Executive Director Report December 2008
I am again very pleased to report on excellent progress and achievements during this year. This has been greatly assisted by regular monthly meetings of the Chair of the Board, the Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of Bosch. I thank John Stumbles for his commitment to these regular meetings and for the invaluable advice he has provided. The Executive Leadership Group also was pleased to meet two members of the Board, Jonathan Stone and Michael Good, at its April meeting. Jonathan and Michael communicated their strong belief in the development of the Bosch Institute through the agreed Strategic Business Plan. The ELG were receptive to these suggestions and emphasised the importance of increasing financial resources to support progress.
- Research Achievements
- Competitive Grant Success
- News From Research Themes
- Annual Scientific Meeting 2008
- Bosch Distinguished Seminar Series
- Executive Leadership Group
- Honours and Awards
- Core Facilities
- Bosch Young Investigator News and Training
- Internationalisation and Visitors
- Sydney Institutes for Health and Medical Research
- New Members
- Update on Financial Situtation
Bosch researchers have contributed invited research presentations at a number of distinguished research conferences internationally. I would like to highlight the invited presentation by Dr Christine Koeppl from the Nervous System, Senses and Movement Research Theme at the recent Gordon Research Conference on “Neuroethology: behaviour, evolution and neurobiology”, held at Magdalen College, Oxford in August 2008. Gordon Conferences are amongst the most prestigious internationally and an invitation to speak reflects the respect accorded to a scientist’s contributions by their peers. Christine talked about her recent work on auditory brain stem processing in birds.
A notable achievement was the award to Dr Cathy Leamey of the Sir Zelman Cowen Prize for Discovery in Medical Research 2008. Dr Leamey’s award-winning research was the identification of a gene that is essential for binocular vision. The award recognises the potential of her findings to aid in the development of new approaches to the treatment of certain vision abnormalities. Dr Leamey is a young researcher within the Bosch “Nervous System, Senses and Movement” Research Theme. She is an active participant in Bosch activities generally as well as within the Research Theme, and has emerged as one of the future leaders within the Institute.
The following Bosch researchers were successful in NH&MRC grant applications (Chief Investigator A unless stated):
Roland Stocker; Bill Phillips; Des Richardson (2); Nick King; Roger Dampney; Jillian Kril; Robert Vandenberg; Nick Hunt; Stuart Cordwell / Brett Hambly; Georges Grau; Rachel Codd; Hala Zreiqat; Yue Kun Ju / David Allen; Brian Morris (CIC); Arthur Conigrave (CIB).
ARC Discovery Grants were secured by:
Christine Koeppl; Rebecca Mason; Roland Stocker; Sam Solomon; Nick Hunt.
Furthermore, Des Richardson, David Lovejoy and John Mills were awarded an NH&MRC Development Grant titled “Toxicological and pre-clinical assessment of the anti-cancer compound Bp4et” to aid in commercialisation of this agent. Stephen Twigg was successful in obtaining a National Heart Foundation Project Grant. Des Richardson was awarded a Muscular Dystrophy Association USA grant of US$400,000 over 3 years. Georges Grau received an Australia-European Union Collaborative Grant of $320,000 over the 2008 – 2009 period.
Finally, several Bosch Institute members were involved in applications to the national Linkage Infrastructure and Equipment Fund scheme. Of particular importance to Bosch was the award of $500,000 to Sam Solomon, David Allen, Bogdan Dreher, Roger Dampney, Nicholas King, Nick Hunt, Kevin Keay, Bill Phillips, Karen Cullen, Cathy Leamey, Christine Koeppl and Dario Protti to support the purchase of a multi-photon microscope.
A number of other equipment grant applications were funded, including:
- Ramaciotti Foundation $30,000
- NHMRC Equipment Fund $50,000
- Perpetual Trustees $35,000
- Ramaciotti Foundation $30,000
- Prostate Cancer Foundation Australia $60,000
- Rebecca L Cooper Foundation $20,000.
Several Bosch members attended the annual dinner of the Rebecca L Cooper Foundation in March to receive grants-in-aid: Haydn Allbutt, Louise Cole, Ronan Jambou, Hala Zreiqat, Michael Weible, Cathy Leamey and Chris Murphy. Ron Trent was awarded the Leo Dintenfass Memorial Plaque and Tailoi Chan-Ling a special award in vision science. Renae Ryan received the Rebecca L Cooper Medal and Prize for the best publication by a Bosch Institute Postdoctoral Fellow during the preceding 12 months.
