Executive Director Report December 2006
I am delighted to report the following achievements during 2006:
- The Bosch Institute was officially incorporated in April and commenced operations immediately
- Inaugural Annual Scientific Meeting and Bosch Dinner great successes
- Appointment of the Chief Operating Officer and core facility Scientific Officers
- The Inaugural Tissue Engineering Symposium was a "sell-out"
- Funds of $550,000 have been secured for the purchase of a highly sophisticated confocal microscope
- Bosch member laboratories increased their grant income
- Deputy Vice-Chancellors Kotic and Crossley presented prizes at the Young Investigator Symposium
- Outstanding researchers join Bosch
- Research student training
I also will report on Bosch aims in 2007.
The Bosch Institute is a joint venture of the University of Sydney and the Sydney South West Area Health Service. Further details of the organisational structure of the Institute can be found on the website.
The Institute was awarded seed funding from the Faculty of Medicine for 3 years.
In July the inaugural ASM "Basic research: the foundation for improving health" was held. The meeting, organised by Roger Dampney and Nick Hunt with the invaluable and unstinting assistance of Yvonne Smythe, featured a range of speakers with past associations with the Institute’s predecessors, together with contributions from the most recent appointees to Bosch.
The same evening, a dinner for 100 guests drawn from Bosch, the University, the Area Health Service, industry and the community was held in the Holme Building. Several excellent scientific presentations representative of Bosch’s research activities were given. Yvonne Smythe again very capably shouldered the load of organization, with some assistance from Petronella Fielding.
Jacquie Stratford commenced as Chief Operating Officer, Bosch Institute on October 27. Jacquie was the outstanding candidate among several highly qualified applicants. Jacquie’s previous role was General Manager of the Sydney Melanoma Foundation and Melanoma and Skin Cancer Research Institute, a position she had held since 2000. Her other relevant experience includes the following positions at the University of Sydney:
- General Manager – Institute of Biomedical Research
- Development Officer – Faculty of Arts
- Executive Officer - Central Clinical School, Medicine Faculty
- Admissions Officer – Faculty of Medicine
- Faculty Adviser – Faculty of Medicine
- Senior Technical Officer – Neurobiology Research Centre
Jacquie completely reorganised the structure and operations of the Melanoma Foundation and Melanoma and Skin Cancer Research Institute and managed all facets of both organizations, including fundraising, marketing, grant applications and all administrative and financial functions. A notable achievement was to turn an inherited deficit of $100,000 into a surplus of $1,300,000 with nett assets of $7 million in 2005.
Anne Wilson commenced as Executive Officer on October 3 but resigned at the end of the year.
New appointments were made to all the “Officer” positions in the core facilities. Dr Louise Cole came to the Microscopy Officer position from the EMU, and before that her doctoral studies in Plant Biology. Her very wide experience of microscopy and of dealing with demanding customers are ideal for this role. Dr Donna Lai has an MBA as well as a PhD in Molecular Biology. She came to us from the Victor Chang Institute where she acquired a wide range of molecular biology skills. Dr Sabita Rana obtained her PhD in the King laboratory in Pathology, where she became an expert in flow cytometry. She serves as 0.5FTE Flow Cytometry Officer while continuing her immunology research.
Feedback from members about the core facility officers has been universally positive. Louise and Donna have contributed to successful grant applications to expand the equipment at their disposal. Louise Cole has coordinated various microscopy training sessions and has overseen the enormously demanding tendering process for the new confocal microscope. She also has been involved in giving one-on-one microscopy advice and assistance to young investigators.
The Flow Cytometry Officer, Dr Sabita Rana, has created an on-line booking system for users of the flow cytometers and ImageStream apparatus. She also has produced various user guides about the flow cytometers that can be downloaded from the Bosch website. The ImageStream is one of only two such pieces of equipment in Australia and has given an enormous boost to cutting edge research in Bosch.
The Molecular Biology Officer, Dr Donna Lai, has assisted with the design of strategies for isolating and analysing RNA samples. She has provided training on the Nanodrop, Western blot imaging system, Corbett quantitative PCR and Hybaid gradient PCR machines. Training manuals for the real time RT-PCR workshop have been created.
Dozens of Bosch students and staff have benefited from the excellent training courses and individual help given by the Officers. We are getting more and more enquiries from non-Bosch members about using the resources and training courses in the Institute, but they are dedicated to serving members’ needs.
The inaugural Tissue Engineering Symposium took place on 23 November 2006, the chief organiser being Dr Hala Zreiqat with input from Dr Alex Sharland. There were 110 attendees including 2 international speakers. The day was a huge success and demonstrated the power of cross-disciplinary collaboration. The Symposium was supported by the Faculties of Engineering and Medicine, as well as the Bosch Institute. An integral component of the day was to develop a draft strategy for the Sydney University Tissue Engineering Network, an initiative strongly supported by Bosch. Development of the "Organ and Tissue Renewal" Research Theme is a key strategic role for Bosch.
