$4.5 million for IMB-led discovery research

1 November 2016

IMB researchers have been awarded $4.5 million by the Australian Research Council to lead a range of groundbreaking discovery research projects.

The ARC announced funding of more than $37 million today for UQ projects spanning fields as diverse as humanities, behavioural science, biomedicine and frontier technologies.

IMB projects will explore growing and regenerating damaged heart tissue, reveal the inner workings of our innate immune system, use big data to investigate the biological content in our soil and water, and establish Queensland’s first Lattice Light Sheet Microscope facility.

IMB Director Professor Brandon Wainwright congratulated IMB’s successful project teams.

“Despite the growing competition for research funding in Australia, IMB continued to perform above the national success rate,” Professor Wainwright said.

“These important grants will not only support some of our most exciting research projects, but they will also allow us to invest in world-class research infrastructure and support the next generation of research leaders.”

A full list of UQ’s ARC-funded projects can be found here.

Discovery Project highlights

Dr Kelly Smith & Dr Nathan Palpant
Understanding the differentiation of the endocardium

The endocardium lines the inside of the heart and is the interface between circulating blood and beating heart muscle. Defects in this tissue are a major cause of death and disease and yet we have a poor understanding about the genetic cues that govern endocardial development, a limitation toward ongoing efforts in cardiac tissue engineering and regenerative stem cell therapies. This project aims to understand the genetic regulation of endocardial development and create new knowledge about how the heart is formed as a step toward growing and regenerating damaged heart tissue.

Associate Professor Lachlan Coin & Dr Minh Duc Cao
Sequencing and assembling meta-genomes of microbial community in real-time

The study of microbial communities in an environmental sample largely depends on the ability to assembly metagenomes, which is time-consuming and error-prone using existing short read sequencing approaches. This project will develop novel computational and statistical methodologies to assemble metagenomes from long-read nanopore sequence data in real-time, making metagenomics analysis portable, rapid and cost-effective. It will enable scientists to conveniently investigate the biological content in our soil and water to enhance our understanding of these resources. This will lead to better solutions to protect our precious resources.

Associate Professor Matt Sweet
Demystifying histone deacetylase functions in immune cells

One of the great challenges in the field of cell biology is to understand how diverse extracellular stimuli use a limited number of signalling pathways to generate so many distinct biological effects. There is an amazing complexity to how cells interpret and integrate diverse environmental cues. One of the most important cellular responses is that of innate immunity, an exquisitely sensitive system that must detect and react to a wide array of dangers. Innate immunity thus provides an ideal model to tackle fundamental questions about the triggers that lead to signal diversity.

Professor Richard Lewis & Dr Sebastien Dutertre
Evolution of defensive and predatory venom in cone snails

We discovered that cone snails can switch venoms in response to predatory or defensive stimuli, implying these are separately evolved and regulated mechanisms. We aim to determine the evolutionary and cellular origins of predatory and defensive venoms and mechanisms regulating their release. The outcomes of this program will include important new knowledge relating to novel molecular structures (conotoxins) and new pharmacological tools, which will contribute to early-stage identification of lead molecules for drug development in a wide range of health treatments.

Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities grant highlights

Professor Paul Alewood, Professor David Craik, Professor Richard Lewis, Professor Glenn King, and colleagues at University of the Sunshine Coast and Southern Cross University
Deep Protein Sequencing, Structure and Quantification Facility

The Deep Protein Sequencing, Structure and Quantification Facility will provide researchers with qualitative and quantitative insights into molecular structure and interactions, post-translational modifications, compound stability and availability within complex biological samples. The complementary infrastructure will deliver a unique facility for translational research in biodiscovery and a world-class training environment for postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers in biological mass spectrometry.

Future Fellowship highlights

Dr Guillermo Gomez
The mechanochemical basis of cell polarity

Understanding how polarity is defined and initiated in epithelial tissues is essential knowledge that will inform efforts to manipulate epithelia in a variety of disciplines from tissue engineering to regenerative biology and contribute to our appreciation of how epithelial architecture and physiology is generated. By investigating the mechanochemical basis of symmetry breaking in the cellular cortex, a thin layer of actomyosin filaments underneath the plasma membrane, and how this leads to the formation of signalling zones in it, this Fellowship will address a major question in biology that has remained resistant to conventional biochemical, cell biological and genetic approaches: how is polarization initiated in epithelial cells?

Dr Christina Schroeder
The potential of membranes – peptide engineering to modulate ion channels

Sodium channels are involved in almost all aspects of human physiology. The ability to truly selectively inhibit individual sodium channel subtypes and to understand what drives peptides' ability to interact with membranes and cross cells would be a great accomplishment, which would open the door for the development of neuroscience research tools and technologies. This program aims to develop a platform technology necessary for the identification of novel and selective sodium channel inhibitors based on ultra-stable venom peptides with the ability to interact with and cross cells. The development of this technology is of great scientific interest suitable for translation into new knowledge highly relevant to the biotechnology industry.

Contact: IMB Communications, communications@imb.uq.edu.au, 07 3346 2155