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Advanced manufacturing in Australia – closing the gap

2015 September 11

Recently, I was lucky enough to be invited on a panel to consider a hypothetical scenario in manufacturing and how we might fundamentally change our thinking to incite action with commercial outcomes. By releasing the shackles that can normally bind us, we allowed ourselves the freedom to imagine a future of true innovation where being proactive drives our growth strategy, rather than letting ourselves be at the mercy of what is happening around us. If we truly wish to thrive, not simply survive, we need to embrace an innovative culture and all that it entails, including changing how we define manufacturing in Australia.

I have often heard comments made that manufacturing is just not something Australia can compete on anymore. Yet we fail to see the opportunities that present themselves in this natural evolution of change – something that has been happening globally for centuries and will continue to happen. Why do we insist on clinging to techniques or skills that will neither help build the future of Australia nor those who are its’ engine-room i.e. producers, inventors, designers, students, etc. To prosper, we must identify, build and support these skills and techniques that move us confidently to our future. To do this, an interconnected environment must be nurtured across education, research, government and industry. It is not the case that one entity can succeed on its own.

It is time to change our views on what is possible and open our minds to how we might map out our future. It is astonishing to think that in Victoria, as well as Australia, we have some of the smartest minds globally, yet Australia ranks 116th out of 142 countries in converting research dollars into innovation and commercial success. How can we expect to build our future if we don’t commit to the transition of advancing from idea to revenue? To do this well, we need leaders across each facet of education, research, government and industry to commit to this future. We need to demonstrate investment in smart thinking and our intellectual capital as well as collaboration across industries to minimise the reinvention of the wheel. Let’s redirect our focus to areas where we do, and can excel.

Advanced manufacturing is one such area where we have all the components for great success – intellectual capital, a skilled workforce, a strong research culture and smart technology. However, these need to be intelligently combined to foster a prosperous future. Advanced manufacturing is about enhancing a process, a way of thinking, a solution – it’s about adding value and building unique capabilities, not simply producing a product. Due to these smart resources, we have the distinct advantage in leveraging these resources, closing the gap and driving them to better commercial outcomes. Yet the main barrier to this advancement is in our thinking of how manufacturing is defined and where it can take us. We limit our thinking and we, in turn, limit our opportunities for growth and success.

The challenge we face is not whether these resources or opportunities exist but whether we are motivated and driven enough to change our thinking now. I believe that if we don’t embrace this necessary change now, we will be left behind. The discussion has existed for long enough – it is now time for action to close the gap. Imagine ten years from now, in 2025, that we have built significant commercial success and we are renowned for our intellectual capital, collaboration and facilitation of smart solutions. We have generated a wealth of financial, intellectual and educational resources. We have created a destination where global organisations choose Australia as their innovation headquarters because of ‘smart-edge’ over other countries and our supportive ecosystem for success in our investment, research and tax incentives.

Now imagine a future without changing our thinking…

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Michelle Carr
Director, Telezon Ltd
Melbourne, Australia

Industry collaboration: Victoria welcomes global innovators from Denmark, Canada & the UK as veski innovation fellows

2015 August 13

The secrets to the human brain, chronic inflammatory diseases and modern engineering challenges, including the key to making air travel faster and cheaper, could be uncovered in Victoria with the arrival of three international researchers from Canada, Denmark and the UK as veski innovation fellows.

Associate Professor Roger Pocock from Denmark and Professor Colby Zaph from Canada, who have moved to Melbourne to work at Monash University, and Professor Richard Sandberg who has moved from the UK to work at the University of Melbourne, were all named as veski innovation fellows last month.

Along with their innovative research programs and strong industry contacts, the three fellows bring more than eight outstanding young researchers from their previous laboratories to continue their research in their new labs in Australia, which delivers a boost to the Australian economy of 12 bright minds in return for three fellowships.

Receiving a total of A$450,000 worth of funding from veski and the State Government of Victoria, along with matched funding from their universities, the three new veski innovation fellows will be helping combat some of society’s biggest issues with a strong focus on translating their research into real world applications from revolutionary new drugs to faster and cheaper air travel.

