Professor Mackay-Sim’s work was central to the 2014 surgery that allowed Darek Fidyka, a Polish firefighter, to walk again and even ride a custom-built bicycle. This made him the first (well, not the first but no less significant) paraplegic in the world to recover mobility after the complete severing of the spinal nerves. The success was hailed by fellow researcher Geoff Raisman as more impressive than the moon landing.
Tension has persisted between the Prime Minister and the man he rolled for the top job way back in September 2015. Mr Fidyka, who had been stabbed 18 times in the back by his partner’s former husband four years earlier, described the feeling of recovering movement in his legs as akin to being “born again”.
Professor Mackay-Sim is a leading global authority on the human sense of smell and the biology of nasal cells. The successful surgery that allowed Mr Fidyka to walk again involved taking cells from his nose, growing them in a lab and injecting them into his spinal cord.
Professor Mackay-Sim, 65, himself relied on a stem cell transplant two years ago when he was diagnosed with myeloma, a rare form of blood cancer that develops in the bone marrow.
He was presented with his Australian of the Year award by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Wednesday night…