2 December 2005

The University of Queensland’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) will next week host a conference dealing with emerging breakthroughs in biotechnology and nanotechnology.

The Sir Mark Oliphant Conference, BioNano: The Next Frontier, will bring together leading researchers, including a Nobel Laureate, to discuss research and industrial opportunities from nanotechnology and biotechnology.

Topics will include: personalised medicine, tissue regeneration, artificial arteries, cells as factories, viruses as nanotech platforms, targeted drugs, hydrogen-powered cars, water reuse, self-assembling materials and future commercial opportunities.

AIBN Director, Professor Peter Gray, who is the conference chair, said the combination of biology, nanotechnology and engineering will change our lives.

“For example, the scientific breakthroughs which are occurring in the fields of stem cells and tissue regeneration are opening up many new opportunities for treating disease but for the potential to be realized, we need to learn how to target the new treatments to just the right part of the body, and how to grow very complex cells in a controlled fashion,” Professor Gray said.

“Science is moving towards a new era in diagnostics, in which you can be diagnosed for a range of conditions on the spot, instead of having a long wait for the results of several tests from a laboratory.”

He said this was expected to lead to personalised medicine, as researchers explore the possibility of tailoring treatment and health regimes to individual needs, avoiding adverse drug reactions and enabling a precise fit between the therapy and a patient’s own genetic makeup.

Professor Gray said Australia had the opportunity to develop a substantial manufacturing industry in bionano niches, provided we move quickly, invest shrewdly and maintain our scientific momentum.

Other advances to be outlined at the conference include: invisible barcodes, advances in hydrogen power for vehicles, better and cheaper ways to purify water, developing materials that imitate nature and grow themselves, and materials that speed up wound healing.

BioNano: The Next Frontier will be held at The Queensland Bioscience Precinct, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, from December 4 to 7, 2005.

For more information visit: http://www.bionano2005.eventplanners.com.au/index.htm

Media are welcome to attend and interview participants.

Media inquries: Professor Peter Gray (3346 2170) or Donna Hannan at AIBN (3346 2171, 0407 968 524).

Speakers at the conference will include:

Professor Julie Campbell, Director of The University of Queensland’s Centre for Research in Vascular Biology, Director of the Wesley Research Institute at the Wesley Hospital and a Senior Principal Research Fellow of the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia.

Dr Stephen Livesey, Chief Scientific Officer of the Australian Stem Cell Centre.

Sir Gregory Winter, who has been at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge UK for more than 30 years, and is a pioneer of the science and application of protein and antibody engineering. He is a prolific inventor (most therapeutic antibodies on the market utilize his inventions), and co-founded two antibody biotech start-ups.

Professor Fiona Wood, a Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon specialising in the field of major burn care, trauma and scar reconstruction. Professor Wood is the 2005 Australian of the Year, a Director of the WA Burns Service and a consultant Plastic Surgeon at Princess Margaret Hospital and Royal Perth Hospital.

Professor Kurt Wüthrich, winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Professor of Biophysics, Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule Zurich, Switzerland and Cecil H. and Ida M. Green Professor of Structural Biology, the Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA, USA.