Acting Executive Director report 2009

Bosch achieved considerable successes in 2009, particularly in its core activities of providing outstanding infrastructure facilities and support and in its training programs for early career researchers. It is the case, though, that 2009 was a year of considerable change. Professor Nick Hunt, who had been the Executive Director of Bosch since its inception, stepped down from the position in April and I was then appointed Acting Executive Director. A farewell function was held in May 2009 attended by the Bosch Board, Senior members of the Faculty of Medicine and Bosch members, who heard glowing tributes to Professor Hunt for his excellent leadership and enormous efforts for Bosch and its predecessor, the Institute for Biomedical Research. Bosch’s achievements throughout the year would not have been possible without substantial inputs from our Board Chair, Professor John Stumbles, as well as other Board members, including our newest Board member, Mr. Paul Fegan, and the Executive Leadership Group. I am particularly grateful to the Bosch members, who, when the occasion arose, really made it very clear how important Bosch is to them and their research. At the end of the year, Professor John Stumbles, who has been Chairman of the Board since Bosch’s inception and chair of the Institute for Biomedical Research before that, announced his appointment to an academic position at Sydney University, which necessitated his resignation from the Bosch Board. At a farewell function for Professor Stumbles in December, past and present Directors all spoke about how much John has contributed to the development of Bosch all the way from its early beginnings and how grateful we are for his efforts, his wisdom and clear-headedness. At the beginning of 2010, on the unanimous recommendation of the Board, Mr Paul Fegan accepted the position of Chairman of the Bosch Board.

  1. Research Achievements
  2. Competitive Grant Success
  3. News From Research Themes
  4. Annual Scientific Meeting 2009
  5. Bosch Distinguished Seminar Series
  6. Honours and Awards
  7. Core Facilities
  8. Bosch Young Investigator News and Training
  9. Internationalisation and Visitors
  10. Relationship to other research groups
  11. Governance and Finances

1. Research Achievements

Studies led by Dr Sue McLennan and A/Professor Stephen Twigg, from the Organ and Tissue Replacement theme, have investigated the role of matrix metalloproteinases, proteins which break down extracellular matrix, in poor wound healing in diabetic patients. These studies will lay the groundwork for more effective treatment of this debilitating and costly health problem. The work, conducted over a period of some years, has been very well received. A preliminary report won the Martin Levin Award from the American Diabetes Society Meeting in 2007. In 2009, the work appeared in the highly cited journal, Diabetes Care, and in March 2009, Dr McLennan and colleagues won the Comfeel literary award for the best 2008 original research article for a publication on diabetic wound healing.

Professor Des Richardson, Leader of the Cancer, Cell Biology and Development Theme, studied the disease, Friedreich’s Ataxia, an inherited disease due to the loss of a protein called frataxin, which causes nervous system and heart degeneration. Professor Richardson’s group discovered how the loss of this protein causes iron overload in the energy centres of cells, the mechanism leading to tissue destruction. These insights may allow new treatments to be developed to prevent this process. The work was published in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA.

2. Competitive Grant Success

New NH&MRC grants, commencing in 2009, were awarded to Professor Georges Grau (2), Dr Paul Witting, Dr Rachael Codd, Professor Roger Dampney, Professor Jurgen Goetz, Dr Yue-kun Ju/Professor David Allen, Dr Bill Phillips, Dr Hala Zreiqat, Professor Des Richardson (2), A/Prof Brett Hambly, A/Prof Rob Vandenberg/Dr Renae Ryan, Prof Nick Hunt/Dr Helen Ball, and Prof Nick King.

Professor David Allen, Leader of the Nervous System, Senses and Movement Theme, part of a team with other researchers from the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, led by Professor Robert Graham, achieved a renewal of their NH&MRC Program Grant on Molecular Mechanisms of Cardiac Function and Disease for 2010-2014.

