Emeritus Professor Jacques Miller AC

Citation for the award of the 1977 Sir William Upjohn Medal

Jacques Miller is Emeritus Professor at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI) and the University of Melbourne. He studied medicine at the University of Sydney and worked as a doctor at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital for a year in the wards and another in the Pathology Department,

A research fellowship took him to London’s Institute of Cancer Research, and it was here that he decided to tackle leukaemia and ‘stumbled across’ his first major breakthrough while working on mice that spontaneously contracted leukaemia at nine months. The disease started in a small organ called the thymus, which in humans is a large gland behind the breastbone in front of the heart.

Jacques Miller removed the thymus from newborn mice. Until then, the thymus was not thought to have a function. But without a thymus, the newborn mice became vulnerable to infection. The thymus plays an important role in developing the immune system and was

the last major organ in the human body to have its function identified as discovered by Professor Miller.

Three years later, Jacques Miller joined WEHI where he remained for thirty years. Although he officially retired in 1996, he is frequently seen at the Institute, contributing to current research projects and generously mentoring researchers.

His numerous national and international awards include the Japan Prize (2018), the Australian Prime Minister’s Prize for Science (2003), the Royal Society of London Copley Medal (2001), the Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize (1974) and the Gairdner Foundation International Award (1966).

He jointly received the 2019 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award with Emory University Professor Max Cooper for ‘discoveries that have launched the course of modern immunology’ though the identification of immune cells called T and B cells.