Researcher rewarded with Federation Fellowship

20 Mar 2003

Stepping inside a virtual reality cell to compare diseased and healthy cells could be the result of research by one of Australia's latest Federation Fellows announced recently (20/03/03).

The prestigious Federation Fellowship is awarded to leading Australian researchers working in fields of national benefit. Valued at over $1.15 million over five years, the Fellowship supports internationally competitive research resulting in economic, environmental and social benefits for Australia.

Professor Kevin Burrage, from UQ's Department of Mathematics, School of ITEE and a Joint Appointment with the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) uses computational biology to provide a foundation for developing improved pharmaceuticals and genetic treatments for human diseases like obesity, different types of cancer and Alzheimer's to name a few.

Professor Burrage said his group was developing simulation and visualisation techniques to get inside diseased and healthy cells to understand how their genetic regulation works.

"We are trying to understand genetic information and how it makes living organisms the way they are," Professor Burrage said.

"For example, 99 percent of chimp and human genes are the same, so what is in the remaining one percent that make us so different? We also want to apply this to the differences between healthy and diseased people.

"We hope to develop 3D virtual reality models so we can effectively climb inside a healthy cell and look at how it works and then compare it with a diseased cell.

"This virtual cell will assist scientists in understanding the physical characteristics of genetic information."

IMB's Deputy Director (Research) Professor Brandon Wainwright said Professor Burrage's work was the next step in understanding genetic information.

"The human genome was a milestone in biology, but we need to focus on understanding how genetic components interact to form functional physical characteristics," Professor Wainwright said.

"Using powerful supercomputers and sophisticated visualisation in conjunction with IMB's bioscience researchers, Professor Burrage will be able to simulate cell behaviour and develop a visualisation framework."

The close ties between the IMB and UQ's Department of Mathematics and School of ITEE gives Professor Burrage access to state-of-the-art supercomputing, visualisation and bioscience research facilities not found elsewhere in Australia.