Video: veski innovation fellow Prof Richard Sandberg

In a virtual wind tunnel at the University of Melbourne, Professor Richard Sandberg is using a powerful numerical code to leverage modern supercomputers and create a ‘time machine’ to reduce simulation time from 30 years to as little as one week. His aim is to develop models which industry can use in engineering ‘greener’ technologies, faster and cheaper air travel and improved heating and cooling systems.

Studying the brains of tiny worms at Monash University using an injection of a fluorescent jelly fish protein, Associate Professor Roger Pocock is focused on better understanding degenerative brain diseases. He is in the trenches building a foundation, which he hopes will one day hold the answer to treating diseases such as Schizophrenia.

Video: veski innovation fellow Prof Roger Pocock

Also at Monash University, Professor Colby Zaph is helping Victoria focus on claiming its share of the A$70 billion global pharmaceutical market for the treatment of inflammatory diseases and immune deficiencies, including irritable bowel syndrome and asthma. His lab is working on defining the cellular and molecular mechanisms that control immunity and inflammation, ready for translation to industry.

Video: veski innovation fellow Prof Colby Zaph

veski chief executive officer Ms Julia L Page says there are both economic and societal benefits of attracting this pool of talent to Victoria and having these three international researchers in Australia with their strong industry collaborations and a clear focus on translational research will deliver big results for the state and the nation.

“Not only has veski and Victoria been able to attract three world-class researchers to Melbourne, we have also managed to help them bring more than eight of their colleagues, who are each leaders in research and will contribute to Victoria’s success in key areas including medical research and high performance computing,” Ms Page said.

Ms Page added: “This injection of talent will not only ensure Victoria remains competitive in these important areas of research but it provides Victoria with a solid foundation to support the development of our State’s industries including advanced manufacturing”.

The three fellows and their teams were welcomed to Victoria by leaders from Victoria’s science and innovation communities at an official event hosted by veski and the Victorian Government.

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Julia L Page, CEO, veski

About veski
Since 2004, veski has been attracting and bringing outstanding global talent to Australia to develop solutions to address modern challenges facing health and medicine, the environment, technology and society more broadly. To date, 23 veski innovation fellows have brought their research to Victoria covering semiconductors, epigenetics, audiology, optic and nano technologies, enzymes, dengue, malaria, cancer, inflammatory diseases, musculoskeletal health, geothermal energy and obesity.

Let’s talk about the hushed side of health

2015 July 22
by Haley Price

It’s no secret that trim, taught and tantalising wellness warriors dominate discussions about health on social media by posting images of yoga poses, green smoothies and perfectly arranged acai bowls. The wellness industry is thriving, but is it making us any healthier?

I’m an avid supporter of wellness initiatives in all shapes and sizes; like most 20-something females, I seek inspiration to reinvent my exercise routine and weekday lunches via the social platforms I use every day. But the thing that stands out about this carefully popularised world of health online, is that it is single-faceted and diametrically opposed to reality.

The Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study 2010 reported that the number of people dying from non-communicable diseases such as heart disease and diabetes has risen by 30 per cent since 1990. It also reported an 82 per cent rise in the levels of overweight and obese people. This is a major problem, which requires a very considered shift in public dialogue and behaviour to address.

Social media is an excellent place to stimulate this conversation and to create communities dedicated to taking action. Social media platforms present a very compelling opportunity to change the way we think, feel and communicate about health online.

So how do we inject a sensible, rational voice into these online communities, in such a way that we address pressing priorities in health and boost overall health literacy?

health-and-websiteA new health tech start-up company in Melbourne, Health&, is seeking to do just that. Our company has brought together a team of Australia’s brightest medical, digital and creative minds, to build health resources and digital tools to help bring the hushed side of health into our everyday conversations.The Health& website, which went live this month, contains more than 400 animated, illustrated and written health resources that are designed to transform complex medical information into styles that engage, educate and entertain. Starring a friendly doctor and a supporting cast of 24 characters, the animations bring real-world context to health conditions through interesting, empathetic narratives.

