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QIMR expansion boosts medical research in Queensland

Research into vaccines for serious infant respiratory viruses and understanding the role of genes and the environment in disease development such as cancer, will be fast-tacked as a result of two new groups joining the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR). Backed by over $3 million worth of the latest scientific equipment, the two groups have brought with them their expertise in genetics and protein science, boosting medical research in the State.

Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development, Trade and Innovation Anna Bligh, will unveil the recently renovated C Floor of QIMR’s Clive Berghofer Cancer Research Centre on Thursday 4 May, which will house the Epigenetics Group and the QIMR Protein Discovery Centre.

Headed by Professor Emma Whitelaw, the Epigenetics Group has been studying how genes are switched on and off in people. With the human genome now fully sequenced, the Group is working on understanding the mechanisms that trigger certain genes to cause the development of diseases like diabetes and cancer.

“There is increasing evidence that the environment can influence these mechanisms, but also that they can be reversed by drug treatment,” Professor Whitelaw said. “The challenge for our lab now is to translate our findings to improve both detection and treatment in these cases, and with QIMR’s broad focus on human diseases, it’s an ideal setting for us to achieve this aim.”

The QIMR Protein Discovery Centre is headed by Professor Jeff Gorman and boasts numerous pieces of state-of-the-art equipment to carry out various forms of protein analysis which will not only facilitate projects within the Centre, but can also be accessed by other research groups and QIMR collaborators. Current projects within the Centre include research into vaccines for serious infant respiratory viruses and understanding the role of genes and the environment in disease development, especially cancer.

“These projects involve collaborations with experts in the relevant disciplines,” Professor Gorman said. “The new equipment we have installed has already provided important new data on the regulation of stem cell development and how our cells are affected by cancer causing pollutants such as Agent Orange.”

Professor Gorman and his team plan to collaborate more broadly with QIMR and other investigators who wish to seek their analytical skills and advice in experimental design and interpretation. They also plan to become an integral part of a national network of cooperating proteomic laboratories.