Three Aussie innovators to compete in Berlin for Falling Walls Lab 2022

September 30, 2022


Merryn Fraser. Photo: supplied
Clara Jiang. Photo: supplied
Mars Buttfield-Addison. Photo: supplied

Merryn Fraser from the Australian National University is the winner of the seventh Falling Walls Lab Australia event, hosted online by the Australian Academy of Science in partnership with the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Canberra, DAAD, the German Academic Exchange Service and EURAXESS Australia and New Zealand.

Merryn’s work explores the biology of Plasmodium parasites which cause malaria, using modified cholesterol molecules to sneak antimalarial drugs past the parasite’s defences.

Second place went to Clara Jiang from the University of Queensland, whose idea of repurposing drugs which share similar gene expression fingerprints, like statins and anti-depressants, could save time and money.

Mars Buttfield-Addison from the University of Tasmania took third place, with her idea of using existing sensors such as astronomical radio telescopes to track space debris.

The three Australian winners will represent Australia in the hybrid Falling Walls Conference 2022 alongside the other 97 global winners, and the top 10 global finalists will compete in the Falling Walls Pitches on 7 November in the Emerging Talents category.

The question of every Falling Walls Lab is: Which walls will fall next?

Three-minute pitch

Each participant had three minutes to highlight their research work, business model or unique initiative to the jury of distinguished academics and industry representatives chaired by Academy President Professor Chennupati Jagadish.

The ten contestants presenting at the Australian finale event were selected in heats held at Falling Walls Lab Sydney, organised by DAAD, the German Academic Exchange Service and EURAXESS, and Falling Walls Lab Brisbane, organised by the Queensland University of Technology.


The ten finalists who presented their break-through ideas:

  • Mars Buttfield-Addison from the University of Tasmania: Breaking the Wall of Space Debris Prevention
  • Tess Brading from Queensland University of Technology: Breaking the Wall of Paediatric Chronic Pain
  • Merryn Fraser from the Australian National University: Breaking the Wall of Drug Resistant Malaria
  • Clara Jiang from the University of Queensland: Breaking the Wall of Treating Depression
  • Chanchal Kurup from the Australian Catholic University: Breaking the Wall of Borders in Nursing
  • Danielle Lee from Griffith University: Breaking the Wall of Antifungal Resistance
  • Oliver Lotz from the University of Sydney: Breaking the Wall of Medical Device Bioactivity
  • Martino Malerba from Deakin University: Breaking the Wall of Hidden Carbon Emissions in Agriculture
  • Nipuni Peththa Thanthrige from Queensland University of Technology: Breaking the Wall of Crop Loss
  • Fiona Harshini Roy Desmond Godfrey from Monash University: Breaking the Wall of Decarbonising the Planet

Learn more about the finalists and their ideas.

Jury members

The event organising partners are grateful for the involvement of the jury members for Falling Walls Lab Australia:

  • Professor Chennupati Jagadish AC PresAA FTSE – President, Australian Academy of Science
  • Professor Lyn Beazley AO – Secretary, Education and Public Awareness, Australian Academy of Science.
  • Rosie Hicks – Chief Executive Officer, Australian Research Data Commons
  • Dr Hilary Howes – Head of Science and Innovation, Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, Canberra
  • Dr Vanessa Moss – Astronomer, CSIRO
  • Craig Pandy – Partner, Government and Economic Development Kearney (Australia)
  • Professor Michael Schuetz – Director, Jamieson Trauma Institute

About Falling Walls Lab

Each year, the Falling Walls Foundation supports scientific organisations around the world to host a Falling Walls Lab. This international forum promotes interdisciplinary connections between aspiring academics, innovators, entrepreneurs, investors, and professionals known for their excellent work.

Each year, nearly 100 international Labs are held with more than 1000 presenters, 100 of whom make it to the final in Berlin.

In 2019, Australian researcher Rhys Pirie took out first place at the Falling Walls Lab Finale in Berlin and was named 2019 Young Innovator of the Year. Read more about his success and a follow-up interview six months after winning the competition.

The Falling Walls Foundation is a non-profit organisation in Berlin dedicated to the support of science and the humanities. It was established in 2009, 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. At its heart is the question ‘Which are the next walls to fall?’ as a result of scientific, technological, economic and sociological breakthroughs.

Learn about Fallings Walls Lab Australia and previous years’ winners.

© 2024 Australian Academy of Science