28 November 2006

The University of Queensland commends the Australian Government for the announcement that it will invest $500 million in key national research infrastructure.

The Minister for Education, Science and Training, Julie Bishop has announced National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) investment plans for major national research facilities and infrastructure that will underpin Australia’s research capability in nine different areas. The Minister also foreshadowed future expenditure in a further three areas.

UQ will play a role in establishing six of the nine multi-nodal facilities that were announced.

UQ’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor John Hay, AC, welcomed the announcement, which will influence the course of Australia’s research priorities in coming decades.

“As a leading research-intensive university, UQ will play a significant part in the development of national research infrastructure, in areas including medical imaging, nanotechnology, microscopy and microanalysis, earth systems, and pharmaceuticals production,” Professor Hay said.

“Development of facilities to support research in these disciplines will be essential to Australia’s future international competitiveness.

“I thank the Queensland Government for having the foresight to support these proposals to establish nodes of major national research facilities in Queensland,” Professor Hay said.

UQ Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor David Siddle, said it was in the national interest for leading research institutions to collaborate on the development of world-class facilities.

“The facilities funded through this new strategy are important foundations for Australia’s research infrastructure capacity,” Professor Siddle said.

Facilities involving UQ are summarised below.

Media contact: Fiona Kennedy 3365 1088 / 0413 380 012

NOTE: All of the following NCRIS facilities involve other Australian universities and research institutions, as well as UQ.

AuScope will improve geoscientists’ understanding of the structure and evolution of the Australian Continent, including:

• How Australia’s minerals, energy and groundwater assets evolved and how to better predict and manage those assets, including new forms of green energy such as hot fractured rock geothermal energy;

• How to develop new risk management strategies to address sustainability issues such as Carbon dioxide balance; and

• How to predict the near term future movements of the Australian continent as a basis for improving living standards, including better mitigation and forecasting of natural hazards such as earthquakes and tsunamis.

The National Imaging Facility will house one of the world’s first combined animal positron emission tomography (PET)/magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) facilities.

Research using this facility will lead to a better understanding of cellular functions, which could in turn be a building block for new developments in disease prevention and treatment. It also provides a significant opportunity for collaboration with clinical researchers in Queensland, and promotes the development of new technology for clinical research and patient management.

Elements of this facility build on UQ’s research strengths through the Centre for Magnetic Resonance and the Queensland Brain Institute. It will give Australian researchers access to the most appropriate imaging methodology for their scientific problem.

The National Microscopy and Microanalysis Research Facility will give researchers access to the latest microscopy and microanalysis instrumentation.

In part, this facility will build on the role of UQ’s Centre for Microscopy and Microanalysis a national centre for high resolution biological electron microscopy.

The Australian National Fabrication Facility has potential to bolster areas of the economy including manufacturing, healthcare, electronics, communications and energy.

The Queensland base will be UQ’s new $70 million Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology and UQ’s Centre for Organic Semiconductor Research. It will produce nanometer patterned surfaces for needle-free drug delivery, novel conducting polymers for polymeric electronics, and smart microdevices for disposable health diagnostics.

Biotechnology products. Recombinant proteins are a new class of drugs with the potential to address a variety of diseases, but they must be produced in mammalian cell cultures, which are notoriously difficult and slow to grow. This project will enable the stable expression of these proteins in quantities large enough for pre-clinical and clinical trials.

UQ will help transform laboratory success into marketable pharmaceuticals by hosting a facility to produce pre-commercial quantities of recombinant proteins.

Evolving Bio-molecular Platforms and Informatics will consolidate investment in genomics and transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics, and associated bioinformatics.

Transcriptomics is the study and analysis of the transcriptome, the total set of RNA transcripts from the genome. The transcriptome differs from the genome by reflecting the activity of genetic expression, and varies according to cell and tissue type, developmental and physiological state, and environmental conditions.

Proteomics is the study and analysis of all the proteins present in a cell or organism, and particularly includes the study of alternative forms (isoforms) and post-translational modifications, which typically differ from tissue to tissue.

Metabolomics is the study and analysis of all metabolites (small molecules), including those important in metabolism, hormonal signaling, and chemical defence.

Bioinformatics is the development and application of mathematics, statistics, computing and information technology to manage, analyse and integrate omic data.