Executive Director Report December 2007

I am delighted to report on the following achievements during 2007:

  1. Research Achievements
  2. Competitive Grant Success
  3. Annual Scientific Meeting 2007
  4. Bosch Distinguished Seminar Series
  5. Sydney Arc
  6. Honours and Awards
  7. Core Facilities
  8. Bosch Young Investigator News and Training
  9. Internationalisation
  10. Service to the University and It's Other Associated Institutes
  11. Visitors to Bosch
  12. Other Activities
  13. Update on Financial Situtation
  14. Performanc Targets

1. Research Achievements

Bosch Institute researchers have had no less than five papers published in “Nature” family journals during 2007:

  • A review article on "The machinery of colour vision" written by Sam Solomon, Bosch Institute, and Peter Lennie, University of Rochester, was the Featured Article (and cover) of April's issue of Nature Reviews Neuroscience.
  • Joshua Young, a Bosch research student, and his supervisor Bogdan Dreher published a paper titled “Cortical reorganisation consistent with spike timing – but not correlation–dependant plasticity” in Nature Neuroscience in May.
  • Nick Hunt and Roland Stocker, head of the Vascular Research Laboratory of the Bosch Institute, were invited to contribute a News and Reviews article on “Heme moves to center stage in cerebral malaria”, which appeared in Nature Medicine in June.
  • Renae Ryan, a CJ Martin Fellow who has just returned to Robert Vandenberg’s laboratory, published two outstanding articles during her time overseas. The first, dealing with the molecular functioning of aspartate transporters, was published in Nature.
  • Renae Ryan’s next paper, about the glutamate receptor, appeared in Nature Structural and Molecular Biology.

A manuscript by Alexandra Sharland and colleagues describing their findings on mechanisms of rejection of transplanted organs has appeared in the highly-regarded Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Catherine Leamey heads Bosch’s Developmental Neurobiology Laboratory. In collaboration with her colleagues from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Max-Planck institute for Biochemistry in Germany, Dr Leamey’s team have identified an important gene responsible for binocular vision.
Brian Morris has developed, in partnership with Polartechnics Ltd., a new “self-sampling” kit for women to screen for high-risk forms of human papilloma virus.

Helen Ball, of the Molecular Immunopathology Laboratory, has discovered a new gene involved in tryptophan metabolism, the first such to be identified in over 30 years. It appears to play roles in kidney function and male fertility.

2. Competitive Grant Success

Several Bosch members were Chief Investigators on successful National Competitive Grant applications in 2007, to commence 2008:

NH&MRC: Chris O’Neill (2); Alex Bishop; Alexandra Sharland; Frank Lovicu; Des Richardson (2); Iain Campbell (3); Nicholas King (2); Nicholas Hunt; Georges Grau; Rebecca Mason; Gary Halliday; Bing Yu; Steven Chadban; Arthur Conigrave; Brian Morris; Jonathon Arnold; Susan McLennan; Bogdan Dreher, David Cook

ARC: Maria Byrne; Simon Carlile; Chris Murphy.

A number of equipment grant applications have been successful, including:

NH&MRC Equipment: $73,950; Des Richardson, Gary Halliday, Steve Twigg, Dennis Yue, Nicholas King, Alex Sharland, Alex Bishop, Roland Stocker, Joy Ho, Hala Zreiqat, Bob Bao, Sue McLennan, Izuru Matsumoto, Brett Hambly, Cheok S Lee, Barbara Rose and Clive Harbour.

Cancer Institute NSW Infrastructure Grant, 2007 – 2010 $340,000 - Des R. Richardson Gary M. Halliday, Cheok S. Lee, Douglas Joshua, Juergen Reichardt, Joy Ho, Qihan Dong, Harry J. Iland, Rebecca Mason, Georges E. Grau, Stephen Assinder, Nicholas JC King, Nick Hunt, David Lovejoy, Chris Murphy, Alex G. Bishop, Alexandra F Sharland, Arthur Conigrave and David Cook.

ARC LIEF Grants - Nick Hunt; Ron Trent; Chris Murphy; Brett Hambly & others (list incomplete).

3. Annual Scientific Meeting 2007 & 2008

The 2007 ASM was held on 29 June and attracted 170 registrants, including members of the Board and a representative of the NSW Government Office of Science and Medical Research. The scientific program was a celebration of the top-class research being carried out within Bosch and featured presentations by scientists from each of the five Research Themes. There also was a session on strategic directions, during which Nick Hunt and the Heads of the Research Themes set out their plans for future development.

At the ASM the University of Sydney’s Acting PVC (Campus Planning & Infrastructure), Professor Richmond Jeremy, made the exciting announcement that Bosch would be a major occupant of the Sydney Arc. This is a multi-million dollar development that will bring together researchers from several Research Institutes, RPAH and the University of Sydney.

