Media bulletins

Science in Public’s occasional bulletins to journalists with an interest in science.

 

Manufacturing a cell therapy peace-keeping force, and more

Today

It’s Day 3 of the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) 2018 Annual Meeting at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre: more than 2,500 stem cell scientists from 50 countries will hear from 150+ speakers, including:

Lab-grown mini-brains make new connections
Fred ‘Rusty’ Gage (USA) is making mini-brains from human stem cells in the lab. But in order for these new tissues to function, they need to become well-connected.

Fred is pioneering research to explore how transplanted human neural organoids (mini-organs) can mature into tissues with blood vessel and nerve connections. This work could lead to methods of replacing brain tissue lost to stroke or disease, and repairing spinal cords damaged by trauma.

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Treating diabetes; turning skin cells into brain cells; hearts in a dish

Today

It’s Day 2 of the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) 2018 Annual Meeting at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre: more than 2,500 stem cell scientists from 50 countries will hear from 150+ speakers, including:

Treating type 1 diabetes with stem cells
A Harvard team has shown they can control glucose levels in mice using a transplant of insulin-producing cells made from human stem cells. Doug Melton presents his research today.

His effort to fight diabetes involves a 30-person lab at Harvard and a start-up company, Semma Therapeutics, which he named after his children. His son Sam and daughter Emma both have type 1 diabetes.
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Cells, salamanders and what’s wrong with US ‘right to try’ laws

Today:

  • Could you regrow an arm or a leg? Salamanders can.
  • Should you be allowed to try unapproved treatments—without the FDA tick—when you’re terminally ill? President Trump says yes.

It’s Day 1 of the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) 2018 Annual Meeting at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre: more than 2,500 stem cell scientists from 50 countries will hear from 150+ speakers, including:

Taking stem cell science from the lab to the clinic, and what’s wrong with the US ‘right to try’ legislation—Roger Barker, UK

ISSCR is concerned about ‘right to try’ legislation just signed into law in the US, which allows terminally ill patients to try risky, unproven treatments without regulation or oversight. Doctors and scientists are alarmed. They say current compassionate use provisions allow access.

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Stem cell invasion: 2,500 researchers in Melbourne

Mending broken hearts and burnt eyes, and much more

  • Stem cells are saving lives today—through bone marrow and cord blood transplants
  • There are trials making new skin, restoring sight, treating diabetes, repairing the brain
  • But we’ll also hear of the dangers of risky treatments, snake oil merchants, and new Australian and US regulations.

More than 2,500 stem cell scientists from 50 countries are in Melbourne this week for the massive International Society for Stem Cell Research 2018 Annual Meeting. It’s taking place from 20-23 June at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. Here are some highlights and we’ll have daily alerts for you with more people and ideas through the week.

Media are welcome.

Developing a stem cell product to cure blindness from burning—Michele De Luca and Graziella Pellegrini, Italy

Italian innovators Graziella Pellegrini and Michele De Luca have seen their work lead to patients regaining eyesight after 20 years of blindness. And it’s led to the world’s first non-blood-related commercial stem cell therapy.

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Starving superbugs in your schnoz; Beatrix Potter the scientist; a hearing aid you’ll want to wear; a year of Days

Starving superbugs in your schnoz;
Beatrix Potter the scientist; a hearing aid you’ll want to wear; a year of Days

Today: starving superbugs, media call 11 am in Adelaide

Scientists are tricking superbugs into gobbling up the bacteria-equivalent of poisonous chocolate.

Dr Katharina Richter and colleagues from the University of Adelaide have begun the first human trials of the treatment at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

They’re looking for patients with antibiotic-resistant sinus infections.

More below.

Thursday: Beatrix Potter, Vera Rubin, Elizabeth Gould and other forgotten women of science

Celebrate them this International Women’s Day, 8 March

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Chicken for 100 million; instant results for every major medical test; and more Stories of Australian Science

Today:

Adding whole grains to chicken food boosts meat production efficiency and could improve global food security. It’s also likely to be good for backyard chickens, says Sydney scientist Amy Moss.