The Research Theme formerly called “Circulation and Respiration” has been refocussed and re-named “Cardiovascular”. The scientists involved in respiratory research have moved to the “Infection, Immunity and Inflammation” or “Nervous System, Senses and Movement” Research Themes.
Collaborative research programmes have been developed within the “Cancer, Cell Biology and Development” and “Cardiovascular” Research Themes. Both research programmes have brought together scientists to pursue big research agendas, namely Prostate Cancer and the roles of oxidative stress in cardiovascular health.
The Prostate Cancer Research Focus Group has written and submitted review articles and grant applications with great success. A joint research meeting of prostate cancer researchers from the Bosch Institute and the Garvan Institute is to be held in early 2009, with the aim of increasing research collaborations between the two Institutes. The Leader of the Cancer, Cell Biology and Development Research Theme, Des Richardson, and Nick Hunt have held meetings with clinicians based in RPAH to discuss strategic approaches to research training. Douglas Joshua (Haematology) and John Boulas (Urology) are both interested in an MPhil programme developed jointly with Bosch that will allow research training of clinicians. It is intended that this be integrated with their professional training programmes where possible.
An Oxidative Stress Bioanalytical Research Programme has grown out of the Cardiovascular Research Theme. This will involve, among others, Roland Stocker, David Celermajer, Paul Witting, Stuart Cordwell, and Brett Hambly. The aim is to develop novel ways of looking at the redox state of cells, tissues organs and body fluids. The redox state is the balance between chemically reductive and oxidative processes and it is one of the key determinants of whether cells function properly. A temporary increase towards oxidation is used by cells as a means of sending signals, but if this movement away from a reduced cellular environment towards an oxidative one becomes too pronounced or too prolonged then the outcome is called “oxidative stress”. It is now appreciated that oxidative stress is a major cause of the complications of atherosclerosis, diabetes and aging. Recent outstanding research by David Allen of the NSSM Research Theme also has implicated oxidative stress in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a devastating disease that kills affected young men before the age of 20. A key element of this research programme will be to develop an Oxidative Stress Bioanalytical Facility to develop new techniques to detect oxidative stress. The ultimate goal is to apply these techniques in patients to analyse their health and their response to treatment.
The Bosch Annual Scientific Meeting was held on Friday, 13 June in the Kerry Packer Auditorium at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. A distinguished international speaker, Professor John Keaney from the USA, gave the keynote seminar. During the conference he also presented the RPAH Grand Rounds, which was well attended by RPAH clinicians and Bosch scientists.
The May Bosch Distinguished Seminar was delivered by Professor David Celermajer, who talked about his outstanding research on cardiovascular disease. In September Professor Rebecca Mason presented her internationally-recognised work on the importance of sunlight exposure for the production of vitamin D in the body.
Bosch Distinguished Visitor Seminars were presented by Matthias von Herrath and Anthony Forster, both from the USA.
Associate Professor Brett Hambly resigned as Leader of the “Circulation and Respiration” Research Theme and was succeeded by Professor Roland Stocker.
Dr Sabine Wimmer-Kleikamp has joined Professor Roland Stocker’s laboratory. She is a CJ Martin Fellow who previously worked at EMBL (Heidelberg) and Monash University.
Professor Jon Stone has returned to Sydney, and Bosch, after several years as Director of the Research School of Biological Sciences at the Australian National University.
Dr Helena Mangs was awarded an NHMRC Career Development Award for 2008-2012.
Dr David Lovejoy received a Cancer Institute NSW Early Career Award.
Professor Des Richardson was named “Biochemical Journal Editor of the Year” (from over 120 international editors).
Professor Roland Stocker has been elected Co-Chair of the International CoQ10 Association
Professor Graham Johnston was awarded an honorary doctorate in Pharmaceutical Science (doctor pharmaciae honoris causa) by the University of Copenhagen in recognition of his work in promoting research links between that university and the University of Sydney.
Katie Dixon received the 2008 NSW Premier’s Award for Outstanding Cancer Research Scholar. Katie completed her PhD in the laboratory of Professor Rebecca Mason of the Bosch Institute and was recognised for her research on ultraviolet radiation-induced skin cancer. After finishing her PhD, Katie moved to a position in the laboratory of Des Richardson, also within Bosch.
We are fortunate to have very high quality people in the key positions of Core Facility Officers: Drs Louise Cole, Donna Lai and Sabita Rana. Their talent and commitment never cease to amaze me. For example, Donna Lai in 2008 attended a four-month mentor-based business training program, the NSW Enterprise Workshop. She worked with four people from biotechnology company Neomedix System, NSW Clinical Trial Business Development Centre and Commonwealth Bank to develop a business plan to take a revolutionary medical diagnostic device to the world market. Donna was the Project Manager of the team. Their final business plan earned them the award for the best operational plan of all the teams who were engaged in this programme.
