14 December 2010

Researcher Idriss Blakey’s work to bring about earlier detection of diseases such as cancer has had a shot in the arm, with a major award and more than $700,000 in funding.

Dr Blakey has been awarded an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship for his work at The University of Queensland on smart contrast agents for Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).

The fellowship will pay for research to develop a smart polymeric contrast agent which can be used for improving the ability to detect cancerous tumours using MRI.

Dr Blakey said the fellowship added prestige to the work being done at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology and opened many doors.

The Clayfield 36-year-old said he entered the research field to satisfy his intellectual curiosity and had become convinced of the importance of his work.

“Each day research throws up new challenges that need to be solved. I enjoy the challenge,” he said.

“It’s about finding the solutions. If the contrast agents are successful in the early detection of disease, this will allow for earlier treatment, which should result in better patient outcomes.”

Dr Blakey said MRI was already accurate in finding late stage tumours, but did not have the sensitivity for early detection.

“The MRI contrast agents being developed at UQ are being designed to have increased sensitivity to allow for early detection.

“The smart nature of the agents has the added advantage that they are only visible by MRI when they enter cancer cells, so should reduce the number of false positives.”

The research was gaining attention in other parts of the world, especially among people working in oncology, Dr Blakey said.

“The contrast agents development team at UQ is establishing collaborations with leading groups in oncology as well as other imaging groups internationally. The award and the fellowship will help cement these relationships.”

Dr Blakey was one of three ARC Future Fellowship successes for the AIBN.

Dr Aijun Du received more than $600,000, while senior researcher at Japan’s National Institute for Materials Science, Professor Ajayan Vinu, will receive more than $900,000 if he accepts an offer to join the AIBN.

Media: Dr Idriss Blakey (3346 3869) or Erik de Wit (0427 281 466)