Amy’s research at The University of Sydney’s Poultry Research Foundation showed that replacing some of the ground grain in chickens’ feed with whole grain both improved their digestion and how efficiently they produced meat.

More below.

Amy is available for interview and is presenting her research at the 29th Australian Poultry Science Symposium, which starts in Sydney on Monday 5 February.

She’s the NSW winner of Fresh Science 2017—our national competition helping early-career researchers find, and then share, their stories of discovery.

We’ll be sharing the other winners’ stories via this bulletin in the coming weeks.

On Friday:

Nobel Laureate Steven Chu launches new institute at UTS – 9.30 am Friday 2 February 2018, UTS Great Hall (Building 1).

Instant results at home, at the surgery, and at the bedside for every major medical test. That’s the vision for a new research institute at UTS.

They plan to use quantum dots and other nanotech to make small, inexpensive diagnostics as simple to use as a pregnancy test and as ubiquitous as smartphones.

And with their technology the human eye can now watch a single molecule at work inside a living cell.

More below.

Want more Stories of Australian Science?

Using drones to protect swimmers (and sharks); tracking space junk; detecting toxic algal blooms in Tasmania, China, and France; using silk to repair damaged eardrums; stopping people going into floodwaters; and more.

Each year we pull together a publication with some of the highlights in Australian science from the year. We’ve just published all the stories from 2017 online (along with our previous collections) at www.scienceinpublic.com.au/stories.

You can filter by state, discipline and organisation, as well as search by keyword. If you’d like to speak with any of the scientists, feel free to contact them directly or we can help you make contact.

If you’d like a hard copy of the publication let me know and I can post some to you.

Do your colleagues like science stories too?

Please feel free to share this bulletin with your colleagues, or they can subscribe at: www.scienceinpublic.com.au/category/bulletins/media-bulletin

We send updates like this every couple of weeks with science news and talent from around Australia.

Kind regards,

Niall [click to continue…]

Using viruses to restore sight—CSL Florey Medal winner announced in Canberra tonight

Using viruses to restore sight by turning eye cells into biofactories

Perth researcher Elizabeth Rakoczy led the world’s first human gene therapy trial for wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of blindness in the elderly, which affects 112,000 Australians.

Elizabeth has developed a process to turn eye cells into bio-factories, making their own medication on the spot. This gene therapy uses a modified virus to carry a gene into cells in the eye, replacing the need for frequent, painful and costly eye injections (~$2,000 each; six to eight per year).

She will receive a $50K prize and the CSL Florey Medal for lifetime achievement at the annual medical research dinner at Parliament House in Canberra on Wednesday.

Contact Tanya Ha to arrange interviews on 0404 083 863 or tanya@scienceinpublic.com.au

Media release below.

And we’ll have stories on our Fresh Scientists from SA, WA, NSW, and VIC in January/February.

Using viruses to restore sight:

Researcher restoring sight wins $50,000 CSL Florey Medal for lifetime achievement

Award presentation: 9 pm (Canberra time), 6 December in the Great Hall, Parliament House

Full profile, photos, and HD footage available at: www.scienceinpublic.com.au/floreymedal

Professor Elizabeth Rakoczy has developed a process to turn eye cells into bio-factories, making their own medication on the spot.

This gene therapy uses a modified virus to carry a gene into cells in the eye, replacing the need for frequent, painful and costly eye injections.·Elizabeth led the world’s first human gene therapy trial for wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of blindness in the elderly.

Past CSL Florey Medallists include Graeme Clarke, Ian Frazer, and Nobel Laureates Barry Marshall and Robin Warren.Elizabeth Rakoczy is modifying viruses to use their powers for good. She’s created a new gene therapy for wet AMD that is reversing vision loss in clinical trial patients. Her treatment means one injection instead of several per year.

Modified viruses are gene therapy’s delivery vehicles, taking genes directly into cells. Elizabeth first showed that they could carry a healthy replacement for a mutated gene that causes degeneration of the eye’s retina. She then showed they can deliver instructions for eye cells to produce their own treatment for wet AMD, a complex eye disease.

