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Waikato Research Capacity Gets $1.3 Million Boost

Waikato Science And Engineering Research Capacity Gets $1.3 Million Boost

Waikato University – rated first equal in chemistry research and first in molecular biology research – has now acquired more than $1.3 million worth of leading edge equipment which can assist Waikato and New Zealand businesses in the development of a wide range of agricultural, chemical, medical and material products.

The university’s installation of its MALDI-TOF/TOF instrument and sample handling robot, with a value of more than $800,000, has now been complemented by a new state-of-the-art surface plasmon resonance device, worth more than $500,000.

The MALDI-TOF/TOF quickly and clearly identifies molecules, while the plasmon resonance device measures how substances bond and interact.

“We now have the most advanced surface plasmon resonance device in the country,” says the School of Science and Engineering’s dean Professor Richard Price. “Combined with the MALDI-TOF/TOF, this means we have a leading-edge, specialist facility that can help Waikato and New Zealand business maximise the economic potential of their research and products.”

The MALDI-TOF/TOF instrument measures the time molecules take to travel distances inside the machine, thereby enabling the university to rapidly and accurately analyse what they are. The sample preparation robot allows the process of preparing large numbers of samples to be highly automated.

The MALDI-TOF/TOF equipment can:

• confirm the structure of new therapeutic proteins, thereby allowing companies to produce more effective drugs;

• study DNA and protein modifications so that the developmental process of organisms is better understood;

• monitor the purity of a product at the molecular level;

• identify sequences of amino acids in protein and mutations in DNA;

• carry out specialized research on chemicals.

• identify the molecular size of natural and synthetic polymers.

• permit novel research in the areas of mass spectrometry of inorganic chemicals, for which the chemistry department already has an international reputation.

The surface plasmon resonance device can:

• detect specific molecules, such as growth factors or hormones, in fluids like milk or blood;

• help to design new methods for detecting or purifying molecules;

• identify different cells, like bacteria, or viruses;

• help to understand how various molecules come together to form structures that are essential to their functions in the body;

• determine the speeds at which molecules bind and dissociate from one another;

• measure how a surgical implant material interacts with human blood;

• measure how a particular anti-cancer drug reacts with cancerous cells;

Importantly, the MALDI-TOF/TOF and the surface plasmon resonance instrument can also be linked together to, for example:

capture and measure interactions between molecules with certain functions using the surface plasmon resonance instrument;

and, then to automatically transfer the molecules into the MALDI-TOF/TOF to analyse their structure.

“We have made this significant investment in new equipment to help support the top-class researchers working in important areas at the university, and to develop a centre that will support the regional and national economies,” says Professor Price.

“Essentially, anyone researching and developing biological or chemical-based products will be able to gain access to a world-class facility, including automation to handle large numbers of samples faster. We are happy to carry out work for others on a commercial basis or on a joint research basis.”

Earlier this year, Waikato University was ranked first equal for chemistry and first for molecular biology in the Performance Based Research Fund.

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