Conference in Honour of Professor Leo Radom

December 2016
The first Australian Symposium on Computational Chemistry (ASCC-2016) was held at the University of Western Australia from December 1–2, 2016, with Professor Leo Radom one of the two honourees. More information is given on the ASCC-2016 website.

AINST appoints domain leaders

December 2016
Associate Professor Chiara Neto has become Domain Leader for Molecular Nanoscience within the Australian Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology.

The institutes's domains of expertise are reflected in its people and areas of research strength. Chiara's research looks at Molecular Nanoscience which includes synthetic and biological nanoparticles; nanomedicine and targeted drug delivery; advanced nano-bio-spectroscopy and imaging; nano-biosensors for biomarker detection; cell interfacing and biocompatible surfaces; polymer science; self-assembly and synthesis of novel nanostructures; DNA nanotechnology.

Students make $750 drug cheaply with Open Source Malaria team

December 2016
Sydney Grammar students, under the guidance of Dr Alice Williamson and Associate Professor Matthew Todd, have shown how simple it is to make a version of the life-saving medicine Daraprim, whose price was the subject of controversy last year when it jumped more than 5000 percent. Read more.

Liz New awarded Early Career Researcher of the Year

November 2016
Congratulations to Dr Liz New who has been named the "NSW Early Career Researcher of the Year" at the Premier's Prizes for Science and Technology on Friday, 14 October, 2016.

For the past three years, Liz has led a research team of over 10 researchers, developing chemical sensors that allow study of the biochemical changes in the body caused by disease, lighting up where and how the body is experiencing oxidative stress. Her research has principally focused on the diseases of aging, but her sensors have found application across many fields of medical research. Liz's team has developed six sensors, with two sensors already being commercialised. Liz is currently a Westpac Research Fellow, carrying out a research project focussed on sensing applications in remote communities.

RACI Educator of the Year Award

November 2016
Dr Liz New was the recipient of the RACI Educator of the Year Award at the RACI annual awards dinner. This award recognises the contribution of developing teachers in undergraduate or postgraduate teaching. Liz is passionate about sharing and developing a love of chemistry with students by promoting active engagement in the learning process. She significantly redeveloped the second-year laboratory curriculum, incorporating a range of research-led investigations, and helped to lead the school-wide redesign of first year teaching, involving the use of weekly video, self-assessment tools and in-class active worksheets. She was awarded the University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching (2015), and an Office of Learning and Teaching Australian Award for Teaching Excellence (2015).

Interim Academic Director for the Drug Discover Initiative

Professor Michael Kassiou has agreed to take on the challenge as the Interim Director for the Drug Discover Initiative - his two year appointment is effective immediately. Michael is charged with leading the creation of a business case and fully engaged “drug discovery community” that will determine the direction, scope and enact foundational activities to bring this initiative to sufficient maturity for the University to determine what sort and quantum of investment should be made.

The RJW Le Fèvre Memorial Prize

Congratulations to Dr Deanna D'Alessandra who has been awarded the 2017 Le Févre Memorial Prize by the Australian Academy of Science. Deanna's research is delivering insights into an exciting area in nanoporous molecular materials, namely, their electronic and conducting properties. These fundamental advances have enormous potential as the basis of new devices for applications including electrocatalysis, sensing and solar energy conversion.

In addition to her work in the area of theoretical and experimental aspects of electron transfer, for which Dr D’Alessandro has gained international recognition, she has also played a role in the development of new nanoporous materials for the capture of greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide. A common theme of her research has been a desire to tackle significant scientific challenges by probing fundamental chemical questions.

A recipient of the IUPAC [International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry] Prize for young chemists upon completing her PhD in chemistry, she has received numerous awards, including: 2010 L’Oréal-Australia For Women in Science Fellowship, 2011 Tall Poppy award, 2012 Distinguished Lectureship Award from the Chemical Society of Japan, 2014 RACI Rennie Medal and 2015 ChemComm Emerging Investigator Lectureship from the Royal Society of Chemistry. Read more.

Smaller and safer batteries for electric cars

Congratulations to Associate Professor Chris Ling who has been awarded one of ten inaugural Sydney Research Accelerator (SOAR) fellowships for mid-career researchers. In its first year, the program will enable 10 mid-career researchers to further their research. Chris' research into the power-to-weight ratio of lithium-ion batteries has led them to dominate consumer electronics and early electric vehicles. As part of his fellowship, Chris hopes to design and build new materials into these batteries that will improve their performance – making them smaller, safer and more powerful – with a particular focus on large-scale automotive and renewable energy storage applications. Read more here.

Developing new materials for energy conversion and storage

Congratulations to Dr Deanna D'Alessandro who has been awarded one of ten inaugural Sydney Research Accelerator (SOAR) fellowships for early-career researchers. In its first year, the program will enable 10 early-career researchers to further their research. Deanna is at the forefront of developing new materials that have enormous potential to further sensing technologies and energy conversion and storage, as well as creating new electrochromic devices that change colour with electricity. Her fellowship will allow her to build her international profile in the field of materials science. Read more here.