More than 112,000 Australians have wet AMD—the most devastating form of AMD—and up to 8,000 more commence treatment for it each year. Each injection of the current treatment costs about $2,000, and patients have six to eight per year. Costs will rise with Australia’s ageing population. Gene therapy offers an alternative.

Elizabeth hopes to adapt her bio-factory idea to other diseases to alleviate suffering.
The CSL Florey Medal has been presented every two years since 1998 by the Australian Institute of Policy and Science (AIPS). The award recognises a lifetime of achievement in biomedical science and human health advancement. It carries a cash prize of $50,000 and has been supported by CSL since 2007.

“Professor Rakoczy is a quiet achiever, a world leader in gene therapy, and a key contributor to advancing international eye research,” says CSL’s Chief Scientist, Dr Andrew Cuthbertson.

“CSL is proud to support this award which recognises excellence in research as well as creating role models for the next generation of medical researchers. Gene and cell therapies hold the potential to significantly reduce vision loss over a patient’s lifetime which is why work in this field is so important.”

“In winning the CSL Florey Medal, Professor Rakoczy joins an elite group of Australian medical researchers who have followed in the footsteps of Howard Florey,” says AIPS director Camille Thomson.

“To quote Sir Robert Menzies, ‘In terms of world wellbeing, Florey was the most important man ever born in Australia’.”

Professor Elizabeth Rakoczy is the founding Director of the Department of Molecular Ophthalmology at Lions Eye Institute, University of Western Australia.

Media contacts:

Mystery of leaf size solved – paper in Science today; caring for Country in Arnhem Land; and reinventing the laser

Friday 1 September

The mystery of leaf size solved

Rainforest leaves, Panama. Credit: Ian Wright

We’ve got scientists available for interview, plus full release, background information and high res images.

And a feature story by lead author Ian Wright for The Conversation here.

For the first day of Spring, we’ve got a global team of researchers who have cracked the mystery of leaf size. Their research was published today as a cover story in Science.

Associate Professor Ian Wright from Macquarie University, with 16 colleagues from Australia, the UK, Canada, Argentina, the USA, Estonia, Spain, and China analysed leaves from over 7,600 species.

They teamed that data with a new theory that in much of the world the key limiting factor for leaf size is night temperature and the risk of frost damage to leaves. Until now, the textbooks said it’s a balance between water availability and overheating.

More below.
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Keeping the lights on; Mayan astronomy; Whisky Academy; bull science; and more

Friday 18 August

Highlights from day seven of National Science Week:

446 events and exhibitions, 23 online activities, and dozens of great stories and talent.

National and international talent, researchers, experts, and other interesting people available for interview around the country. Plenty of photo opportunities.

Melbourne

Sydney

Darwin

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The botany of booze; drones on the farm; wildlife forensics; plastic oceans; and more

Thursday 17 August 2017

Highlights from day six of National Science Week

448 events and exhibitions, 22 online activities, and dozens of great stories and talent.

National and international talent, researchers, experts, and other interesting people available for interview around the country. Plenty of photo opportunities.

Sydney

Charters Towers (near Townsville)

Hobart

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The ‘Madhouse Effect’; evil weevils; the funniest physicist; the language of plants; dingo puppies; and more

Wednesday 16 August

Highlights from day five of National Science Week:

476 events and exhibitions, 22 online activities, and dozens of great stories and talent.

National and international talent, researchers, experts, and other interesting people available for interview around the country.

Plenty of photo opportunities.

Canberra (10am, Parliament House)

Sydney

Melbourne

Western Australia and South Australia

Perth

Cairns

Adelaide

Read on for more on these, including event contact details.
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Wine science; pulse checks for politicians; microplastics; a kids coding hackathon; and more

Highlights from day four of National Science Week:

454 events and exhibitions, 21 online activities, and dozens of great stories and talent.

National and international talent, researchers, experts, and other interesting people available for interview around the country. Plenty of photo opportunities.

