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New Victoria Research Centre targets biodiscovery

New Victoria Research Centre targets biodiscovery

Exploring the new world of proteins to prevent, diagnose and cure human, animal and plant diseases is the goal of a new collaborative applied research centre to be established at Victoria University.

The Centre for Biodiscovery will launched by the Hon Pete Hodgson, Minister for Research, Science and Technology, in the University's Hunter Council Chamber on Thursday March 18 from 5.30pm.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart McCutcheon said with the completion in 2000 of the mapping of the 30-40,000 genes that make up the human genome, the focus was turning to the more than two million proteins that are the products of genes. It is proteins that are the targets of most pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines.

"There is a growing realisation that to better diagnose, prevent and cure the array of maladies that afflict humans, animals and plants, we need to understand the nature of proteins. While proteomics – the study of study of proteins – is in its scientific infancy and experiencing explosive growth, at Victoria, our academics have been working in this field for the last 20 years.

"The new Centre for Biodiscovery brings together in one collaborative team, under the directorship of Dr Bill Jordan, researchers from the Schools of Biological Sciences, Chemical & Physical Sciences, Psychology and Mathematical & Computing Sciences to further enhance Victoria's research in this exciting new frontier of biological and chemical science.

"The Centre's researchers are working on at least seven major projects that involve about $7 million dollars of external funding from organisations as diverse as the Foundation for Research Science and Technology, Ovita, the United States' National Institutes of Health and the European Union."

Professor McCutcheon said Centre staff already had strong relationships with a host of other research organisations including Crown research institutes, such as AgResearch, Industrial Research and the Institute of Environmental Science & Research, as well as the dairy company Fonterra, the Wellington School of Medicine and Health Sciences, and the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research.

In a related development, the University and AgResearch have formed a new proteomics joint venture with an AgResearch laboratory established within the School of Biological Sciences so both organisations can work together in proteomics-based biology and biotechnology. This will assist in fulfilling the growing need for proteomics capability for the University and for AgResearch, as well as providing exciting long-term opportunities for new products from the discovery of novel proteins.

Research within the Centre includes: the development of a new anti-cancer drug from a marine sponge toxin; protein technology to help rapidly diagnose disease; understanding the activity of bacteria in a cow's rumen (one of four stomachs) to improve nutrition and reduce the greenhouse gas methane; and investigating proteins in cereals and wheat that cause adverse reactions in humans.

The Centre for Biodiscovery is the sixth applied research centre to be launched following the establishment of the MacDiarmid Institute for New Materials and Nanotechnology (now a Government-funded Centre of Research Excellence), New Zealand Institute for Research on Ageing, the Crime and Justice Research Centre, the Roy McKenzie Centre for the Study of Families and the Centre for Applied Cross Cultural Psychology.

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