Planning for the 2008 ASM is under way. The theme will be “Vessels” and there will be input from all five Research Themes.

4. Bosch Distinguished Seminar Series

The speakers in 2007 were Bosch scientist Des Richardson, who spoke on "An Iron Key for unlocking the treatment of cancer and neurodegenerative disease" in May, and Professor Judy Black who talked about “Nothing else is important when you can’t breathe” in October. Both presentations were attended by over 100 members and students of the Institute.

Professor David Celermajer agreed to present the May 2008 seminar.

The Distinguished seminars are sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline.

5. Sydney Arc

Bosch has formed a committee of scientists to provide advice to the Sydney Institutes for Health and Medical Research about the development of the exciting new medical research complex on the University campus over the next few years. A substantial amount of preliminary data has been collected concerning the need for core and specialised facilities.

As noted above, Bosch will be a major occupant of the Sydney Arc building.

6. Honours and Awards

Sam Solomon heads the Laboratory of Vision and Cognition within Bosch. In July, at the annual meeting of the Australian Neuroscience Society (held in conjunction with that of the International Brain Research Organisation) in Melbourne, Sam was presented with the AW Campbell Award. This prestigious award acknowledges the best contribution to the field by a member of the society in their first five postdoctoral years.
Helena Mangs, a PhD student in Brian Morris’ laboratory, won the Promega Award at the 2007 Lorne Genome Conference.
In recognition of Professor Brian Morris’s work in public health advocacy and scientific achievement he was awarded a ‘Scroll of Honour' Australia Day Award by Waverley Council.

7. Core Facilities

Advanced Microscopy. The Zeiss confocal microscope was officially opened on November 1. Its $550,000 cost was found from applications to competitive University of Sydney and external granting schemes. The Advanced Microscopy Facility was renovated to better house the microscope and several other “high-end” microscopes. Maintenance of the equipment, development of its potential, and training in its use are the responsibility of the Bosch Microscopy Officer, Dr Louise Cole. Demand is so high that user time has had to be rationed. This “new generation” microscope will allow Bosch scientists from the clinical and basic research ends of the spectrum to find out what is going on inside living cells, both healthy and diseased.
Like the other two core facilities officers, Dr Cole has trained many junior researchers in advanced technologies this year, and has managed the high-end equipment and contributed to writing successful grant applications.

Molecular Biology. The second Molecular Biology Laboratory, in the Blackburn Building, is nearing completion. It will complement the existing, over-used equivalent laboratory in the Anderson-Stuart Building. It is a joint venture between the Discipline of Surgery at the University of Sydney, the Microsearch Foundation, and the Bosch Institute. The facility will be managed by the Molecular Biology Officer, Dr Donna Lai, who also will conduct training courses in the use of the equipment located there.

Flow cytometry. The Flow Cytometry Facility is part of a larger network of equipment funded from various sources, including the University of Sydney and the Centenary Institute. Dr Sabita Rana is the part-time Flow Cytometry Officer, and her salary is paid from an external grant-in-aid. She manages a suite of advanced equipment, including a Becton Dickinson FACSAria and an Amnis ImageStream. In particular she has trained users of the equipment and been available for consultation about problems arising with this complex technology. Much of the training she carries out is on a one-to-one basis, and includes all aspects of cell preparation, instrument operation and data analysis. Thus far she has trained 12 staff members and 17 students based in the Bosch Institute, and occasionally has helped non-Bosch Institute personnel who also use the Flow Cytometry Facility. She also has promulgated the use of the instrument within the Institute and has attended a number of conferences to keep abreast of developments within the field of Flow Cytometry Research.

8. Bosch Young Investigator News and Training

One of the key goals of Bosch is to establish itself as the best training centre for young biomedical researchers in the State. I am proud of the intellectual achievements of the Bosch Young Investigators and also of their drive and initiative. For several years they have organised their own Young Investigator Symposium in December, at which they present their latest scientific findings orally or in poster form. The next will be on December 14.

About three years ago the Young Investigators started holding fortnightly scientific sessions. This year they suggested, and Bosch funded, a “Retreat”. Over thirty registrants went for three days to the Kioloa Coastal campus. There they held both scientific and career development sessions with the guidance of a few invited senior researchers.

Bosch has organised NH&MRC and ARC grant-writing sessions for Bosch Early Career Researchers in December. These will have a “tricks of the trade” focus.

This year the intake of Bosch Honours students undertook a common programme of research training in relevant generic subjects, such as experimental design, statistics and communication skills. Bosch has been active in research student recruitment sessions. Dr Frank Lovicu has taken a leading role in guiding these activities.

9. Internationalisation

Bosch has obtained a $30,000 grant from the Sir Zelman Cowen Universities Fund to support short-term collaborative research exchanges with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Planning for the first round of exchanges is under way. Interactions between Bosch researchers and the Singapore Immunology Network are being explored currently.