Sydney

Darwin

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Making a black hole; Fred Astaire; quantum physics explained by electric guitar; biomedical and renewable energy summits; and more

It’s day three of National Science Week:

  • More than 360 events, exhibitions and online activities are on offer around the country today.
  • It’s the first school day of Science Week 2017, with many classes learning about ‘Future Earth’—the science of sustainability.
  • Plenty of photo ops, and scientists and interesting people to interview.

Here’s our pick of the highlights.

Canberra (Parliament House): Innovating Energy Summit: how will we power our future?

Canberra: Ask the Interstellar visual effects wiz how to make a black hole on the big screen believable.
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There will be ‘Blood’; the GMO debate; and more – the first of 1,800+ events for National Science Week

National Science Week officially kicks off 12 August—but there are a few cheeky events sneaking in early (this week).

Below are some highlights we’ve picked out of the 1,800+ events—you can see all our picks here.

From tonight in Melbourne

There will be ‘Blood’

‘BLOOD: Attract & Repel’—the inaugural exhibition of Science Gallery Melbourne—opens today, exploring the significance and fascination of blood in science, medicine, art, and religion.

Science Gallery Melbourne director Rose Hiscock and ‘BLOOD’ creative director Ryan Jeffries are available for interviews.

Media enquiries via Katrina Hall kathall@ozemail.com.

Tomorrow in Melbourne

Is GMO the solution to feeding a growing global population? What does the science say?

A new movie ‘Food Evolution’, narrated by Neil deGrasse Tyson, explores the facts, fictions and feelings swirling around genetically modified crops and the role of biotechnology in food.

One of the experts featured in the doco Dr Alison Van Eenennaam (University of California, Davis) is in Melbourne for a screening and is available for interviews.

Contact her directly via alvaneenennaam@ucdavis.edu, or via Belinda Griffiths on 0400 042 297.

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What are your gut bugs telling you to do? And gender in the lab

Today

What fly guts could reveal about our health: microbes in the gut can influence diet and reproduction, and the changes could be passed on to the next generation.

Discoveries from Macquarie University and Sydney University illustrate how microbes in the gut can influence host animals. The work could be important for understanding the effects of the gut microbiota on physiology and cognitive function in humans in the future. More below.

And the final day at the Chemistry Congress in Melbourne:

Gender in the lab: is science inclusive and how do we stop women leaving academia?

Half of Australia’s university science students are women, and yet only 21 per cent of the professors teaching them are too. What can we learn from a British bloke to change this?

“It is not my job to correct the inequitable distribution of domestic labour in heterosexual couples. It is my job to make the Imperial College London Department of Chemistry the most successful it can be,” says Professor Tom Welton.

And he’s getting the results to back that up. More below.

Also

  • Using renewable energy to make more sustainable fertilisers: Professor Doug MacFarlane from Monash University is looking at direct reduction of nitrogen to ammonia.
  • Testing for disease and clean water with your phone: La Trobe researchers want to smash the cost of testing.
  • The Nobel Laureate who transformed how our fuels, plastic and drugs are made: now he’s tackling acid rain by getting the sulphur out of diesel.
  • UK to ban petrol cars, we need better batteries: ANSTO/Wollongong researchers tracking ions.

If you’d like to arrange an interview, contact Suzannah Lyons on suzannah@scienceinpublic.com.au

We’ll be tweeting news and interesting content from the Congress from @RACI_HQ and using #RACI100.

For more stories visit www.scienceinpublic.com.au

For information about the Congress itself, visit the website: www.racicongress.com.

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Chemical-free is a myth says Chief Scientist; Dow CEO says business can save the world

Today at the Centenary Chemistry Congress

Chemical-free is a myth, says Chief Scientist

It’s a sad era for chemistry when you can buy chemical-free water, in a chemical-free plastic bottle, to wash down your chemical-free pills, from your chemical-free pharmacist,” says Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel.

More below.

