Sydney Medical School senior lecturer awarded prestigious Endeavour Executive Award
Dr Bing Yu, senior lecturer in molecular genetics at the University of Sydney Medical School, has been awarded an Endeavour Executive Award by the Australian government for 2010.
An experienced researcher, Dr Yu will travel to Jakarta to learn about mitochondrial (mt) DNA technology for forensic testing at the prestigious Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology, with a view to establishing a State-wide mt DNA laboratory here in Sydney. It is expected that this new initiative will be used for forensic DNA testing as well as population genetic research.
“Mitochondrial DNA techniques can be important for identification of individuals in certain scenarios” Dr Yu said. “Unlike nuclear DNA, mt DNA can tolerate some extreme conditions such as burning or long-term UV exposure. As such, the facility to identify people using mt DNA can be critical following natural disasters or terrorist attacks, as well as for identifying perpetrators of attacks like suicide bombings.”
At present NSW does not have facilities for forensic mt DNA services, and all such work is outsourced to the USA. “NSW Police and other organisations have already expressed their interest to collaborate with the forensic laboratory once it is established” said Dr Yu. He hopes to see the Sydney Forensic Medicine and Science Network, of which he is a member, establish the laboratory to provide services not only in forensic testing but also population genetic research.
“There are a wide range of uses for this technology, for example mt DNA analysis can be invaluable in population studies to identify relationships, population structures or evolutionary movements of people. Determination of population structures in which a disease is more or less likely to occur will also be important for disease-related gene identification.”
The Endeavour Executive Awards provide professional development opportunities for high achievers in business, industry, education or government from participating countries. The Awards focus on building skills and knowledge through a host work environment rather than through formal enrolment in a study program at a host institution. In addition to learning mt DNA techniques for use here in Australia, Dr Yu’s trip to Jakarta will also serve to strengthen the growing collaborative ties between Sydney Medical School and the Eijkman Institute.