30 March 2010

One of Australia’s leading biologists, UQ’s Professor Scott O’Neill, has been elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science – one of the highest honours for individual contributions to science awarded in Australia.

Professor O’Neill’s election follows a 22-year career during which he has built a reputation as a world-renowned expert in understanding the interactions between symbiotic bacteria and the animals they live inside.

There is a growing understanding of the importance of resident bacteria to the normal functioning of most animals.

Professor O’Neill’s work has focused on a group of symbiotic bacteria that are among the most common in the world, living intimately with up to 60 percent of the estimated 2-5 million species of insects on the planet.

Currently Head of UQ’s School of Biological Sciences, he leads a research team investigating a number of different aspects of bacterial symbiont biology.

The results of his research have been published in a series of papers in the highest quality scientific outlets including Nature, Science and Cell.

Currently his main focus is in the utilisation of common bacterial symbionts to prevent transmission of mosquito-borne disease.

Much of this work is focused on developing a new method to control dengue fever, a disease that afflicts more than 50 million people each year.

After successful laboratory results this new approach is now entering field-testing in both Australia and Vietnam.

This work is currently funded by the Foundation of the National Institutes of Health as part of the Grand Challenges in Global Health Initiative of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

UQ’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Paul Greenfield, congratulated Professor O’Neill.

“Scott is an excellent scientist whose Gates-funded project holds promise for people living in dengue zones in Australia and internationally,” Professor Greenfield said.

UQ now has 14 Australian Academy of Science Fellows.

The Fellowship of the Academy consists of about 400 of Australia's leading experts in the physical and biological sciences and their applications.

This year 17 scientists, judged by their peers to have made an exceptional contribution to knowledge in their field, have been elected as Fellows of the Academy.

Media: Ms Jenny Sutton (3365 7047, j.sutton1@uq.edu.au) or Tracey Franchi, Manager – Communications, Outreach and Performance Data in the School of Biological Sciences (3365 4831, t.franchi@uq.edu.au).