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Research The Key To A Strong Knowledge Economy

Investment In Quality Research The Key To A Strong Knowledge Economy

New Zealand’s premier scientific conference of the year, the 15th Queenstown Molecular Biology Meeting (QMB) will showcase the latest international developments in biotechnology and new advances in medical treatments.

QMB will demonstrate that these advances are the result of long-term investment in high quality scientific research at a fundamental level. Over 220 scientists are expected to attend the QMB at the Rydges Hotel in Queenstown from Tuesday August 30 to Friday September 2.

“The theme this year is ‘Celebrating the Success of Molecular Bioscience’, illustrating how excellent scientific research is vital for innovation in health care, biotechnology, and agricultural production. The Meeting again features a stimulating range of top local and international scientists who will demonstrate there are no short cuts to innovation, and that New Zealand scientists can hold their own with the world’s best,” says Convenor Professor Peter Shepherd.

“In recent years an expectation has developed in N.Z. that the science community can produce ‘magic’ results almost overnight. The truth is that most biotech and medical innovations are based on years of hard work by highly skilled scientists and this requires significant and sustained investment.”

Nobel prizewinner Professor Sydney Brenner from the Salk Institute in California personifies this approach. Professor Brenner won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2002 for his work into how genetic mutations can be linked to specific effects in organ development.

Yet his research in this area started over 30 years ago. In his keynote address on Tuesday August 30 titled “Beyond Systems and Back to Basics”, Professor Brenner will outline the current state of genomic science, highlighting the rapid pace of progress, but drawing attention to the need for critical thinking and careful experimentation.

The Queenstown Molecular Biology Meeting continues to attract leading international scientists like Professor Brenner because it is innovative and at the cutting edge. It’s continuing success arises from the cross fertilisation of ideas and scientific methods in the animal, human and plant sciences, and their application to the growing biotech industry.

Details of some speakers addressing particularly newsworthy topics are given below;

Dr Rino Rappuoli (Chiron Vaccines, USA) ‘Towards the elimination of meningococcal disease’ Dr Rappuoli is Chief Scientist and head of research for Chiron Vaccines, the makers of the N.Z. meningococcal vaccine, and known internationally for his work in vaccines and immunology. He is actively involved in the research and development of further vaccines against meningitis and avian and pandemic influenza.

Professor Harry Klee (University of Florida, USA) Molecular approaches to improving tomato flavour and nutrition Prof Klee previously worked for Monsanto and was involved in the development of the first commercial transgenic plants. Currently his lab is working on improving horticultural crops by identifying genes involved in the synthesis of the major flavour volatiles.

Professor Roger Cone (Oregon Health and Science University, USA) Professor Cone is a world leader in the area of undersatnding how appetite is regulated and has identified many novel mechanisms in the brain involved in controlling food intake. These fundamental studies have been pivotal in understanding how conditions like obesity and anorexia develop.

Dr Simon Moroney (Morphosys, Germany) ‘HuCAL Antibody Technology: Development and Applications’ Dr Simon Moroney is a New Zealander who now heads a leading biotech company in Germany. His work has been in the area of antibody development to engineer new medicines and vaccines. One of the most distinctive features of this new technology is the ability to optimise fully human antibodies to predefined specifications, thus producing the ‘Medicines of Tomorrow’.

Professor Matt During (Cornell University, USA and the University of Auckland) Genetic modulation of neuronal physiology as a therapeutic approach to Parkinson's Disease and Epilepsy Professor During is involved in pioneering work using gene therapy appoaches to treat human disease. This field of research offers hope for entirely new modalities of treatment for a wide range of diseases. Professor During is involved in the world’s first clinical trial using gene therapy to treat Parkinson’s disease. This trial is now in Phase-I in New York.

Dr Deborah Young (University of Auckland) Viral vectors:tools for neurological disease modelling and therapeutics Dr Young is this year’s young scientist Invitrogen QMB Award winner ($10,000) for her work in the development and use of viral vectors for generating models of neurological diseases. She is also involved with the development of strategies for treatment of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases.

Dr Olga Garkavenko (Living Cell Technologies, Auckland) Monitoring for potentially xenotic viruses New Zealand based biotech company Living Cell Technologies is a world leader in the field of Xenotransplantation (the use of animal organs for transplantation into humans). Xenotransplantation offers the possibility of limitless supplies of tissue for organ transplant, but fears have been raised that dormant viruses in animal tissues could transfer to humans. Dr Garkavenko will describe LCT’s studies in this controversial area.

For the full range of speakers, bios and programme on the 15th QMB visit Abstracts may be available from the convenor or the registration desk during the conference

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