The official opening by the Governor General of NSW, Dr Marie Bashir, of the second Molecular Biology Laboratory of the Bosch Institute took place in May. This was a joint venture with the Microsearch Foundation and the Department of Surgery at the University of Sydney. This Molecular Biology Laboratory is co-housed with advanced surgical facilities. As well as providing excellent laboratory space and core equipment, there will be the opportunity for interactions between surgeons, including those attending the University of Sydney’s Master of Surgery course, and Bosch Institute researchers. Bosch provided over $600,000 of research equipment, obtained through various granting bodies, and Dr Donna Lai, the Molecular Biology Officer, will spend half her time in the new facility. The development of this facility with co-localisation of various stakeholders was a model of cross-disciplinary and cross-institutional co-operation.
In February the Young Investigators held their “retreat” at the Kioloa Campus of the Australian National University. There was a full programme based around scientific communication and career development, with some senior researchers in attendance along with over 30 Young Investigators. In early March the induction of over 70 Honours students and some PhD students took place during a one and a half day course. A popular feature was the presentation to each of them of a Bosch Institute lanyard and coffee mug! In April the Young Investigators held their Harbour Cruise. These activities are part of a suite of career development initiatives that are being assembled by the Bosch Institute to meet its goal of providing excellent training for early career researchers.
The Bosch Young Investigators Symposium was held on 16 December. Attendance was good and there were a number of sparkling scientific presentations from the young researchers. A number of prizes were awarded for excellence in these presentations. The recipients were:
- Bercovici Prize for best publication by a post graduate student: Daniel Getts
- John Irvine Hunter Research Prize in Anatomy: Daniel Vagg
- Rebecca L Cooper Prize for the Best Publication by a Postdoctoral Researcher: Dr Rita Machalaani
- Young Investigator Symposium Prizes: Rosemary Siafakas, Dave Krimmer, Lisa Lo, Nazanin Ghazanfari, Lisa Nivison-Smith
Twelve companies gave trade displays and sponsorship that supported the Young Investigators Symposium.
Bosch has received generous support from the Sir Zelman Cowen Fund to establish a scheme for short-term exchange visits of researchers between the Bosch Institute and the Institute of Medical Research, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. The first two visitors from Israel (Professor Shulamit Katzav and Dr Ron Dzikowski) visited Bosch in August, 2008. They presented three research seminars about their personal research and also an information session about research going on within the IMR at the Hebrew University. They met a wide range of researchers within the Bosch Institute as well as members of the Bosch Board, Sir Zelman Cowen Universities Fund and Friends of the Hebrew University.
There already have been outcomes from the visit. Dr Dzikowski and Professor Des Richardson have started experiments looking at some new anti malarial compounds developed by the latter. A joint research project between Dr Dzikowski, Georges Grau and Nick Hunt also has been mapped out. Professor Katzav has set up some interactions between her research group and members of the Cancer, Cell Biology and Development research group, centred around an important cancer-causing molecule that she discovered. Professor Jacob Golenser of the HUJI spent 3 months on sabbatical leave in Nick Hunt’s laboratory for joint studies on new ways of treating malaria.
Tailoi Chan-Ling of the Organ and Tissue Replacement Research Theme has been awarded one of the highly competitive International Science Linkages Competitive Grants of the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research. Her project is about using stem cell technology to slow or reverse the deterioration of vision. Her grant is for $334,000 over a three year period. The project is to maintain and extend her collaboration with the University of Florida, USA, which will also commit considerable resources to the collaborative research.
Bosch was a founder member of the Sydney Institutes for Health and Medical Research. Professor Steve McMahon was appointed Executive Director of SIHMR during 2008. Some planning sessions have been held about how various institutes, including Bosch, can more effectively use of their intellectual and physical resources to promote excellent biomedical research and to seek major funding for facilities and cross-institutional research programmes.
Several new research leaders have joined the Bosch Institute: David Celermajer, Kevin Downard, Kellie Charles, Nicholas Cole, Paul Witting, and Clare Goldsbury. They bring with them key technologies in cardiovascular, infectious disease, cancer and neurological research. Noteworthy is Dr Cole’s expertise with Zebrafish, which has the potential to facilitate studies across all the Research Themes.
The Institute is operating within its budget. Sponsorships have covered the costs of symposia, the Annual Scientific Meeting and the Young Investigator Symposium.
Nick Hunt, December 2008
To view the reports of previous years, please click on the links below: