22 September 2009

Could University of Queensland research say goodbye to the flu forever?

Engineering an end to influenza” is one of the topics to be discussed at a free public lecture at UQ on Wednesday night (September 23) as part of UQ’s annual Research Week.

Named as one of Australia’s most influential engineers by Engineers Australia, Professor Anton Middelberg, from the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, will discuss his research including the development of rapid-response vaccines to viruses such as swine flu.

Professor Middelberg will provide an overview of current vaccine developments as well as provide a brief overview of ongoing research at UQ which, through a combination of biotechnology and nanotechnology, aims to develop new approaches that could deliver influenza vaccines within weeks, not months, of a new strain emerging.

“If we can indeed develop such a capability, we might even be able to eradicate influenza, in much the same way as we eradicated smallpox,” Professor Middelberg said.

Earlier this year, Professor Middelberg headed a team which developed the first Australian batch of a new candidate vaccine against the H1N1 “swine flu” virus.

The public lecture, to be held from 6 to7.30pm at UQ’s St Lucia campus, will also feature a presentation by Professor Matthew Cooper from UQ’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience entitled “Bad bugs, no drugs: a health crisis in Australia and developing countries”.

Professor Cooper is one of two inaugural National Health & Medical Research Council Australia Fellows. He recently worked as Chief Scientist and Director of Research at Akubio Ltd, a biotechnology company based in England.

Professor Cooper will speak about the lack of drugs available to fight disease-causing bacteria, an issue which looms as a health crisis both for Australia and internationally.

“Bacteria were the first form of life to evolve on Earth, and in their four billion years of existence they have developed an incredibly varied range of antibiotics, which they used against one another in a type of chemical warfare,” Professor Cooper said.

“But in the last 50 years, the inappropriate use of antibiotics by humans has led to widespread resistance in bacteria. Some pathogens, particularly MRSA and Multi-drug Resistant Tuberculosis, are resistant to a number of drugs and are a major health issue around the world.”

The public lecture is a highlight of the UQ’s Research Week, which runs from September 21 to 25.

UQ Research Week celebrates and raises awareness of the outstanding research being conducted at UQ among current and prospective students, staff, graduates, schools, industry, government, media and the wider community.

The free public lecture will be held in the Auditorium, Level 3, Queensland Bioscience Precinct, Building 80. To register, please visit www.uq.edu.au/researchweek

Media: Shirley Glaister at UQ Communications (3365 1931 or 0438 129 083).