ARC funding success

Congratulations to those who were successful in receiving their ARC Discovery and LIEF grants for 2017. To find out who was successful please visit here.

Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year

The Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year has been awarded to Professor Richard Payne for his revolutionary drug development technologies.

Professor Payne’s team is developing new drugs including for tuberculosis, malaria and antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections; as well as developing novel anti-thrombotic drugs and synthetic cancer vaccines. His underlying technologies are being picked up by pharmaceutical companies internationally and are the subject of four patent applications. Read more and watch the video here.

Mobile phones and lithium ion batteries: what would we do without them?

The modern world survives and thrives upon connectivity, smartphones, laptops and other personal electronic devices allow individuals to communicate and access information globally nearly instantaneously. Powering these and other devices is the lithium ion battery. Read more.

More than $1.2 million awarded under new industry and community engagement scheme

A/Prof Chiara Neto and A/Prof Chris Ling, have both received funding under the new industry and community engagement scheme. Chiara's research looks at progressing low-cost, sustainable biofuel, while Chris's research looks at developing silicon batteries. Read more (requires unikey and login).

  • Associate Professor Chiara Neto will work with Australian bio-oil company Licella on a $42,000 project to develop hydrophobic coatings on porous meshes which will separate water-soluble oils from water. This approach will not only provide a low energy alternative to existing methods for Licella, but will also be useful for all for wastewater treatments that contain organics of this type.
  • Associate Professor Chris Ling will work with University of Sydney spin-off company Gelion on a $42,000 project to test their silicon-based nanoparticles in lithium-ion batteries. Silicon has enormous potential to increase the power density and lifetime of batteries, but faces serious practical problems that nanosizing could overcome.

ARC Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science

Dr Girish Lakhwani and Dr Asaph Widmer-Cooper have been successful participants in securing an ARC grant for an ARC Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science. The ARC Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science, to be established at The University of Melbourne, will manipulate the way light energy is absorbed, transported and transformed in advanced molecular materials. Read more.

Open source malaria research paves way for cheap medicine

Once the domain of IT, a crowd-sourced approach to drug discovery has been shown to work.

A real-time drug discovery project involving some 50 researchers in nine countries has shown open source malaria research works - providing a potential alternative for medicines similar to the way in which open source products compete with proprietary products in software. Read more.

Quantum computing closer with chemistry breakthrough

Quantum computing is a leap closer to reality with a chemistry breakthrough demonstrating it is possible for nanomaterials to operate at room temperature rather than at absolute zero experienced in deep space (-273C).

The key to quantum computing could be a simple as burning the active ingredient in moth balls; using this method, the holy grail of quantum computing – the ability to work in ‘real-world’ room temperatures – has been demonstrated by an international group of researchers, combining chemistry with quantum physics.

Co-led by Dr Mohammad Choucair – who recently finished a University of Sydney research fellowship gained as an outstanding early career researcher in the School of Chemistry – the 31-year-old has been working with collaborators in Switzerland and Germany for two years before the breakthrough. Read more.

Molecular polymer brushes in nanomedicine

Dr Markus Muellner's recent article on brush nanomedicine has been highlighted in Wiley’s Materials Views. Read more.

Summary: In nanomedicine, we apply nanotechnology to solve persevering issues in prevention, treatment and diagnosis of common diseases. Within this field, polymeric nanoparticles are hot contenders of delivering novel and modular solutions to overcome these issues. Amongst widely used polymer nanoparticles, such as micelles and polymersomes, elaborate polymer architectures are experiencing increasing interest. Molecular polymer brushes (also known as cylindrical polymer brushes or molecular bottlebrushes) are particularly intriguing. Despite being only one giant macromolecule, these molecular heavyweights can easily adopt the size of colloids. This places these unique polymer constructs in a niche between nanoparticles and polymer coils.

Throughout the past decade, these remarkable materials have witnessed an ever-growing interest from many disciplines. The modular build-up of molecular polymer brushes allows for tailoring size and composition simply via polymerisation. Thus, these materials are very appealing in addressing problems where precise tuning of functionality and physicochemical properties is of high importance. Originally considered a molecular playground predominately for synthetic polymer chemists; nowadays, these elaborate nano-constructs find application in many fields of science and engineering.

Open source discovery

Associate Professor Mat Todd was featured in the newsletter of the Australian Society for Parasitology, p16-17. Read more.

In addition, Associate Professor Mat Todd, Dr Robert Don, Dr Jeremy Burrows and Professor Matt Cooper will run the DNDi-MMV Special Symposium: Open Source Drug Discovery at The International Congress for Tropical Medicine and Malaria 2016 in Brisbane where they will examine the successes and challenges of several exemplar projects that have experimented with open source drug discovery.

Professor Thomas Maschmeyer raises $21m in two months

"University of Sydney professor Thomas Maschmeyer has not needed any of the new government help on offer for universities to commercialise inventions, raising $21 million in the last two months to spin out two technologies, one of which could form the basis for the largest biodiesel project in the world.