When visitors to the site search for diseases or conditions, they are presented with video, auditory, written and illustrated resources designed to help people of all ages and abilities to understand the health topic.  For example, searching Melanoma presents a large amount of information, presented in a variety of ways, which includes images of different moles, signs and symptoms, types of treatments, and preventive measures too. All information on the website is carefully created and reviewed by a panel of leading Australian doctors, health providers and specialists in medical education and communication – which means it is relevant and it can be trusted.

We know that people are on their phones and we know that people are online, so we are putting our health resources where their eyes and ears are. Visitors are invited to extend the conversation too, by sharing the health resources via social media, asking questions, providing feedback and actively participating in the development of the Health& resource library. Our main goal is to significantly improve the way people understand their health and importantly, how they can prevent illness.

The first stage of Health&’s launch represents a very small part of its planned investment in Melbourne’s knowledge economy. In the past two years, Health& has created over 50 full-time jobs (including many recent university graduates) in Melbourne and invested over A$8 million in Victoria – and this is only just the beginning.

Health& is a very noble initiative to bring knowledge from Australia’s world-class medical fraternity to the masses and we believe that digital health is a team sport. So please get in touch if you’re interested to contribute to our efforts to engage and educate Australians about all facets of their personal health and we promise to provide a blank canvas to explore and develop new ideas.

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Haley Price
Chief Communications Officer, Health&
Melbourne, Australia

Dinner in Melbourne with Sir Paul Nurse, Nobel Laureate and President of the Royal Society

2015 June 5

After listening to Sir Paul Nurse speak at the 2015 Graeme Clark Oration this year in Melbourne, and then through a series of Q&A’s at the dinner afterwards, it was easy to see the humble yet determined characteristics that had seen him succeed in his scientific career.

Perhaps his strong ethos was learnt from his supervisors, who respectfully elected not to put their name on his papers, claiming they hadn’t contributed enough.  Or potentially from his own childhood and early academic career as ‘lucky’ breaks occurred, including a Professor Jinks intervening at the University of Birmingham to allow him acceptance when technically he didn’t meet the requirements.  He’d failed his French exam, and still quips that foreign languages will never be his strength.

From the peppering of photos through his (precisely hand-drawn) PowerPoint presentation of previous mentors, students and colleagues – giving more than generous credit whenever due – to his strong views on giving independence to promising youth, it made his personal anecdotes all the more relatable for the audience and for the many Melburnians who attended the sell-out Public Oration at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre and dinner that followed.

His own early life is an interesting tale and contains a curious parallel to his own philosophies of scientific discovery.  Nurse, at the age of 57, found out that his parents were actually his Grandparents, a fact he talks about openly.  His biological mother (who he knew as his older sister) and the rest of the family had agreed to keep the tale of an 18-year old falling pregnant, and the true origins of his mother, a secret.  As he wrote in the addendum to his Nobel Prize biography “… there is the final irony that even though I am a geneticist my family managed to keep my genetic origins secret from me for over half a century.”

In comparison to his personal journey of discovery, his scientific discoveries are full of deconstructions as opposed to looking for proof of just one theory.  While testing for the CDC2 gene his experiment continuously gave him results debunking his hypothesis.  After grappling with the thought of publishing it with false information he eventually came up with a new hypothesis and make sense of the errant results that his tenacious and conscientious approach to his work had revealed.

His encouragement of youth and young scientists was apparent throughout his Q&A’s at dinner, with strong declarations of the issues of top heavy management structures, young researchers rejuvenating science in organisations, and being given transitional funding to increase their level of independence.

It was fitting then that Nurse had presented the inaugural Graeme Clark Award for Science Innovation in Schools earlier that evening to Maffra Secondary College.  More than 700 high school students had arrived to listen to his speech at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre from 50 regional and urban areas.

With this in mind, and his own childhood-family story, it did make his opening question: “How do you get into a problem that no one knows anything about?” and the answer “start with genetics” all the more poignant.

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Suzana Bishop
General Manager Club Melbourne Ambassador Program
Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre

 

Dr Amanda Barnard grabs a bag of ‘firsts’ winning the Nobel Prize of nanoscience world: The Feynman Prize

2015 May 8

For the first time, a scientist from the southern hemisphere has taken out the Feynman Prize in its 22 year history. Oh… and did I mention she is also the first ever woman to win the Prize.

