UQ researchers are smart fellows

4 Jun 2008

University of Queensland researchers working on better cancer drugs, more efficient sewage treatment and vitamin D deficiency will share in $1.8 million of funding in the latest round Smart State Innovation Funding. 

UQ researchers have been awarded three of the six available $300,000 Smart State Fellowships, which provide funding for early or mid-career researchers to undertake innovative research in Queensland. 

Dr Norelle Daly from UQ's Institute for Molecular Bioscience was awarded a her Smart State Fellowship to develop new anti-cancer drugs. 

Dr Daly and her research team will investigate using peptides, the building blocks of proteins, to form the basis of a new generation of cancer therapeutics. 

“Until recently the use of peptides as therapeutic drugs has been considered to be non-viable because of problems with their stability and delivery within the body,” Dr Daly said. 

“My project will focus on fusing peptides to a circular protein framework that will overcome these problems, and result in a drug with far fewer side effects than existing anti-cancer drugs.” 

Dr Daly will study two families of circular peptides, both of which are derived from plants. One family has been shown to selectively kill cancer cells, while the other can inhibit the activity of an enzyme involved in the progression of cancer. 

“Using this two-pronged approach increases the chance of success in developing a peptide with better anti-cancer properties that can then be further developed into therapeutics for cancer treatment.” 

Dr Phillip Bond from UQ's Advanced Water Management Centre received his Smart State Fellowship to develop new technology wastewater treatment. 

Dr Bond and his team are developing a sludge made up of bacteria to replace conventional treatment of wastewater, which would be cheaper and more efficient than current 

“This technology has the potential to produce considerable savings with regards to reducing capital outlay, operation, land usage and energy.” 

“Aerobic granular activated sludge offers considerable advantages over conventional activated sludge treatment which is currently used throughout the world,” Dr Bond said. 

“To put it simply, aerobic granules contain many millions of microbial cells which efficiently chew up constituents of the wastewater and then are readily separated from the treated wastewater. 

“Granular systems may require only 25 percent of the land used by conventional treatment systems with savings in capital estimated between 15 and 30 percent, and possible savings on operating costs.” 

Dr Bond's research project is being co-sponsored by the Environmental Biotechnology Cooperative Research Centre ($175,000) and Waste Technologies of Australia ($25,000). 

Dr Xiaoying Cui from UQ's Queensland Brain Institute will see if vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy has an impact on dopamine function in adulthood. 

“Dopamine is a chemical messenger in the brain associated with movement and emotions, as well as feelings of pleasure and pain,” Dr Cui said. 

“We are looking at the link between vitamin D, dopamine and schizophrenia.” 

The Fellowships are part of the Queensland Government's $300 million Smart State Innovation Funding Program, which aims to build world-class research facilities, attract top-quality scientists to Queensland and stimulate cutting-edge research projects. 

Media: Andrew Dunne at UQ Communications (07 3365 2802 or 0433 364 181).