Researchers bloom at Tall Poppy Awards

21 Nov 2013

IMB researchers studying how the body fights infection and how venoms can ease pain have been named among Queensland’s best and brightest young scientists at the 2013 Tall Poppy Awards.

Dr Kate Schroder and Dr Irina Vetter were recognised for their outstanding research and their community engagement activities aimed at inspiring young Australians about science.

Dr Schroder studies the innate immune system, the body’s front-line weapon against invading microbes.

“The body defends itself by mounting inflammatory responses, which underpin our ability to resist or fight infectious diseases,” Dr Schroder said.

“But these inflammatory responses can be triggered inappropriately in uninfected people, which is now emerging as a major pathway contributing to diseases such as cancer and diabetes.

“My research is helping us to understand exactly how the body fights infection and paves the way for the development of new drugs or vaccines to combat infectious disease, which causes 13 million deaths globally each year.

“It is also providing insight into the mechanisms behind the unhealthy inflammation that occurs in common diseases such as diabetes.”

Dr Schroder actively promotes scientific research to school children, has contributed to a secondary science textbook and advocates to elected officials for improved science and research policy.

Dr Vetter, who holds a joint appointment with the School of Pharmacy in UQ’s Faculty of Health Sciences, said chronic pain affected more than a quarter of Australians.

“The costs associated with chronic pain due to lost productivity and healthcare were estimated at $34 billion in 2007,” Dr Vetter said.

“Many painkillers currently on the market provide little relief to many sufferers and can be addictive, resulting in an urgent need to better understand pain and develop new analgesics.

“My research uses venoms and toxins, many of which are painful, to understand the mechanisms of how the body feels pain.

“A surprising number of toxins are also very active in pain pathways, meaning they can provide the basis for new drugs that could combat chronic pain with fewer side effects.”

Dr Vetter engages the public in science through supervising school students on research placements and promoting venom research through the media, including being featured in two documentaries.

To donate to infection & inflammation or chronic pain research at IMB, please visit or call (07) 3346 2134.

The Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) is a research institute of The University of Queensland that aims to improve quality of life by advancing medical genomics, drug discovery and biotechnology.

Media contact: Bronwyn Adams - 07 3346 2134 or 0418 575 247 or