ARC Discovery grants, commencing in 2009, were awarded to Professor Nick Hunt/Dr Helen Ball, , Dr C Koeppl, Professor Rebecca Mason, Dr Sam Solomon/Dr Dario Protti.

In addition, funding for the ARC Centre of Excellence in Vision Science, with Chief Investigators, Professors Jonathan Stone and Bogdan Dreher in the University of Sydney “node” of the Centre, has been renewed for 2010-2013. The Centre at Sydney University will welcome Dr Sam Solomon in 2010 and Professor Paul Martin and Dr Ulrike Grunert, formerly members of the Institute for Biomedical Research (the forerunner of Bosch) when they move back from Melbourne early in 2010.

Several grants-in-aid were awarded to Bosch members by the Rebecca L. Cooper Foundation including awards to Stephen Twigg and Dennis Yue, Angeliese Sanchez-Perez, Judy Black, Tailoi Chan-Ling, Ron Trent, Chris Murphy and Clare Goldsbury. A number of grants supporting equipment and infrastructure were received. These are outlined in the section on core facilities.

3. News From Research Themes

The five research theme groups - Cardiovascular; Nervous System, Senses and Movement; Cancer, Cell Biology and Development; Infection, Immunity and Inflammation and Organ and Tissue Replacement – provided meetings and opportunities to discuss and plan research programs during the year. Some theme groups also provided support and advice to members in relation to grant applications and responses to reviewers comments.

The Prostate Cancer Research Focus Group, part of the Cancer theme, have published several collaborative reviews and written joint grant submissions. One of the results of this impressive group effort is the award of a major NHMRC grant to this group, commencing in 2010. The Cancer, Cell Biology and Development group also spearheaded successful applications for a Luminex cell analysis system for the Bosch molecular facility and are organizing the 2010 Annual Scientific Meeting “Cancer- the way forward”.

Arising initially out of the Cardiovascular Theme was a proposal for an oxidative stress bioanalytical facility, with equipment and novel methods for determining the balance between oxidative and reductive processes in cells, one of the key determinants of optimal cell functioning. Although initially proposed by Professor Roland Stocker, Leader of the Cardiovascular theme, in part because uncontrolled oxidation is a contributor to the development of atheroma in blood vessels, the facility will benefit researchers in other themes, since oxidative stress is a factor in the development of some cancers and in the deleterious effects of some infective pathogens. Progress in the development of this facility was helped by the award of an ARC LIEF grant for the purchase of a liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry system for quantifying reactive oxygen and nitrogen species in different cellular compartments.

Members of the Organ and Tissue Replacement theme, led by Dr Alexandra Sharland, have contributed to a wider network in the University – SUTEN – the Sydney University Tissue Engineering Network. This is a multi-disciplinary group comprising people from Engineering and IT, Pharmacy, Medicine, Science and Veterinary Science, brought together to develop better means of repairing or replacing defective tissues and organs. A/Prof Hala Zreiqat, a Bosch lab head is Chair of the Network and I am Deputy Chair. One of our main activities in 2009 was the planning of a meeting on Tissue Engineering to be held in Sydney in 2010 and involving local researchers and visitors from Columbia, Harvard, Princeton and Yale Universities and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This activity, supported by Bosch, is aimed in part at fostering international collaborations in this field.

4. Annual Scientific Meeting 2009

The fifth Bosch Annual Scientific Meeting was held on June 11th, 2009 at the Eastern Avenue Complex. The theme for this year’s symposium was “New Horizons in Biomedical Research”. Guest speakers were Professor Chris Parrish from the Cancer and Vascular Biology group a the John Curtin School of Medical Research, who spoke about “From carbohydrate-based drugs to Vaccines: A multifaceted approach to Cancer Control”. Professor Peter Lay from the School of Chemistry, University of Sydney presented fascinating information in “Frontier Technologies”. This meeting was an opportunity to showcase research within Bosch and to provide the Research Theme Leaders to showcase research in the themes and discuss future directions. This type of meeting is held every two years, to foster interaction and collaborations between groups. The meeting, which included a Bosch Young Investigators Showcase, was attended, and enjoyed, by several members of the Bosch board as well as Professor Robert Graham, Chair of the Bosch Scientific Advisory Committee.

