$6m research boost for IMB

27 Oct 2009

IMB researchers have received a $6.4 million boost from the Australian Research Council for 11 projects ranging from using genes to predict skin cancer risk to developing a more efficient system to recombine proteins.

 Professor Kirill Alexandrov received The University of Queensland's largest Discovery Projects grant - $1.5 million to study posttranslational modifications of proteins critical for a multitude of normal cellular functions. 

“Posttranslational lipidation of proteins play a key role in transport of materials and information in eukaryotic cells,” Professor Alexandrov said. 

“The ultimate aim of this project is to understand the mechanisms of regulation of protein prenylation and exploit for protein modification and analysis.” 

Professor Alexandrov also received a $435,000 ARC Linkage Projects grant to develop a faster, more efficient system of recombining proteins. 

“Recombinant proteins are used as vaccines, drugs and research tools, as well as food and detergent additives, comprising an AUD$100 billion international market,” Professor Alexandrov said. 

“Their production is laborious, expensive and time-consuming, so our project aims to develop a new technology that will make protein production rapid, cheap and scalable. “This will bring numerous economic benefits by accelerating the rate of discovery and pharmaceutical development.”

Associate Professor Rick Sturm will lead a $429,000 project to investigate variations in the genes that determine human skin pigmentation and are likely to be associated with skin cancer risk. 

“Our research program will form the basis of future diagnostics based on the major genes that determine a person's skin type,” Dr Sturm said. 

“A better understanding of the genetic basis of UV-sensitive skin types will greatly enhance the targeting of skin cancer prevention campaigns.”

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Max Lu congratulated UQ's ARC funding recipients, whose achievements have confirmed the University's position as one of Australia's leading research-intensive universities. 

“UQ has again been successful in this nationally competitive funding round, with the funded projects representing the breadth and depth of research conducted at the University,” Professor Lu said. 

“UQ research is not only of the highest academic quality, but also carries significant commercial relevance, as highlighted by our third-place result in both the Discovery Projects and Linkage Projects schemes.”


IMB’s other successful ARC grants were:

  • Dr Stephen Shouldice - $285,000 to study mitochondria, the cell’s engines, and discover how they function in health and disease
  • Professor Glenn King - $560,000 to investigate using peptides (small proteins) from spider venom to develop an environmentally-friendly insecticide
  • Professor Mike Waters - $330,000 to investigate the fundamental question: how do genes determine the make-up of an organism?
  • Dr Nicole Cloonan - $420,000 to map microRNAs, which act in conjunction with genes to regulate cellular protein levels
  • Professor David Fairlie - $900,000 to design and evaluate drugs that bind in different ways to proteins on the cell surface and understand how they regulate cell function, and $360,000 to convert helical turns from proteins into small bioactive organic molecules
  • Dr Richard Clark - $360,000 to understand the interaction between cone snail venom, a major source of potential drug leads, and a key receptor in nerve cell signalling
  • Professor Paul Alewood - $600,000 to discover new toxins from cone snails and identify candidates for pharmaceutical development


Media: Penny Robinson at UQ Communications (07 3365 9723, penny.robinson@uq.edu.au)