3 April 2008

Today, Senator the Hon. Kim Carr, Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, opened the Australian Stem Cell Centre’s (ASCC) Brisbane laboratories at The University of Queensland (UQ).

The ASCC’s Queensland laboratories include the first human embryonic stem cell production facility in the state. The ASCC’s human embryonic stem cell lines are now available to Brisbane-based stem cell scientists who are using the cells to investigate the potential of the cells in the treatment of blood related diseases and kidney disease.

The Queensland cell lines are expanded from existing human embryonic stem cell lines, known as MEL1 and MEL2, created in Melbourne.

The ASCC’s Queensland node links scientists from four internationally renowned Brisbane-based research institutes.

‘This state has everything to offer in terms of outstanding facilities, first class institutes, outstanding scientific talent and a lifestyle that no state can match,’ said Professor Vicki Sara, Chair of the ASCC.

UQ Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Michael Keniger said he welcomed the opening of the node at the AIBN and looked forward to the synergies it would produce.

“Formation of a Queensland node will enhance the capacity of all Brisbane-based stem cell research groups, allowing them to achieve their goals more rapidly,” Professor Keniger said.

“This facility will strengthen ties between UQ’s flagship bio-research institutes such as the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN), the Institute for Molecular Bioscience and the Queensland Brain Institute and other UQ research groups which are conducting stem cell research.”

The ASCC employs scientists within their own dedicated laboratories at UQ with the ASCC’s Chief Scientist, Professor Melissa Little, based at the AIBN. The ASCC also funds six external research groups in Brisbane.

The ASCC’s core scientific focus is in the area of haematology (blood) and the genesis of a safe transfusible blood product from various stem cell types.

The central project for the majority of the Queensland group is the investigation, using various adult and cord blood stem cells, of the development of manufactured blood products such as red blood cells, white blood cells (neutrophils) and platelets, the blood cells that initiate blood clotting.

Professor Stephen Livesey, Chief Executive Officer of the ASCC said, ‘Brisbane is a very attractive base for our second major hub. This development represents a strengthening and acceleration of the ASCC’s science strategy towards developing a product that can save and improve the lives of patients with blood related diseases’.

Other projects in Queensland include the application of adult stem cells to kidney disease and heart disease as well as investigations into normal tissue repair, comparisons between different stem cell types, investigations into the safety and efficacy of embryonic stem cells and the development of processes to scale up cell numbers.

The headquarters of the ASCC and the first major cluster was established in 2003 and is based in Melbourne, Victoria. This Melbourne cluster links together a number of stem cell organisations and infrastructure with the ASCC.

Media: Michelle Gallaher (0423 056 952).