5. Bosch Distinguished Seminar Series

The May Bosch Distinguished Seminar was given by Professor Jonathan Stone on “The stability and death of neurones: Observations on the neuropathology of retinal dystrophies and age-related dementia.” These studies contribute to understanding of diseases such as macular degeneration, a major cause of blindness and Alzheimers disease. In October, Professor David Cook spoke about “Infections, cancer and ion transport by epithelia.” Professor Cook’s discoveries about the mechanisms of ion transport across membranes, have been of considerable interest to the study of influenza and may lead to more effective control.

6. Honours and Awards

Our major facilities - Molecular Biology, Advanced Microscopy and Flow Cytometry (the latter shared with Centenary Institute) – are not just collections of expensive equipment, but are run by three excellent facilities officers, Drs Donna Lai, Louise Cole and Sabita Rana. These core facilities officers not only advise on items of equipment and systems that might be useful to Bosch researchers, but write and coordinate the grant applications to fund them, organize demonstrations and trials of different alternatives, coordinate tenders and supervise installation. Most importantly, they see that the equipment is optimally maintained and train users, individually and in group sessions on how to get the most out of the facility for their particular projects. Louise, Donna and Sabita put in long hours, tremendous effort and are basically invaluable. The molecular biology facility, with laboratories in Anderson Stuart and Blackburn has over 200 users. Bosch is grateful to the Sir Zelman Cowan Foundation for support for the Flow Cytometry Officer.

Funding for two new and important items of equipment for the Advanced Microscopy facility was obtained in 2009. The PALM Laser Microdissection Microscope, which because of its capabilities, will also be part of the Molecular Biology facility, will allow researchers to isolate pure samples of cells and tissue for subsequent analysis. It also has facilities for fluorescence and live-cell imaging as well as optical tweezers for laser manipulation of cells. The $732,000 cost was funded principally by the Cancer Institute of NSW, with additional money from the Ramaciotti Foundation and an NHMRC equipment grant. It will be housed in a new PC2 facility, suitable for genetically modified cells and animal tissues. A new multiphoton microscope, suitable for deep tissue in vivo imaging of brain and muscle tissue, for example, and costing nearly $1,000,000, will be housed in the Anderson Stuart Building in June 2010, after alterations needed to accommodate the microscope and ancillary equipment are completed. Some funding was received from an NHMRC equipment grant, but most was from an ARC LIEF Equipment grant of $880,000, which includes small contributions from the Universities of Western Sydney and New South Wales.

Tenders were prepared in 2009 for two pieces of flow cytometry equipment, the $1,000,000 funding for which was received from ARC LIEF and NHMRC equipment in 2008 for 2009. These instruments consist of a 7-laser flow cytometer, capable of analysing more than 20 separate parameters at one time; and a high content system, which is an automated 6 colour imaging system that can rapidly quantify fluorescently labelled cells, even when still in their culture plates, with a liquid handling system and which allows live cell imaging. It is planned that the equipment will be installed later in 2010.

Funding for a new LightCycler quantitative PCR machine for the Molecular Biology Facility, suitable for work with cells in multi-well culture plates, thus reducing handling and variability, was obtained from the Ramaciotti Foundation and the Prostate Cancer Research Foundation. A Luminex multifunctional analysis system, which allows up to 100 analytes to be measured in a single micro-plate with very small volumes, was purchased with funding from the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia and the Ramaciotti Foundation. The new Pharos FX molecular imager was supported by Perpetual Trustees and the Rebecca L Cooper Foundation.

