not just the junior pathologist! Life quickly settled down.
Pathology at the Royal Perth Hospital was totally different from Melbourne. We went along at a much more leisurely pace, but with a much more flexible timetable. We did less work, but it seemed to take longer to do it. Perth was a small and isolated community. It has doubled in size over the last 30 years, with a population now of over one million. These days, most pathology training in Australia is in a single specialty. In Perth, this had always been the case, perhaps because of a lack of positions for training, other than haematology or morbid anatomy. Trainees were encouraged to keep the same position. In contrast, the eastern states, with most of Australia's population in one quarter of the continent, provided numerous training positions in all branches of pathology. General training was considered to be the norm, to give a broad base in all branches of pathology, before specialising in one area, as I did. I think this helped me later when dealing with Helicobacter, but it made me something of an oddity to my colleagues in Perth, who had all specialised in their particular branch of pathology from the start, giving them an in-depth knowledge on a narrow base.
In 1970, our last child, Rebecca, was born, our first daughter. Since Win only had sisters and I only had brothers, our knowledge of the difference between boys and girls was strangely superficial. Somewhat to our surprise, with no pushing from us, our daughter was quite different from the boys. Where they enjoyed running around in the dirt and pulling things to pieces, she would sit inside playing with dolls. After this, Win managed to get more work, and became quite an experienced general practitioner. She decided to specialise in psychiatry, and was accepted into the college training scheme, which took most of her time into the early 1980s.
During the 1970s, I wrote up a few interesting cases and developed an interest in the new gastric biopsies that were becoming frequent. I also attempted to develop improved bacterial stains for use with histological sections, as I describe more completely in my Nobel lecture. Then, in 1979, on my 42nd birthday, I noticed bacteria growing on the surface of a gastric biopsy. From then on, my spare time was largely centred on the study of these bacteria. Over the next two years, I collected numerous examples and showed that they were usually related to chronic gastritis, usually with the active change described by Richard Whitehead in 1972. I attempted, with some difficulty, to obtain a negative control series, by collecting cases reported as normal gastric biopsies. This was more difficult than I expected, because all gastric biopsies were coded the same, wherever they came from in the stomach. Almost all so-called normal biopsies were from the corpus. Normal biopsies from the gastric antrum were very rare, but I eventually found 20 examples, and none showed the bacteria. With this material available, I began to prepare a paper for publication.
In 1981, I met Barry Marshall, and we agreed to undertake a more complete clinico-pathological study. He could cover the clinical aspects and provide improved biopsies, specimens for culture, clinical history and endoscopy findings. This resulted in our papers of 1983 and 1984, linking the infection to duodenal ulcer and culturing a new organism. My letter to the Lancet in 1983 was a summary of the paper that I was preparing when I first met Barry Marshall. After this Barry and I continued our association, but he moved to the Fremantle Hospital. I was involved with the pathology related to several studies: Professor Goodwin, improving the accuracy of culture to diagnose the infection; Dr Ivor Surveyor, producing the breath test for diagnosis; and doctors Marshall and Morris, attempting to fulfil Koch's postulates to demonstrate that the bacteria was a pathogen.
Winifred, who was much more literate than me, used to read our papers. She was able to point out clichés or excessive jargon, and suggest ways of making the work more widely readable. Before I met Barry, Win was the only person to accept my work and encourage me. Considering that much of this work was done after hours or at home, thereby stealing her husband, she had every right to be annoyed. Particularly as she was a doctor, and knew the standard teaching that nothing grows in the stomach, and therefore that I was trying to prove the 'impossible.' As a psychiatrist, she could have suggested I was mad. But she stood beside me and helped me when no one else would.
