Better drugs for chronic pain, building food security, and research into evolutionary diversity have attracted more than $8 million in funding for The University of Queensland’s latest ARC Laureate Fellowships, announced today (23 June).
The Australian Research Council named 15 new Australian Laureate Fellows, including three UQ researchers – the Institute for Molecular Bioscience’s Professor David Craik, the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences’s Professor Philip Hugenholtz and the TC Beirne School of Law’s Professor Brad Sherman.
UQ’s new Laureate Fellows attracted the largest share of ARC funding in the nation. The trio will share in more than $8.72 million over five years.
UQ Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Peter Høj said the funding showed the ongoing strength of UQ’s research.
“The Australian Laureate Fellowships are the most prestigious awards funded by the ARC and are highly sought after by the research community,” Professor Høj said.
“Even with an increase in applications of almost 30 per cent, UQ has for the second consecutive year come an equal first in the number of Laureate Fellowships awarded and first outright in ARC funding dollars awarded.
“I congratulate UQ’s 2015 Laureates who have succeeded in the toughest of competitions, and justifiably so.
“They are brilliant researchers who will use their fellowships to push the frontiers of knowledge and translate that research into outcomes that will benefit Australia’s society and economy.”
Professor Craik has been awarded $2.97 million for his work with cyclic peptides.
His program as an ARC Australian Laureate will aim to find a way to turn peptides, produced naturally in plants, into stable, protein-based drugs that can be taken in the form of an edible plant seed (bio-pill) and used to treat a range of diseases with fewer side-effects than existing therapies.
“This funding will help support talented young researchers in my group to translate their work into tangible outcomes,” Professor Craik said.
“Peptides (mini proteins) are creating much excitement in the pharmaceutical industry, and the work funded in this fellowship will help to realise their potential as 'next generation' medicines.”
Professor Brad Sherman was awarded $2.76m for his research in harnessing intellectual property to build food security.
His fellowship project will aim to maximise the benefits and minimise the costs of using intellectual property protection to improve agricultural productivity and food security in Australia and the Asia Pacific.
Professor Philip Hugenholtz was awarded $2.98m for his research in microbial ecology and genomics.
His project on reconstructing the universal tree and network of life aims to obtain 100,000 genome sequences from uncultured organisms, so called “microbial dark matter”, and systematically organise them into natural evolutionary relationships to provide a comprehensive overview of microbial diversity.
“The framework developed in this project seeks to replace the current incomplete classification of micro-organisms to provide fundamental insights into ecology and evolution,” he said.
“We hope that project outcomes can be applied to manage risk and capture opportunities in important Australian industries including agriculture, mining and biotechnology.”
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