24 September 2001

The University of Queensland has attracted the largest Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery grant for a project investigating potential new drug therapies derived from the venom of marine snails.

UQ remained the top ranked Queensland university, and one of the national leaders in the Commonwealth Government's new Discovery Grants Scheme recently announced by Federal Education Minister Dr David Kemp.

The University was awarded the third highest amount of $20.5 million for new grants after the University of Sydney ($25.7 million) and the University of Melbourne ($23.1 million).

It received the fourth highest number of grants nationally with 71 after the University of Melbourne (82), the University of Sydney (77) and the University of New South Wales (75).

The University also received two-thirds or 66 percent of the $31.13 million awarded to Queensland in Discovery funding and 64 percent of the 111 Discovery grants awarded to the State.

The largest Discovery grant awarded nationally was to UQ and worth $443,000 in 2002 and $2.35 million over five years.

The project's researchers are from the University's School of Biomedical Sciences and the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) and include Professor David Adams, Professor Paul Alewood, Professor David Craik, Dr Richard Lewis and Dr Joe Lynch.

Professor Adams said the project was aimed at discovering, identifying, describing and synthesising new conotoxins-powerful peptides (small proteins) contained in the venom of marine snails.

"These conotoxins have potential as useful drug leads for the treatment of pain, Parkinson's Disease, nervous disorders, strokes and other medical conditions. We believe every marine snail may have up to 100 different peptides in its venom," Professor Adams said.

"These ?venom cocktails' are used to paralyse prey such as fish and other snails however in humans, they seem to block ion channels on the surfaces of cells inhibiting or modifying their function."

The Discovery grants are part of a $191 million package for 717 new projects starting in 2002.

University of Queensland Vice-Chancellor Professor John Hay said UQ's funding affirmed its role as a major research institution, with research of world-class standing.

Funding awarded to The University of Queensland would be important both to Queensland and Australia's future economic success, he said.

The University's new Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor David Siddle said the areas that attracted large amounts of funding were crucial to the University's strategic directions in research such as biotechnology and information systems.

He also noted that a range of other areas including physics, chemical engineering, history, law, education, geology, sociology and psychology were well-supported.

"The University's performance across the board was excellent and I would like to congratulate the researchers on their effort and success," Professor Siddle said.

For more information, contact Shirley Glaister at UQ Communications (telephone 07 3365 2339).