Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year

Professor Richard Payne

Prof Richard Payne

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.

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

A/Prof Chiara Neto and A/Prof Chris Ling

Chiara Neto and Chris Ling

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

Girish Lakhwani and Asaph Widmer-Cooper

Dr Girish Lakhwani and Dr Asaph Widmer-Cooper

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

Associate Professor Mat Todd

Associate Professor Mat Todd

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

Dr Mohammad Choucair

Dr Mohammad Choucair

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

Associate Professor Mat Todd

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

Professor Thomas Maschmeyer with a jar of bio crude oil

Professor Thomas Maschmeyer with a jar of bio crude oil

"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

End-of-life plastics. Credit Licella.

End-of-life plastics

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

(from left to right): Andrew Giltrap and Luke Dowman who synthesised teixobactin, and Rich

L-R: Andrew Giltrap, Luke Dowman & Richard Payne

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

A/Prof Mat Todd

A/Prof Mat Todd

"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

Dr Alice Williamson

Dr Alice Williamson

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?

A/Prof Mat Todd

A/Prof Mat Todd

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

Thomas Maschmeyer

Thomas Maschmeyer

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

Liz New

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

David McDonald

David McDonald

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

Bucky ball

Bucky ball

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

Wrinkled teflon

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.

Photo insert: A scanning electron micrograph shows a crinkled, water-repellent layer of Teflon deposited on polyolefin. (Credit Chiara Neto).

Gold nanoparticles riddle solved – offering medical hope

Gold nanoparticles

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.

Research raises concerns over long-term use of chromium diet pills

The synchrotron’s high energy x-ray beam.

Concerns have been raised over the long-term use of nutritional supplements containing chromium, after an Australian research team found the supplement is partially converted into a carcinogenic form when it enters cells.

The team, led by Professor Peter Lay from the University of Sydney’s School of Chemistry and Dr Lindsay Wu, now with UNSW’s School of Medical Sciences, travelled near to Chicago to Argonne National Laboratory to perform the experiments in collaboration with colleagues at Argonne’s, the Advanced Photon Source, a US Department of Energy Office of Science User Facility that generates ultra-bright, high-energy x-rays. Read more.

Women making strides in chemistry

Dr Alice Williamson

Alice Williamson

Women in STEM: On UN International Day of Women and Girls in Science, meet five scientists making strides, including our very own Postdoctoral Research Associate, Dr Alice Williamson. Read more.

Alice was also named one of ABC’s RN and UNSW’s ‘Top 5 Under 40’ - a nationwide competition to find the next generation of passionate science communicators. Read more.