7. Core Facilities

Our major facilities - Molecular Biology, Advanced Microscopy and Flow Cytometry (the latter shared with Centenary Institute) – are not just collections of expensive equipment, but are run by three excellent facilities officers, Drs Donna Lai, Louise Cole and Sabita Rana. These core facilities officers not only advise on items of equipment and systems that might be useful to Bosch researchers, but write and coordinate the grant applications to fund them, organize demonstrations and trials of different alternatives, coordinate tenders and supervise installation. Most importantly, they see that the equipment is optimally maintained and train users, individually and in group sessions on how to get the most out of the facility for their particular projects. Louise, Donna and Sabita put in long hours, tremendous effort and are basically invaluable. The molecular biology facility, with laboratories in Anderson Stuart and Blackburn has over 200 users. Bosch is grateful to the Sir Zelman Cowan Foundation for support for the Flow Cytometry Officer.

Funding for two new and important items of equipment for the Advanced Microscopy facility was obtained in 2009. The PALM Laser Microdissection Microscope, which because of its capabilities, will also be part of the Molecular Biology facility, will allow researchers to isolate pure samples of cells and tissue for subsequent analysis. It also has facilities for fluorescence and live-cell imaging as well as optical tweezers for laser manipulation of cells. The $732,000 cost was funded principally by the Cancer Institute of NSW, with additional money from the Ramaciotti Foundation and an NHMRC equipment grant. It will be housed in a new PC2 facility, suitable for genetically modified cells and animal tissues. A new multiphoton microscope, suitable for deep tissue in vivo imaging of brain and muscle tissue, for example, and costing nearly $1,000,000, will be housed in the Anderson Stuart Building in June 2010, after alterations needed to accommodate the microscope and ancillary equipment are completed. Some funding was received from an NHMRC equipment grant, but most was from an ARC LIEF Equipment grant of $880,000, which includes small contributions from the Universities of Western Sydney and New South Wales.

Tenders were prepared in 2009 for two pieces of flow cytometry equipment, the $1,000,000 funding for which was received from ARC LIEF and NHMRC equipment in 2008 for 2009. These instruments consist of a 7-laser flow cytometer, capable of analysing more than 20 separate parameters at one time; and a high content system, which is an automated 6 colour imaging system that can rapidly quantify fluorescently labelled cells, even when still in their culture plates, with a liquid handling system and which allows live cell imaging. It is planned that the equipment will be installed later in 2010.

Funding for a new LightCycler quantitative PCR machine for the Molecular Biology Facility, suitable for work with cells in multi-well culture plates, thus reducing handling and variability, was obtained from the Ramaciotti Foundation and the Prostate Cancer Research Foundation. A Luminex multifunctional analysis system, which allows up to 100 analytes to be measured in a single micro-plate with very small volumes, was purchased with funding from the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia and the Ramaciotti Foundation. The new Pharos FX molecular imager was supported by Perpetual Trustees and the Rebecca L Cooper Foundation.

8. Bosch Young Investigator News and Training

Many of our young investigators (graduate research students and post-doctoral researchers) attended what has become an annual conference at Kialoa, along with some more experienced mentors. The program included a number of career development sessions and discussions on effective scientific communication – along with some more social activities. Even more junior researchers, mostly commencing honours students, but including newly enrolled Masters and PhD candidates, were welcomed at the Annual Bosch New Investigators Program in March. Nearly 80 students were given useful overviews covering occupational health and safety, intellectual property, ethics and an introduction to Bosch Facilities. Sessions also covered experimental design, presentation, thesis structure, digital imaging and managing literature files. These were delivered by academics, facilities officers and some general staff. Over 140 attended the Bosch Young Investigators Harbour Cruise in April. Junior and senior researchers formed Team Bosch for the City to Surf run in August. A trivia night was held during the year, with gales of laughter coming from the event. These activities, together with a series of seminars on Friday afternoons, run by the Bosch Young Investigators committee, and with combined scientific and social sessions run by the various Themes, are aimed at providing a welcoming environment for new researchers, helping all the young researchers to form social and professional friendships across the Themes and to provide excellent training and career development opportunities for early career researchers. Sincere thanks are due to A/Prof Frank Lovicu, our longstanding academic co-ordinator of the Young Investigators.

