Prestigious award to UQ scientist

6 Jul 2007

A University of Queensland researcher has received a $408 800 grant from the prestigious international Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP). 

Professor Rob Parton of the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) will share the grant with international collaborators in France and India. 

The HFSP supports international collaborations in basic research focused on the complex mechanisms of living organisms. Particular emphasis is placed on bringing scientists from a range of fields, such as physics, chemistry, mathematics, computer science, bioinformatics, nanoscience and engineering, together with biologists. 

Australia is a member of HFSP through the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). 

Announcing the results of the latest HFSP round today (06/07), National Health and Medical Research Council CEO Professor Warwick Anderson said that the awards provide valuable opportunities for Australian researchers to work in multidisciplinary teams at the international forefront of research. 

“Our researchers are among the best in the world and the HFSP awards mean that they get the chance to further their work through international collaborations,” Professor Anderson said. 

The program supports cutting-edge life sciences research and involves more than 30 countries worldwide. 

Professor Parton was awarded his grant to study endocytosis to better understand how healthy cells work and what goes wrong in disease conditions. 

Endocytosis describes the process whereby animal cells are constantly sampling their environment and engulfing parts of their surface membrane. 

This is essential for cells to take up nutrients, to respond to signals in the outside world, and for cell movement. Endocytosis is also used by pathogens, such as viruses, as a way to enter cells. 

“We have discovered an unusual endocytic route into the cell which is driven by lipids,” Professor Parton said. 

“This lipid-driven endocytosis will be explored using a truly interdisciplinary approach at the interface between theoretical physics and experimental sciences (physics, biology and chemistry).” 

The team will combine theoretical models for lipid-driven membrane deformation with experiments to study lipids in artificial membranes. 

The insights from these studies will be complemented by parallel studies of the endocytic pathways in animal cells using state-of-the-art microscopic techniques. 

“This unique program of research will lead to a new level of understanding of the intricate workings of the cell, the fundamental unit of life,” Professor Parton said. 

Media contacts: Professor Rob Parton telephone 07 3346 2032 or Bronwyn Adams at 07 33462134.