In April, UK energy investor Armstrong Energy paid $11 million for a commercial prototype of a house whose walls will contain batteries invented by Maschmeyer. The University of Sydney (USyd) spun out the intellectual property in return for equity in a startup named Gelion. The business is developing batteries made with nano-structured gels which claim better performance than lithium ion batteries in their charging and discharging speed, as well as being smaller, safer, more durable and cheaper." Read more.

$10m turns discarded plastics into asset in world first

A month after the launch of the Australian Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology and the opening of its flagship $150m nanoscience hub, a company co-founded by the Institute’s director Professor Thomas Maschmeyer is announcing that a multi-million dollar contract has been signed to recycle end-of-life plastics, which will provide a solution to the major issue of increasing landfill.

Renewable Chemical Technologies Limited (RCTL) will invest $10m+ into Licella, a start-up of Professor Maschmeyer from the School of Chemistry, to build the world’s first commercial hydrothermal waste upgrading plant. Read more.

Superbugs may kill 10 million people a year by 2050

A recent 18-month review into antimicrobial resistance warns that superbugs may kill 10 million people a year by 2050 if new antibiotics are not forthcoming.

A new paper by Richard Payne’s research group led by Andrew Giltrap and Luke Dowman, together with their collaborators at the Centenary Institute and Simon Fraser University (Canada), reports the first total synthesis of an antibacterial natural product called teixobactin using solid-phase peptide synthesis. Read more.

A more open approach to combating tropical diseases may help to overcome a pharmaceutical market failure

"He didn't know it at the time, but when chemist Matthew Todd posted a request for help on The Synaptic Leap, a website devoted to open-source biomedical research, he was sowing the seeds for a rivalry between an open initiative and a contract-research organization hired by the World Health Organization to reach the same goal." Read more.

Open source removes secrecy in drug research

Traditional research is often a world of secrecy. A small group works on a project and when there’s a result, a paper might be published. Now, the open source approach, familiar in software development, is being used in drug research. As Alice Williamson reports, the collaborative approach of open source science breaks down barriers and facilitates open discussion as projects are underway. Read more.

Can open-source drug development deliver?

Open-source drug development involves open data sharing, collaboration, and results sharing. The aim is to produce new drugs for neglected diseases. But can it work? Read more.

$11m UK investment in nano start-up boon for eco energy

An ambitious plan to make commercially viable, nanostructured, gel-based batteries to lead the renewable electricity revolution is closer to becoming a reality, with the multimillion-dollar investment by the UK’s major utility-scale solar energy company into a pioneering University of Sydney start-up.

“The idea is to build houses with batteries inherently included as part of their structure, ready to take advantage of rapidly improving, solar energy technology and also to serve as a buffer for the grid, enabling an ever greater share of renewables to be connected, while grid stability is maintained” Professor Maschmeyer, from the School of Chemistry said. Read more.

Inaugural Westpac Bicentennial Foundation Research Fellowship

Dr Liz New has been named inaugural recipient of the Westpac Bicentennial Foundation Research Fellowship. The Research Fellowship recognises outstanding early career researchers in technology and innovation; strengthening Australia-Asia ties; and enabling positive social change. It is valued at up to $460,000 over three years. Read more.

David McDonald at the HOPE meeting in Japan

PhD candidate David McDonald attended the 8th HOPE meeting in Tsukuba Japan in March 2016 enabling him to have an amazing experience hearing lectures from many Nobel Prize laureates and meeting many other young enthusiastic scientists. Read more.

K computer provides new insights into fullerenes

The University of Sydney in collaboration with a group of Scientists from the RIKEN Advanced Institute for Computational Science (AICS) in Japan have made use of the tremendous power of the K computer to provide new insights into the properties of fullerenes. Dr Bun Chan from the School of Chemistry at Sydney University and author of the study describes the important contribution this study has made to the study of nanomaterials. Read more.

Superhydrophobicity is child’s play

A team of chemical researchers from The University of Sydney have developed a new robust nanostructured material that is extremely repellent to water droplets due to its highly wrinkled surface.

The team in the School of Chemistry, led by A/Prof Chiara Neto, developed a surface with a special roughness, combining micro-scale and nanoscale features, which mimics the surface structure of the leaf of the Sacred lotus. Droplets of water placed on the Sacred lotus leaf bead up in a spherical shape, a sign that the petal is highly water-repellent; the droplets roll off the petals very easily, and in doing so remove contaminants and dust from the surface. The mechanism behind this behaviour is due to the special surface structure of the lotus leaf, made up of micrometric bumps covered with even smaller nanometric ones, engineered to trap air on the surface and therefore repel water. Read more.

Gold nanoparticles riddle solved – offering medical hope

Products based on nanoparticles are not new, with gold nanoparticles used by the Ancient Egyptians to make paints lasting for millennia - but they are promising to deliver a wide range of new medical imaging and treatment technologies.

An international group of researchers including the University of Sydney have solved the riddle in work published today in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America. It is all in the glue that binds the surface of the gold nanoparticles to keep potentially destructive chemicals out of contact range. Read more.