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Vital funds to future-proof crops

6th May 2016

One of the world's leading discovery researchers has received $2.7 million to overcome a key barrier to future-proofing the world’s crops.

QUT Professor of Molecular Genetics Peter Waterhouse is a molecular whisperer, recognised internationally for his research into gene silencing and plant viruses.

He and QUT’s Professor Dmitri Golberg were today awarded prestigious Australian Laureate Fellowships from the Australian Research Council (ARC).

Professor Waterhouse’s ARC project aims to fully understand how a plant distinguishes self from non-self genes and to develop ways of precisely enhancing, repairing, updating and/or redirecting genetic traits in harmony with the genome.

“The world’s food security relies on modern crops that are continually updated with genetic traits for higher yield and protection against changing environmental stresses,” said Professor Waterhouse, from QUT’s Centre for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities within the Institute for Future Environments (IFE).

“A crop plant’s genes determine its growth, development, survival and agronomic fitness.

“The ability to precisely edit genes in crop plants is tantalizingly close but significant barriers must be overcome.

“We anticipate this project will result in safer, higher-yielding and more sustainable crops.”

Professor Golberg has received $2.6 million to develop new ultralight and super-strong structural composites and ‘green-energy’ nanomaterials, such as solar cells, touch panels, batteries, supercapacitors, field-effect transistors, light sensors and displays.

He will use spatially-resolved, dynamic in situ transmission electron microscopy to research fundamental mechanical, electrical, thermal, optical, optoelectronic and photovoltaic properties of diverse nanostructures.

QUT has received $3.73 million under the ARC’s Industrial Transformation Training Centres scheme to establish an ARC Training Centre in Additive Biomanufacturing, to make Australia a world-leader in the 3D-printing of body parts.

It’s expected research undertaken at the training centre, led by Professor Dietmar Hutmacher, will change the fields of science, health and biotechnology.

The training centre aims to bring together leading researchers and industry to develop and translate key technology platforms for personalised treatments of challenging medical conditions.

The centre expects its research will lead to synergistic and innovative technologies needed for personalised therapies including: modular additive biomanufacturing platforms; advanced bio-inks for regenerative medicine; and additive manufactured tools for surgical planning and education.

“Highly experienced researchers and industry partners with teams of exceptional post-doctoral fellows and doctoral students will drive each of these technologies,” said Professor Hutmacher, from QUT’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation (IHBI) and Science and Engineering Faculty (SEF).

QUT has also received ARC Linkage Projects scheme funding for the following research projects:

  • Professor Margot Brereton (SEF) and team - $235,000 to co-design a social, interactive and visual internet search interface for people with intellectual disability. Partnering with Endeavour Foundation.
  • Associate Professor Adrian Bridge (SEF) and team – $391,000 to develop a whole-of-life procurement decision-making framework so schools can make delivering better education more cost effective. Partnering with various government and private organisations.
  • Professor Axel Bruns (Creative Industries Faculty) and team - $247,000 to improve the international evidence base for the public impact and value of publicly funded scholarly research, using mixed-methods analysis. Partnering with The Conversation Media Group and Cooperative Research Centres Association.
  • Associate Professor Scott McCue (SEF) and team - $412,000 to build interactive software that simulates agrichemical spraying for multiple virtual plants reconstructed from scanned data. Partnering with Plat Protection NZ, Syngenta and Nufarm Australia.
  • Professor Lidia Morawska (IHBI, SEF, IFE) and team - $445,000 to develop innovative, cost-effective, high resolution air quality networks. Partnering with various government organisations and Beijing’s Tsinghua University.

Media contacts:

Kate Haggman, QUT Media, 07 3138 0358,

After hours Niki Widdowson, QUT Media team leader, 0407 585 901,

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