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ARC funding for myrtle rust and aerosol measurement technology

24 January 2020
Two research teams receive ARC Linkage Project funding
Sydney researchers have received $753,000 in Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Project grants to combat myrtle rust and to develop new technologies to better characterise aerosols.

Prevention of myrtle rust

Dr Peri Tobias and Professor Robert Park from the School of Life and Environmental Sciences received $390,000 to help identify the genes that will enable native plant species to defend themselves against myrtle rust.  

A disease that affects all plants in the Myrtaceae family including eucalypts, bottlebrush and lilly pilly, myrtle rust has spread rapidly across the east coast of Australia, deforming leaves and causing plant dieback, stunted growth and plant death. 

It’s hoped our research will help on-the-ground management of this disease.

“Myrtle rust is one of the most pressing biosecurity risks to Australia’s unique Myrtaceae dominated ecosystems,” explained Dr Tobias. “This grant will provide funding for us to delve deeper into understanding myrtle rust and allow us to identify the immune response of genes in plants that are resistant to the disease.”

Dr Tobias said Australia has limited time to address myrtle rust, which has caused the near extinction of three rainforest plant species, the decline of a keystone paperbark tree species and impacted the commercial production of tea tree and lemon myrtle.

“It’s hoped our research will help on-the-ground management of this disease by giving plant breeders tools to grow resilient plants and allow land managers to identify areas that are at specific risk of disease.” 

Professor Park and Dr Tobias will be collaborating with researchers from the Australian National University, CSIRO, Queensland Department of Agriculture and the New Zealand Plant and Food Research institute. 

The research project has also gained support from industry partners including the Australian Tea Tree Industry Association, the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage and the Australian Flora Foundation.

Improving the measurement of pharmaceutical aerosols

Professor Hak-Kim Chan from the School of Pharmacy and Dr Agisilaos Kourmatzis from the School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering received $363,152 to develop new technologies to better characterise aerosols.

Their project aims to develop new optical technology that can predict the surface area and dissolution behaviour of aerosols, a critical question for the pharmaceutical industry and a wide range of industries. 

Professor Chan said their research hopes to improve the current processes used to measure and analyse the performance of pharmaceutical aerosols. 

“Using an optical approach is significantly less laborious and provides far more detail than what is currently used in the industry,” explained Professor Chan. 

The techniques to be developed as part of the project can be applied widely to the aerosol devices industry, added Dr Kourmatzis.

“Working in close collaboration with our research partners, we hope to contribute to the next generation of measurement technologies used to determine the performance of an inhaler device or any aerosol delivery device,” said Dr Kourmatzis. 

Professor Chan and Dr Kourmatzis will be collaborating with Associate Professor Shaokoon Cheng from Macquarie University and CEO of Proveris Scientific, Dino Farina.

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