10. Service to the University and It's Other Associate Institutes

Nick Hunt was part of a small team that has introduced a radical new approach to publicising higher degree research training opportunities in biomedical research at the University of Sydney and its associated Institutes. Bosch Institute researchers and projects feature prominently. A Web and internet-based approach was used, together with a re-casting of laboratory and project information in more easily-digestible forms. Initial projections suggest that the scheme will deliver a substantial number of new research students from outside Sydney, including from overseas.

Nick Hunt also has devised and partly delivered a course in career development for Early Career Researchers across the biomedical sciences at Sydney University and its associated Institutes. The project was energised by the University’s PVC (Research), Professor Carol Armour. There were over 40 applications for 20 places and the course is likely to be repeated once or twice next year.

Increasing research student numbers and providing excellent research training are key Bosch Institute goals.

11. Visitors to Bosch

12. Other Activities

Bosch provided some sponsorship for the 2007 Australian Society for Medical Research conference on Tissue Remodelling, held in the Blue Mountains in November, and the 6th Australian Conference on he Kynurenine Pathway of Tryptophan Metabolism, to be held at the University of Sydney on December 7.

Bosch mounted a display at the “Spring Back to Sydney” alumni function in October.

13. Update on Financial Situation

The Institute is operating within its budget as reported in financial statements presented during the year.
Sponsorships have covered the costs of symposia, the Annual Scientific Meeting and the Young Investigator Symposium. GlaxoSmithKline has been the gold sponsor for the Bosch seminar series 2006/2007.

I have written a draft Strategic Plan and Jacquie Stratford a Business Plan. These plans were taken to the Board Working Party on 22 November and will be discussed and reviewed by the Board at the 30 November meeting and the Executive Leadership Group at the December meeting. It is anticipated that a final document will be available for implementation commencing March 2008.

14. Performance Targets

The following performance targets were approved by the Board at its meeting in April 2006:

  1. Establish a major research program in Tissue Engineering, within the “Organ and tissue replacement” Research Theme, within 18 months
  2. Attract/establish on average one major new research group each year for the period 2006 - 2008
  3. Increase funding for the purchase and maintenance of core facilities by at least 20% per annum over the next 5 years
  4. Increase funding from external sources for project-related activities by at least 10% per annum over the next 5 years
  5. Increase Honours and PhD student numbers by at least 10% p.a. without sacrificing quality
  6. Establish one National Health & Medical Research Council Program Grant per Theme within 6 years
  7. Increase the number of externally-funded researchers by one Federation Fellow and 4 NHMRC Fellows (ideally at least one per Research Theme) within 5 years, and
  8. Promote better use of basic biomedical knowledge in clinical approaches to major health issues, evidenced as at least a 10% p.a. increase in translational research publications.

Progress against performance targets is as follows:

  1. A search committee will be established to look for research leaders. One potential “target” has been identified, a surgeon from Germany who is at the forefront of research into growing bone, from adult stem cells, actually within the tissue of the eventual recipient. The Institute has recruited Dr Hala Zreiqat who works directly in the area of tissue engineering within the Discipline of Biomedical Engineering. Hala was central to the organisation of the Tissue Engineering Symposium in 2006 and is a key player in the establishment of the Sydney University Tissue Engineering Network.
  2. Two major new research groups joined the Institute in 2006: those of Professors Georges Grau and Roland Stocker. New Bosch members also include Hala Zreiqat, Arthur Conigrave, Iain Campbell, Gary Halliday, Jillian Kril, Christine Koeppl, Peter McMinn and Tony Weiss.
  3. Competitive equipment grant applications in 2006 yielded $472,000, a substantial increase over 2005. The equivalent figure for 2007 is $320,000 plus a 4 year salary commitment of $200,000. However, some 2007 grant application outcomes are not yet decided.
  4. The final outcomes of successful research project grant publications in 2007 (for 2008) are awaited. The 2007 National Competitive Grant Schemes, including Fellowships, income is a 44% increase over that in 2005.
  5. The figures for 2006 and 2007 have not yet been collected. The Institute has been active in publicising Honours and PhD research programs to potential students. We will continue to focus on student recruitment in 2008 and beyond.
  6. Roland Stocker is a member of a Program Grant – he joined Bosch in 2006. David Allen also is a Program Grant participant. At least one group of researchers has applied in 2007 for Program Grant status. We are negotiating with another potential Bosch member who is part of a Program.
  7. Two NHMRC Fellows have joined the Bosch Institute: Des Richardson and Roland Stocker. Identifying an appropriate Federation Fellow applicant will be a focus of future activity.
  8. It will take time to measure progress in this area, since publications appear with a distinct lag time. The first such evaluation should take place during 2008.

Nick Hunt, November 2007