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Victoria scientist wins $1.2m grant


28 April 2006

Victoria scientist wins $1.2m grant

Cancerous tumours that hide inside the human body could soon be visualised by tiny ‘quantum dots,’ developed by a Victoria University chemistry lecturer and the focus of a new $1.26 million medical imaging research grant.

Dr Richard Tilley, from the School of Chemical & Physical Sciences and a Principal Investigator at the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology, is the principal researcher of a new collaboration, funded by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology’s International Investment Opportunities Fund.

The project focuses on the development of silicon quantum dots—tiny particles made up of between 200 and 10,000 atoms that have the property of emitting coloured light.

Dr Tilley says these hold promise for high-resolution cellular imaging and the long-term observation of individual molecules and their movement within cells.

“We are hoping the quantum dot technology will help researchers locate abnormalities, such as tumours, within the body. They will even be able to look at tumours very precisely at the cellular level to determine what type of cancer.

It could also be possible to use the same technology to attack diseases.

“We are hoping to attach drugs molecules to the dots themselves, so once they locate a disease cell they will able to treat it.”

Dean of Science, Professor David Bibby, says the grant is an acknowledgement of the international standing of Dr Tilley’s work on nanotechnology and its application in medical research.

“Through this collaboration Richard will be able to link with medical researchers who can make immediate use of his research findings in treating a range of human diseases.”

During the next three years Dr Tilley will work with several key collaborators to undertake the research.

As a chemist, he will be concentrating on making and characterising the dots, using the electron microscope facilities at the MacDiarmid Institute. He will be assisted by a PhD student who, as part of the collaboration, has come from the International Medical Centre of Japan. One of the medical centre’s key researchers, Professor Kenji Yamamato, is a key collaborator in the project and will be investigating the toxicology of the quantum dots.

In Wellington, Dr Thomas Bäckström, from the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research, will be looking at the process of attaching antibodies to the particles. Victoria University Physics lecturer, Dr Shaun Hendy, who also works at Industrial Research Limited, will be modelling how the quantum dots will form.


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