12 December 2002

A new research centre focusing on early detection of exotic and emerging diseases will be established at The University of Queensland under the Federal Government’s Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) scheme for 2003.

The Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Australian Biosecurity: Emerging Infectious Disease was one of eight new CRCs involving UQ as a core or supporting partner unveiled by Federal Science Minister Peter McGauran on Tuesday (December 10).

Funded by a $17.5 million grant spread over seven years, the new CRC’s aim is to protect Australia’s health, livestock, wildlife and economic resources by developing new methods of monitoring, assessing, predicting and responding to threats.

Its research program focuses on developing new technology and knowledge platforms for disease-detection and surveillance. The technologies range from hand-held devices to satellite imagery.

Recent global events place biosecurity at the centre of Australia’s national interest. The centre will help develop advanced early warning systems to safeguard the nation.

It will also address a critical specialist skills shortage by producing research graduates with high-level experience in virology, parasitology and applied epidemiology.

Research outcomes will include devices to detect pathogens on-site and new technologies to enhance the speed, sensitivity and specificity of laboratory and on-site tests.

The CRC will be headquartered at UQ and involves researchers from the Schools of Molecular and Microbial Sciences; and Life Sciences with a potential role for the School of Veterinary Science in the near future.

Professor John Mackenzie from the School of Molecular and Microbial Sciences will be the CRC’s interim Chief Executive Officer while Associate Professor Hamish McCallum from the School of Life Sciences will conduct mathematical modelling on the diseases and their spread.

“The CRC will enable Australia to be more pro-active in knowing what’s coming our way,” Professor MacKenzie said.

Other partners in the new CRC include: the CSIRO Animal Health Laboratory; the Queensland Department of Primary Industries (QDPI); the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing; Queensland Health; Northern Territory Health; Northern Territory Fisheries; Sydney University; the Committee of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Australia; Curtin University of Technology; and the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

Media contact: Professor John Mackenzie (telephone 07 3365 4648 or mobile 0439 875 697. Please note: Professor Mackenzie will not be available for comment from Saturday, December 14 for three weeks.).

Mr McGauran announced the 30 successful CRC grants – of which 12 were new – saying the world-class research undertaken within the centres would help turn Australian ideas into innovations to support the nation’s vital economic, environmental and social development.

More than $478 million would be made available to the successful CRCs over the next seven years, he said.

CRCs link universities, government agencies, industry and other users of research in long-term arrangements to undertake research and development and education activities.

The University of Queensland remains one of the biggest participants in the CRC program nationwide. Of the 30 successful CRC grants, UQ is a core partner in 13 CRCs and an affiliated partner in a further five.

The 13 CRCs in which the University is a major or core partner are:

• Aboriginal Health;
• AJ Parker CRC for Hydrometallurgy;
• Australian Biosecurity: Emerging Infectious Disease;
• Chronic Inflammatory Diseases;
• Coastal Zone, Estuary and Waterway Management;
• Enterprise Distributed Systems Technology;
• Environmental Biotchnology;
• Interaction Design;
• Mining;
• Sugar Industry Innovation through Biotechnology;
• Sustainable Resource Processing;
• Sustainable Tourism; and
• Tropical Rainforest Ecology and Management;

The five CRCs in which the University is a supporting partner are:

• Australian Poultry;
• Desert Knowledge;
• Innovative Grain Food Products;
• Irrigation Futures; and
• Molecular Plant Breeding.

Media: contact Shirley Glaister (telephone 07 3365 2339) or Jan King (telephone 07 3365 1120) at UQ Communications.