UNSW pancreatic cancer researcher Professor Minoti Apte OAM has been named the 2015 NSW Woman of the Year for her contributions to medical research, tertiary education and the Indian community.

Professor Apte, from the South Western Sydney Clinical School, received the award from NSW Premier Mike Baird and the Minister for Women Pru Goward during a reception at NSW Parliament House today.

Based at the Ingham Institute for Applied Medical Research, Professor Apte is director of the Pancreatic Research Group and is an acknowledged world-leader in alcohol-induced pancreatic injury and pancreatic cancer.

“Alongside her impressive career successes, Professor Apte is an active member of the Marathi Association of Sydney, an organisation that serves Sydney’s significant Indian population,” Premier Baird said, adding that her achievements inspire other women to follow in her footsteps.

Professor Apte investigates pancreatic cancer at a cellular level to find out how and why the cancer is so aggressive and spreads so quickly. Pancreatic cancer is one of the most deadly cancers with a five-year survival rate of just 6%.

She was the first in the world to develop a method to isolate pancreatic stellate cells, a technique which provided a much needed research tool for studying the path that pancreatic fibrosis (scarring of the pancreas) takes.

She is currently leading pre-clinical studies that are primed to suggest new treatments for pancreatic cancer – the fifth leading cause of all cancer deaths in Australia.

Accepting the award Professor Apte called on state and federal governments to make increased funding in medical research a higher priority.

She also called for better support for women seeking to balance family and career.

“Inequality and disadvantage for women returning to work remains a big problem in Australia and more work needs to be done in this area,” Professor Apte said.

“UNSW is leading the way when it comes to family-friendly workplace arrangements and supporting women who want to balance family with pursuing a career in science, academia or medical research.

“In winning the award I’d like to acknowledge the wonderful support of members of the Pancreatic Research Group, my current PhD students Zhihong Xu and Sri Pothula and my mentors Professor Jeremy Wilson and Professor Ron Pirola.”