My last major work was the pathology for a large study by Barry Marshall et al. to show the effect of eradicating the bacteria on the relapse rate of duodenal ulcer. The study extended over seven years. It clearly showed that, after successful treatment of the infection, recurrence of peptic ulcer was rare; otherwise, it was usual. For me, the study provided a wealth of material to study the associated pathology. It soon became clear that active gastritis was very closely related to the infection. Treatment of the infection produced a very rapid and complete resolution of the active changes in the surface epithelium. Other changes, including lymphoid infiltration of the stroma and some epithelial changes, disappeared more slowly or not at all. The active changes varied considerably. The classic severe changes described by Whitehead were present in about 10 to 20% of cases. At the other end of the spectrum, some biopsies showed only occasional single intraepithelial polymorphs. These epithelial changes were almost absolutely related to the infection. With experience, I found the same features in the mucosa from the corpus, usually much more mild, superficial and focal than the antrum. Finally, the duodenal ulcers seemed to be distal pyloric ulcers rather than true duodenal ulcers. They appeared to arise in the distal pyloric mucosa, or perhaps the gastroduodenal junction.
By 1990, our findings began to be recognised by the medical community. We started to receive increasing numbers of honours and requests for attendances at meetings and lectures. It had been an interesting decade. After our initial publications in 1983-84, a wealth of further studies appeared, most of them apparently just repeating our work, with similar results. No one proved we were wrong. Yet in spite of this, no one but patients and local general practitioners appeared to believe our findings. Many patients demanded treatment, and some GPs were very keen to treat them. Otherwise, it seemed that only our wives stood beside us.
In 1996, I was invited to Japan for a lecture tour. The following year, a three-month tour of Germany and adjacent countries was arranged by Manfred Stolte and Hansjörg Meyer. This provided us with some real recognition for our work, and it seemed the fighting was over. The tour was a wonderful working holiday for Win and me. However, soon after our return, Win experienced difficulty eating, and investigation showed duodenal obstruction due to an inoperable pancreatic carcinoma. Win gradually deteriorated and died four months later. After spending this time caring for her, I decided the time had come to retire.
At first, I spent most of my time trying to return to my hobby, photography. I intended to print my own pictures, using today's improved digital technology. The early results were interesting, although more complicated than I had expected. Digital pictures only provide a narrow band of information. Only 256 tones are available for each colour. Outside this range is either total black or total white, with no information. This is quite unlike photographic film, which shows a flattening of the curve at each end of the tonal range, with an almost continuous variation still present in light and dark areas. I had to put this project aside to try and digitise all my old publications, microphotographs and other works, since I was receiving many requests for them. Now I have to put that aside, because the Nobel Prize has brought a stream of requests for my presence at meetings and presentations.
|Honours, Awards, Prizes for Medicine|
|Sixth International Workshop Campylobacter, Helicobacter and related
Guest of honour.
|Warren Alpert Foundation Prize 1994,
Harvard Medical School, jointly with Dr. B. J. Marshall, "for research that has led to improved understanding and treatment of a specific disease: identifying Helicobacter pylori as a cause of peptic ulceration."
|Australian Medical Association - Western Australian Branch: 1995 Award.|
|Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia: Distinguished Fellows
"for Distinguished Service to the Science and Practice of Pathology."
|The First Western Pacific Helicobacter Congress, February 1996: Inaugural
"In recognition of his contribution to the advancement of medical science through the co-discovery of the gastric pathogen Helicobacter pylori."
|The medal of the University of Hiroshima, September 1996.|
|The University of Adelaide Alumni Association: Distinguished Alumni
Award, 24 October 1996,
"in recognition of your contribution to the healing of peptic ulcers, to the relief of human suffering and to huge world wide economic savings."
|The Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Award 1997,
Paul Ehrlich Foundation, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt am Main, Germany, jointly with Dr. B. J. Marshall, "for your discovery of Helicobacter pylori as cause for peptic ulcer."
|Guest speaker at the Centenary Meeting of the German Society of Pathology, Berlin, May 1997.|
|Honorary degree of Doctor of Medicine, University of Western Australia September 1997.|
|Guest speaker at the World Helicobacter meeting, Lisbon 1997.|
|Faulding Florey medal, 1998,
centenary of the birth of Lord Florey.
|Australian Institute of Political Science, Cavalcade of Australian
Scientists of the 20th Century,
for "excellence in intellectual endeavour and contribution to international scientific research." Presented at the Tall Poppy Dinner, Melbourne, May 18, 2000.
|Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine for 2005,
for "the discovery of the bacterium Helicobacter pylori and its role in gastritis and peptic ulcer disease."
