7th November 2018

New State Government funding will enable QUT researchers and industry partners to develop new technologies on projects as varied as developing Panama disease resistant bananas to transforming medical practices with 3D biomedical technologies.

Eleven QUT researchers have been awarded a total of $2,580,000 to further their research for the next three years.

The Advance Queensland Industry Research Fellowships for QUT researchers were announced by Innovation Minister Kate Jones who said the funding was designed to support researchers, working in collaboration with a Queensland company on projects that will have an impact on the world.

Dr Sean Powell, Dr Asha Mathew and Dr Mark Allenby all received early-career fellowship funding of $180,000 to work on collaborative projects with the Herston Biofabrication Institute.

Herston Biofabrication Institute

Institute director Professor Mia Woodruff said the organisation’s work (a partnership with Metro North Hospital and Health Service and scheduled to open in 2019) will transform health care and grow Queensland’s scientific expertise.

“The future of health care involves the transformation of traditional medical practices by enabling advanced personalised treatments driven by 3D biomedical technologies,” Professor Woodruff said.

“The institute will enable close collaboration with clinicians and leading industry partners to develop 3D platform technologies (scanning, modelling, printing) to treat tissue loss and/or damage in three important areas of health care – orthopaedics, vascular and skin burns, and trauma.”

QUT Fellowship recipient Dr Sean Powell said severe burns affected the lives of thousands of Australians each year.

“In 2013-2014, more than 1500 Australian children and more than 3000 Australian adults were hospitalised with severe burns, leading to significant difficulties that can last their entire lives,” he said.

“Among the most visible effects of burns is hypertrophic scarring. Current treatments are invasive, labour intensive and very traumatic for young children who often need sedation.

“This project will develop 3D scanning, modelling and 3D printing approaches for burn injury management leading to better, less invasive treatments and improved clinical outcomes.”

QUT genetic biotechnologist Dr Upendra Shekhawat from the Centre for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities will receive $180,000 to develop a non-genetically modified Cavendish banana that’s able to resist the insidious Panama disease that threatens the state’s $600 million banana industry

The project is in partnership with NQ Banana Research Pty Ltd and LaManna Premier Group.

Dr Shekhawat said while colleagues at QUT had already developed a GM Cavendish banana resistant to this disease, the Advance Queensland funding would enable researchers to investigate gene editing techniques to develop a non-GM banana.

Panama disease in Cavendish banana plant.

“This is important because development of such a banana would ensure the survival of Queensland’s banana industry against a disease that has decimated the banana industry in the Northern Territory, is widespread throughout Asia and now present in Africa,” Dr Shekhawat said.

“The development of non-GM, TR4-resistant Cavendish bananas might not only open up an international export market for these banana plants, but would also be of great assistance to banana growers and the industry worldwide as the Cavendish variety accounts for more than 50 per cent of the world’s bananas.”

LaManna Premier Group (LPG) Chief Executive Officer Mr Anthony DiPietro, said that as a key player in the Australian banana growing industry, he was very excited about this project.

“Alongside our partners and with the support of the Palaszczuk Government, this will greatly assist the future sustainability of the Australian banana industry which is important for our consumers and the economy,” Mr DiPietro said.

The full list of QUT Advance Queensland Industry Research Fellowship recipients:

Dr Asha Matthew ($180,000) to biofabricate orthopaedic and soft tissue implants.

Dr Carlos Horacio Luna-Flores ($180,000) to develop sustainable astaxanthin, an antioxidant with health promoting properties used in the animal feed industry.

Dr Darryn Rackemann ($300,000) to further develop Mercurius REACH biorefining technology to commercialisation stage.

Dr Elizabeth Martin ($300,000) to advance innovative maternity services in Queensland.

Dr Jonathan Ellis ($300,000) to develop a pharmacogenomics system to prevent adverse drug reactions.

Dr Laura Croft ($300,000) towards development of a new cancer therapeutic drug.

Dr Mark Allenby ($180,000) to investigate biofabrication approaches to vascular surgery, training and treatment.

Dr Neha Gandhi ($300,000) for advanced molecular design of potent chemotherapeutic agents.

Dr Sean Powell ($180,000) to develop biofabrication approaches for advanced burn treatments.

Dr Upendra Shekhawat ($180,000) to develop gene edited Cavendish bananas resistant to Fusarium wilt TR4 (Panama disease).

Dr Zhanying Zhang ($300,000) to develop an innovative process for converting biosolids to a safe hydrochar biofertiliser.

Media contact: Rose Trapnell, QUT media team leader, 07 3138 2361 or 0407 585 901 or rose.trapnell@qut.edu.au or media@qut.edu.au.




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