Associate Professor Martin Lackmann, a German-Australian biochemist who was instrumental in leading the development of several drugs in clinical trials to treat cancer, passed away suddenly on 22 May 2014.
Martin was born in Germany where he grew up originally wanting to be a hospital doctor. However, an early stint as a nurse aide dissuaded him from that path and propelled him towards the research laboratory, influencing him to undertake a Bachelor of Science degree, in which he initially majored in physics before switching to biochemistry.
He graduated with Honours in Molecular Biology from the Universität Hamburg in Germany in 1985, relocating to Australia where he completed his PhD in Immunology at the University of Sydney in 1992.
Martin undertook post-doctoral studies at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI) in Melbourne, and later at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research (LICR), where under the guidance of his mentor, Professor Tony Burgess, the then Director of the Ludwig Institute, he established his own Lackmann Laboratory in 2000. Implementation of a new method of biophysical analysis to discover the target for an anti-cancer antibody provided the inspiration for a focus on translational cancer research that shaped the rest of his career.
In 2003, Martin Lackmann established the Protein Interaction and Cancer Research Laboratory in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Monash University. This laboratory studies the molecular pathways that determine tumour spread and growth. Martin's research led to the identification of new molecular targets for the pre-clinical and clinical development of antibody-based anti-cancer therapeutics.
From the earliest years of his career, Martin was committed to ensuring that his research made the arduous journey from the laboratory to the wider world, where it could make a positive impact on people's lives. He was granted seven patents for his inventions.
His major contribution to the fight against cancer was the development of the drug KB004, currently in phase II trials in patients with leukemia. Martin leaves a legacy of further clinical trials and the prospect of better health for patients with brain tumours and mesothelioma.
Martin authored more than 57 publications including numerous articles in authoritative journals such as Nature, Cell, Cancer Cell, Nature Neuroscience, Journal of Cell Biology and PLOS Biology. In 2005, he published a seminal study in the journal Cell, showing how a critical molecule called ADAM-10 regulates the 'global positioning' of cells in the body.
His stature in the Australian biomedical science community was affirmed through recognition by the National Health and Medical Research Council as the leader of one of its ‘10 of the Best' Research Projects in 2010 (photo below).
At the time of his death, Martin was working on a newly patented antibody targeting ADAM-10, which is also in pre-clinical development as an anti-cancer therapeutic.
The pioneering work of Martin Lackmann and his passion for translational research to improve the lives of others will be continued by his laboratory and collaborators.
Working long hours to keep his lab running and well-funded, Martin always found time to walk his two dogs on the beach every morning at St. Andrews, and to play golf with his wife Beate.
He is survived by his wife Beate, his daughter Christina and his two sons Broder and Johannes.
A memorial to honour Associate Professor Martin Lackmann's life and contributions to science will be held on the 13th of June at Monash University. Please send inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Associate Professor Martin Lackmann (left) receiving the award for '10 of the Best' Research Projects in 2010 from the Hon Mark Butler MP on behalf of the NHMRC. Image: NHMRC