The Bosch Young Investigators Committee again organized their Symposium in December. This was generally agreed to be a wonderful opportunity to showcase the remarkable research being undertaken by our early career researchers. Sponsorship is organized by the students and continues to increase each year. Fourteen companies provided this sponsorship and trade displays in 2009. The vice-chancellor, Professor Michael Spence presented the 2009 awards. The Bercovici prize, for the best paper in the previous 12 months by a graduate research student, was awarded to Sean Lal, who works in the laboratory of Professor Cris dos Remedios while the Rebecca L Cooper prize for the best paper in the previous 12 months by a post-doctoral researcher was awarded to Dr Aaron Camp, who is part of a group led by Dr Sam Solomon. Both awardees gave presentations on their work at the Symposium.

9. Internationalisation and Visitors

Following the successful visit in 2008 by researchers from the Institute of Medical Research, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, Professors Des Richardson and Nick Hunt travelled to Jerusalem in November 2009. These short-term exchange visits of researchers between our two institutions are generously supported by the Sir Zelman Cowen Fund, to facilitate the development of further collaborations between researchers at Bosch and the Institute of Medical Research due to the many synergies between the work done at both these institutions. Projects undertaken in conjunction with researchers in Israel may be eligible for funding in partnership with the European Union. As well as presenting a number of lectures, Professors King and Richardson spoke with a number of researchers at the Institute in Jerusalem with the result that existing joint studies were progressed and several new initiatives developed. One major proposal that came out of these discussions was a plan for a biennial symposium, primarily between University of Sydney and Hebrew University researchers, somewhat along the lines of the success already achieved by symposia involving Shanghai Jiao Tong University and the University of Sydney. When this was discussed at a more general meeting of the Middle East working group of the International Office at Sydney University, there was enthusiasm for the meeting to include other areas where both universities have research strengths, apart from medicine, including water management, robotics and alternative energy. There still remains much work to be done to secure funding in particular.

Professor Roland Stocker has led a series of initiatives to increase interactions between researchers at the University of Sydney and universities in Switzerland, particularly the University of Geneva. These initiatives have the support of the Swiss Government, as well as the university academics. One of the aims is to foster research student exchanges between the Universities.

Bosch was a sponsor of the Diana Temple memorial lecture. This lecture, organized largely by the Women in Science Network, honours the achievements of Dr Diana Temple, a longstanding academic in Pharmacology at the University, who nurtured the careers many younger researchers over the years. The Lecture this year was given by the NSW Chief Scientist, Dr Mary O’Kane at NSW Parliament House.

10. Relationship to other research groups

Bosch was a founding member of the Sydney Institutes for Health and Medical Research and remains associated with that body. Several Bosch members including Steve Twigg, Rebecca Mason, Chris Murphy, Louise Cole, David Celemajer and others contributed to the working groups which assisted in the design of the planning document and development application for the Centre for Obesity, Diabetes and Cardiovascular Research. Since there are obvious synergies between Bosch and the new Centre, it is expected that Bosch researchers will contribute strongly to the planning processes for the CODCD.

11. Governance and Finances

On the recommendation of the Board and after consultation with Richard Fisher of the Office of General Council, Bosch will proceed to de-incorporate early in 2010 and become a Centre of the University. Bosch is operating within its budget. Sponsorships have covered the costs of symposia, the Annual Scientific Meeting and the Young Investigator Symposium. Apart from substantial grant income, Bosch also received modest donations during 2009. Board member Janice Taylor, in conjunction with the Development Office of the University, has provided advice on how Bosch can present its achievements to facilitate fundraising efforts.

Rebecca S Mason, December 2009.