The Feynman Prize for Nanotechnology was awarded last month to Dr Amanda Barnard. Often referred to as the Nobel Prize of nanoscience, the prize’s importance is remarkable in that it recognises prodigious talent in the sector and is a reliable predictor of scientific discoveries with a very high translational impact on industry.

Dr Amanda Barnard’s award winning work relied upon supercomputers to understand the structure of diamond nanoparticles, finding that they have unique electrostatic properties that make them spontaneously arrange into highly valuable structures with huge implications in healthcare, cleantech, manufacturing and fuel.

Based at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Melbourne, Australia, Amanda has research networks that spans the globe as many nanotechnologist now vie for her collaborative input and engagement, particularly since winning this prize.

Already, her diamond discovery has underpinned the development of a potentially life-saving chemotherapy treatment that targets brain tumours. Among her other research highlights, Dr Barnard developed a new technique for investigating the shape of nanomaterials including their size, temperature or potential uses in chemistry allowing them to be customised to make bespoke nanoparticles targeted to specific application areas.

Dr Barnard’s name might sound familiar to Australians – it should, as she is a regular to the stage collecting awards.  In Australia her mantelpiece holds the Frederick White Prize, a Eureka Prize, the Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist, the JG Russell Award and a L’Oreal ‘For Women in Science’ Award, to name just a few.

Dr Barnard’s success could not come at a better time in the growing awareness and understanding of the functional benefits of investing in nanoscience in Australia.  Her success will also act as a beacon for younger women embarking upon science careers, following in her footsteps as the dialogue supporting women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) industries, particularly physics and maths, gains momentum in this country.

The Feynman Award is named after Dr Richard Feynman a renowned physicist and Nobel Prize winner from last century: the father of quantum electrodynamics.

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Michelle Gallaher, Creative Director
The Social Science
@thesocialsci

 

Monash University’s Low FODMAP App is winning friends and influencing people

2015 April 29

Generally I wouldn’t support a university trying to directly commercialise its own research right down to the consumer transition point. This would include Apps, even though the cost of development is something that could be contemplated by a university. Contrary to this preferred position, Monash University is currently supporting a number of commercial Apps in the health/medical space and reaping the benefits. But the big benefits aren’t so much the financial reward but the research and skills impacts that the opportunity delivers.

How and why would a university choose to support a commercial operation? In short, sometimes the commercial project is so intrinsic to the research agenda that they are difficult to separate. Sometimes implementing a commercial strategy works against the intended application.

fodmap-app-phoneTo support the commercialisation strategy for the Monash Low FODMAP Diet App, we have developed a hybrid model that includes both Monash staff and external consultants. Fortunately there are a number of consultancies in Melbourne specialising in this format, offering sophisticated solutions that can be tailored to suit the clients needs (Thank you Michelle Gallaher – thesocialscience.com.au and Kate Dinon – pearlpr.com.au). We have kept our IT support in-house, which for the Monash low FODMAP App is essential because the development of the information central to the value of the App are developing on a weekly basis , but I could see how this might also be outsourced.

Monash University is a world leader in dietary interventions for the management of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and are the developers of the Monash Low FODMAP diet. The diet acts by correcting imbalances in the gut microbiome. The diet is highly effective, providing sustained relief to about 80% of IBS sufferers. The researchers recognised the need for an App making the diet available to the widest possible audience, while trying to avoid it become the latest dietary fad. The App has been the highest selling Medical App in over 40 countries.

The labs at Monash University are undertaking a huge ongoing study and assessment of hundreds of foods building an expanding database of information critical to the App’s value to users, which in turn demands regular updates of the App as the information is released.  Monash are the only laboratory in the world undertaking assessment research this large on FODMAPS within branded food and are firmly fixed as the key source of FODMAP dietary advice. The assessment of food and the ongoing research on FODMAPS is so closely aligned to the intrinsic value of the App, they are impossible to separate and thus makes perfect sense for Monash University to continue the commercialisation operation of the App to ensure the research is communicated to the people who most need it in a format that is universally acceptable and in fact preferred.

This month Monash University released its FODMAP accreditation and certification program* – helping FODMAP dieters to identify branded foods that are low in FODMAPS. Monash has plans to release the app in a number of languages with blogs on the FODMAP website featuring advice written by dieticians for a multicultural audience.

We have also launched a suite of social media platforms, specifically Twitter (@MonashFODMAP), Facebook and LinkedIn to support the marketing communication objectives the project aims to achieve in supporting escalating international sales of the App.

The experience of commercialising research in this very direct way has been enormously valuable for the Monash Commercialisation team.  The skills and the experience gained has been a bonus for the research teams in the Department of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences and has built a valuable bridge between the Monash Commercialisation Group and the Faculty.

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* The original version of this article incorrectly stated that Monash University’s FODMAP accreditation and certification program is the first such program.
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Dr John Morrison
Director Research Translation Monash University
COO Monash FODMAP Initiative

Victoria to attract more world leading women in science and innovation with additional round of veski innovation fellowships

2014 October 31
The veski family

The veski family

An additional round of veski innovation fellowships – a prestigious Victorian program to attract outstanding global leaders in science and research to Victoria – is actively seeking applications from outstanding women in science and research.

After a decade of inspiring innovation across Victoria, veski has played an instrumental role in encouraging 20 veski innovation fellows to bring their groundbreaking research to Victoria, and the organisation is now working to secure the next 20 outstanding individuals as well as increase the number of leading women brought to the state.

The announcement follows the launch of a new, action-focused veski inspiring women program with a commitment to support 50 per cent participation by women in all veski programs, activities and fellowships by 2016 and actively seek applications from outstanding female applicants meeting the key criteria for innovation fellowships.

The additional call for veski innovation fellowships will focus on attracting applications from global leaders in a range of fields including biotechnology, biomedical, advanced manufacturing, environmental technologies and the enabling sciences as well as the three new areas of energy technologies, food science and bioengineering.

The program has evolved over the past 10 years to support greater talent attraction for the State of Victoria, and the new focus on women along with the additional areas of scientific endeavour form part of veski’s commitment to science and innovation across the state.

While veski will continue to select fellowship recipients based on their academic prowess, we are committed to attracting as many talented women in science and innovation to Victoria as possible, and this additional call allows veski to work with host organisations across the state to attract some of the brightest minds along with their research, colleagues and families.

We are also supporting innovation in new areas such as energy technologies, food science and bio engineering, which are each extremely important for Victoria’s innovative future and areas where we all have a critical role to play in developing them.

Since 2004, veski has awarded 20 innovation fellowships to world leaders working across a range of basic, applied and clinical research fields including semiconductors, epigenetics, audiology, optic and nano technologies, enzymes, dengue, malaria, cancer, inflammatory diseases, musculoskeletal health, geothermal energy and obesity.

Applications for the veski innovation fellowships worth up to $450,000 over three years are sought from globally competitive individuals who are keen to undertake their research in Victoria.

For details, go to veski. Applications close on Friday, 14 November 2014 and for more information please email veski or call +613 9635 5700.

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Julia L Page, CEO

veski logo

Victorian Postdoctoral Research Fellowships – second round

2014 October 15

Applications are now open for the second round of the prestigious A$1.8 million Victorian Postdoctoral Research Fellowships Program, being delivered by veski.

The fellowships aim to strengthening Victoria’s innovation capabilities by enabling talented young researchers to work at world leading research centres before returning to Victoria.

The Victorian Government offered six fellowships in 2013 and is again offering up to six fellowships to begin in 2015.

The three year fellowships are each valued at up to A$300,000 and will fund two years at a leading research institute or university overseas, followed by one year at a Victorian university, company or research organisation.

They will be awarded in the fields of physical and life sciences (apart from human health and medicine), mathematical sciences, engineering and information and communications technology.

To be eligible for a fellowship, candidates must fulfil certain residency requirements. However, candidates who have studied for their PhDs outside Victoria will now also be eligible, provided they have been resident in Victoria for at least seven years and have completed an undergraduate degree in Victoria.

This change allows enables Victoria to attract high quality candidates back to State, when candidates have completed their PhDs interstate or overseas.

Consistent with its role in delivering the Victoria Prize, the Victoria Fellowships, veski innovation fellowships and the Premier’s Award for Health and Medical Research (PAHMR), veski will assist with the marketing and administration of the program.

veski is proud to be delivering this program on behalf of the Victorian Government alongside four other prestigious fellowships and awards: the veski innovation fellowships, the Victoria Prize for Science & Innovation and the Victoria Fellowships.

Applications for the Victorian Postdoctoral Research Fellowships close at 2.00pm EST on Thursday 30 October 2014.

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Julia L. Page
CEO, veski

Melbourne cancer research partnership led by Australian icons

2014 September 15
ONJCRI

Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute

La Trobe University in Melbourne will bring its world-class scientific expertise to the newly launched Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute (ONJCRI).

The partnership will share scientific knowledge, skills, research training and facilities to conduct world-class translational cancer research and treatment. The ONJCRI is based at Austin Health and is the successor to Melbourne’s Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research.

The collaboration will see La Trobe scientists work alongside Institute scientists and clinicians making available new discoveries and treatments for the benefit of cancer patients being treated there.

La Trobe University Vice-Chancellor, Professor John Dewar, said La Trobe University is already home to some of the world’s best scientists unravelling the molecular mechanisms behind diseases such as cancer and infectious conditions.

“We look forward to working with the team at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute on the shared goal of making a difference on issues that matter,” Professor Dewar said.

The collaboration will lead to close interactions between scientists at both organisations, and include joint training of higher degree research students enrolled at the university. In recognition of the institute’s reputation and research strength, La Trobe University has created a School of Cancer Medicine to be headed by the newly-appointed Director of the ONJCRI, Professor Matthias Ernst.

New therapy targeting the malaria parasite’s Achilles’ heel

2014 August 5

Malaria is a devastating disease, affecting 200 million people worldwide and causing more than 600 000 deaths each year.

In the past decade, great inroads have been made in reducing the number of infections, primarily through the implementation of insecticide-laced bed nets, and also reducing the death rate with combination therapies. However the emergence of drug-resistant malaria is rendering these therapies less effective, and there is an urgent need to develop novel therapies to cure malaria.

With my colleagues at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, we developed a compound known as WEHI-916 in the quest for novel antimalarial therapies. The compound targets an essential malaria protein called plasmepsin V. Our research team previously showed plasmepsin V was a ‘gatekeeper’ enzyme responsible for controlling the transport of critical proteins in and out of the parasite.

The Plasmodium parasite is transmitted by the Anopheles mosquito from one human host to another. There are five species of Plasmodium parasite that cause malaria, with the most virulent forms being P. falciparum and P. vivax. Once the parasite has entered the human host, it invades red blood cells, which it takes over and ‘renovates’ to help it evade the immune system and gain sustenance to replicate and survive. The parasite sends 460 proteins into the host red blood cell to remodel it. Each of these proteins has a ‘barcode’ known as the Plasmodium export element (PEXEL) that must be processed by Plasmepsin V for the proteins to be exported to the host red blood cell.

WEHI-916 blocks the function of Plasmepsin V in P. falciparum and P. vivax, to prevent trafficking of essential proteins to the host red blood cell. We demonstrated in a malaria model that parasites treated with WEHI-916 were unable to engineer natural mechanisms to evade the host immune system and that WEHI-916 killed P. falciparum blood stage parasites as a direct result of blocking the function of Plasmepsin V. These findings were published in the journal PLoS Biology.

These promising findings provide a platform that will enable our team to further investigate the role of Plasmepsin V in both the liver and sexual stage of the malaria parasite’s lifecycle. We are now embarking on a drug discovery campaign that will aim to develop a first-in-class antimalarial therapeutic targeting Plasmepsin V.

The research was supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council, the Human Frontiers Science Program, the Australian Research Council, the CASS Foundation, the Ramaciotti Foundation, Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Victorian Government.

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Dr Brad Sleebs, Scientist at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute
WEHI is the oldest research institute in Australia based in Melbourne. The institute is affiliated with The University of Melbourne and The Royal Melbourne Hospital and offers postgraduate training as the Department of Medical Biology of The University of Melbourne.