Research infrastructure given half-million dollar boost

1 Dec 2010

Queensland’s flora and fauna will be explored for useful molecules after scientists in Brisbane and Cairns received a half-million dollar grant from the Australian Research Council.

The $550,000 Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities grant, awarded to a team of UQ and James Cook University (JCU) researchers led by IMB’s Professor Paul Alewood, will be used to establish a facility for identifying molecules that can act as markers and treatments for disease.

The centrepieces of the facility will be two mass spectrometers, instruments that allow researchers to search for natural products – molecules from living organisms that can be used to improve human health.

“The previous lack of access to dedicated, state-of-the-art rapid analytical facilities has limited the discovery and study of molecules for potential drug development,” Professor Alewood said.

“This bottleneck has hindered many projects within the IMB and JCU and undercut our ability to translate our research into outcomes for patients.

“This new facility will markedly accelerate the discovery and development of molecules from Queensland organisms with the potential to lead to new therapies for a range of difficult-to-treat diseases including pain, cancer, autoimmunity, allergies, obesity and infection.”

The mass spectrometers, one each of which will be housed at IMB and the Cairns campus of JCU, will provide information about the structure, interactions, modifications and distribution of molecules of interest in a comparatively short time and at levels previously too low for identification.

The spectrometers have different but complementary abilities and the facility does not have an equivalent in Australia. It will support over 30 research groups, and will be networked so scientists at either location can control and monitor their experiments.

UQ's Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Max Lu congratulated all UQ researchers who received infrastructure grants.

“These grants will allow the development of essential infrastructure and facilities that will benefit research conducted at UQ for many years to come,” Professor Lu said.

“The grants also reflect the strong partnerships that UQ has with other research organisations around Australia to further important research and innovation.”

Media: Kathy Grube at UQ Communications (07 3346 0561, or Bronwyn Adams at IMB Communications (07 3346 2134 or 0418 575 247)