From Les Prix Nobel. The Nobel Prizes 2005, Editor Karl Grandin, [Nobel Foundation], Stockholm, 2006
This autobiography/biography was written at the time of the award and later published in the book series Les Prix Nobel/Nobel Lectures. The information is sometimes updated with an addendum submitted by the Laureate.
Western Australia can proudly claim to be home to the breakthrough research that won the 2005 Noble Prize in Physiology and Medicine.
The Marshall and Warren story is now legend as generations of budding scientists learn how two Australians, one a 31 year old doctor and the other a 42 year old pathologist, with very little funding or support for their ideas, overcame medical dogma, personal ridicule and pharmaceutical conglomerates to break through the barriers and revolutionize the diagnosis and treatment of a disease that affects 50% of the world’s population.
Their story has all the elements of inspiration, struggle, intrigue, serendipity, leadership, perseverance, determination and ultimately, success. It is also very much a Western Australian story. For this and many other reasons, the State of Western Australia, recognizes the value that Marshall and Warren bring to the state and, in 2006, six months after the announcement of the Nobel Prize, the State created the role of Western Australia Ambassadors for Life Sciences.
The State expects that the Nobel laureates “will use their positions and influence to advise, educate, inform, promote and inspire.” To support the WA Ambassadors for Life Sciences, the state contributes to the funding of an office, The Office of Nobel Laureates, which is located within the Claremont campus of the University of Western Australia.
The Nobel Foundation has a tradition of not advising the recipients of the Nobel Prize until just a couple of hours prior to the release of their names to the eagerly awaiting international media. The result is that the recipients have no time to prepare for the personal shock and exhilaration of being named a Nobel Prize winner and are unprepared for the tsunami of requests for media interviews and invitations that come from around the world.
Marshall and Warren were announced as Nobel Prize winners on Monday 3 October 2005 and within two weeks Marshall approached Mrs Kris Laurie, then CEO of the Leukaemia Foundation of WA, to “manage this mess”. As Kris describes receiving the email from Barry’s wife Adrienne, “I hesitated for at least three seconds before replying that I’d love to, and so by return email Barry sent through the first To Do list. I recall Barry saying that he had 2,000 unread emails in his inbox and my email soon suffered a similar fate.”
The first few years were a wild ride as interest in Barry and Robin remained intense. Apart from the fact that they are both engaging speakers and down to earth characters, their discovery was relevant and important to the health and wellbeing of so many people who had suffered, or seen a relative suffer from stomach ulcers. Their discovery was something people could understand and talk about, which is different to many Nobel Prize discoveries that while obviously hugely important, are often as difficult to pronounce as they are to understand.
The Office of Nobel Laureates (ONL) is now in its 8th year of operation and while interest in Barry and Robin remains very high, the office systems are well established and Kris is supported by Susie Maluish, who is also Robin Warren’s PA, and Jeanette Harrison, the office accountant who works two days a week.
In addition to providing the infrastructure support required by the WA Ambassadors for Life Sciences, ONL is the primary repository of the WA Nobel Laureates’ archives and the staff is actively engaged in the analysis of the social impact (ripple effect) that results from having two Nobel Prize winners in Western Australia.
The funding arrangement from the WA Government is for 10 years and will expire on 30 June 2016. Allowing time for reporting requirements ONL is scheduled to close its doors on 31 August 2016. Please check this website for information about how to contact the Nobel Laureates after the closure of ONL.