Grant applications prepared by Associate Professor Tailoi Chan-Ling and Dr Louise Cole have won over $550,000 to purchase a new confocal microscope. The decision process should be finalised early in 2007 and the microscope installed by the end of April.
The research income of the Institute for Biomedical Research, the forerunner of the Bosch Institute, was approximately $5M in 2004. This rose to $6M in 2005 and approximately $7.5M in 2006. This is an outstanding testament to the quality of you, the researchers who make up the membership of Bosch.
Much of the "School component" of the RIBG income now is being channelled through Bosch. Some is made available for internal research grant applications and some goes to pay for the operations of the core facilities.
Unfortunately I could not be present at the Young Investigators Symposium because I was at a European Union grant meeting in Paris. I have received several comments about the high quality of the presentations at the symposium. Gratifyingly, attendance also was up on previous years, especially during the critical time when the Deputy Vice-Chancellors Bob Kotic and Merlin Crossley presented the Rebecca L Cooper and Bercovici Medals and Prizes. The winner of the Cooper prize for the best paper published in the preceding year by a postdoctoral researcher was Dr Andrea Markus and the Bercovici prize for the best publication by a research student was received by Maryam Seyedabadi.
A number of other prizes were awarded at the symposium, namely:
Postdoctoral presentation prize: Othon Gevasio
Postgraduate student oral prizes: Iwan Williams and Erin Werry
Postgraduate student poster prizes: Linda Truong and Shaimaa Atwa
My thanks to the Young Investigators themselves for organising the Symposium with input from Dr Frank Lovicu and Jacquie Stratford.
A number of outstanding research scientists joined the Bosch Institute during 2006. Some of these were by appointment, but others were by invitation or by application. The Institute is receiving an increasing number of enquiries from researchers who wish to join and these are considered by the Executive strictly in terms of how their membership would promote its strategic goals.
Among those who have taken up appointments in Bosch and at the University of Sydney are Professor Georges Grau, a vascular immunologist, and Professor Roland Stocker, a cardiovascular researcher. Both of these outstanding scientists have well over 11,000 citations to their published work, which is an enormous number in the Australian context. Both are based in the Medical Foundation Building.
New young researchers include Drs Stephen Assinder, Michelle Gerke, Christine Koeppl, Tina Hinton and Brent McParland.
Dr Hala Zreiqat of the Faculty of Engineering and Associate Professor Arthur Conigrave from the Faculty of Science also became Bosch members, by invitation, during 2006.inars and their annual Symposium will take place on December 15, at which the Bercovici and Rebecca L Cooper Prizes for research excellence will be awarded.
The Young Investigators have requested support of a pilot "retreat" in 2007 to welcome new students into the Bosch Institute. We are reviewing a number of possibilities to strengthen our relationship with our student members.
Bosch members contributed to the SMS common Honours student training "core" that was trialled in 2006 due in no small part to the efforts of Frank Lovicu. The students received instruction in a range of activities relevant to their development as scientists. Many Bosch Young Investigators also took advantage of the excellent training courses being run by our Senior Officers in the areas of Molecular Biology, Microscopy and Flow Cytometry.
The Young Investigators continued their monthly scientific seminars and their annual Symposium took place on December 15 as noted above, as well as the traditional Harbour Cruise.
A very big issue for 2007 and beyond is the major new research building that seems very likely to go ahead, with a completion target date of 2010-11. I have had a number of meetings with senior officers of the Faculty and University, pointing out the strong case for Bosch to be a major occupant of the new building and I believe that this will be the case. I think it unlikely that the research groupings in the new building will be arranged along traditional discipline lines. Thus we need to develop a coherent philosophy about how this should be organised. The Bosch Research Themes are a sensible focus for such planning.
Building a sense of cohesion and purpose within the Research Themes will be an important activity in 2007. Some of the Research Themes have already met and put forward plans that will position them for future developments such as the new research building, major equipment applications and funding from outside sources.
Branding of the Bosch Institute will be very important. We need its name to be well known in all the right places – in particular within the university, RPAH and the Federal and NSW governments. We will for example be asking members to use the Bosch name in:
- publication by-lines
- grant application address lines
- oral and poster presentations at conferences
- media stories
Providing a welcoming and supportive environment for Young Investigators will be a key task, as will building links with undergraduate students who are interested in research.
A fund-raising strategy will be developed during the second half of the year.
Finally, it seems as though the long-awaited PC2 Laboratory in Anderson-Stuart and the Molecular Biology Laboratory in Blackburn should finally become operational in 2007! We wait with bated breath…
Nick Hunt, December 2006