Tomorrow

  • Eliminating chemical weapons, His Excellency Mr Ahmet ÜzümcüDirector-General, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (2013 Nobel Peace Prize winner)
  • Using carbs to fight superbugs—Wisconsin chemist Laura Kiessling on how we can use the carbohydrates that coat every living cell in the fight against antibiotic resistant superbugs
  • Sir Martyn Poliakoff (University of Nottingham) is in the Guinness Book of Records for the world’s smallest periodic table (carved into a hair from his head). He’s a star of the YouTube series The Periodic Table of Videos. And in his day job he’s working to use CO2, water and other supercritical fluids to replace toxic solvents in applications such as dry cleaning.

And from last night

Business can solve today’s intractable challenges says Dow CEO Andrew Liveris, but Australia is falling behind..

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The ignorant versus the arrogant; growing bones; frog venom to TV screens; wood waste to solvents

Monday, 24 July at Melbourne Convention Centre
RACI Centennial Chemistry Congress: 3,500 chemists, three Nobel Prize winners, Trump and Obama insiders

The ignorant versus the arrogant – inside US politics

That’s how Obama insider and chemist Paul Anastas describes the US election result. He was appointed to the EPA by President Obama and now sees decades of environmental protection being rolled back. He’s angry. At the Congress, he’s talking about solving global challenges without creating new ones. For example, we need non-toxic solar cells, and biofuels that don’t compete with food production. He’s a pioneer of green chemistry, designing chemicals that are sustainable, non-hazardous and environmentally benign.

How seaweed and frog venom led to today’s OLED phone and TV screens

Andrew Holmes is President of the Australian Academy of Science and a chemistry pioneer whose discoveries led to plastic screens. Now he and his colleagues are working on plastic solar cells. He’ll discuss the impact of chemistry on Australia, and what’s next for plastic electronics.

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Stopping superbugs with ‘tyre tracks’; from chemical weapons to saving the planet; media award

Today: fighting superbugs with ‘tyre tracks’

Cynthia Whitchurch discovered that dangerous bacteria follow each other like ants, or 4WD drivers following tracks in the sand. She plans to stop them in their tracks and new catheters are being developed using her ideas. She’s won the David Syme Prize and is at UTS in Sydney.

More details below, and call Cynthia on 0408 408 443 or Marea Martlew, Media & PR Advisor (Science) on 0424735255

Starting 23 July: Chemistry: from chemical weapons to saving the planet

Trump’s ‘Aussie mate’, three Nobel Prize winners, and 2,500+ chemists converge in Melbourne.

Topics and speakers include:

  • CEO Dow Chemical Company and ‘Trump’s Aussie mate’ Andrew Liveris
  • Caltech scientist Frances Arnold, pioneer of ‘directed evolution’
  • Ahmet Üzümcü, Director-General, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
  • 100 years of Australian chemistry: what have we achieved and what’s next?

More below.

And coming up in August…

International geeks and gurus

  • Interstellar visual effects wizard Oliver James
  • Dava Sobel, author of Longitude and The Glass Universe
  • Physicist, astrobiologist, author and broadcaster Paul Davies
  • Canadian astronaut and ‘Space Oddity’ Chris Hadfield

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Keeping the lights on in Ecocities, and a global voice for Indigenous public health equity

This evening: Ecocity World Summit launch in Melbourne 

Population growth, transport and congestion, keeping cities healthy, increasing density without the loss of green space, and energy security (aka ‘keeping the lights on’)—a reminder that the program of July’s Ecocity World Summit will be launched at 5.30pm tonight at The University of Melbourne.

It will provide an overview of the speakers and topics we can put you in touch with for stories in the lead up to and during the Summit.

More details on the event below. For more information about the Summit, contact Tanya Ha on 0404 083 863 or tanya@scienceinpublic.com.au.

A global voice for Indigenous public health equity

An new Indigenous Working Group will be established within the World Federation of Public Health Associations, aiming to create a platform for change to address the health inequities experienced by Indigenous peoples worldwide.

Media release below.

Kind regards,

Niall  [click to continue…]

From Public Health to Al Gore and EcoCities

congressThe World Congress on Public Health wraps up in Melbourne today with resolutions and demands for action on public health and on chemical weapons. More below.

But wait there’s more…EcoCities. In July Al Gore will be one of dozens of international speakers at the Ecocity World Summit.

What’s an EcoCity? Why do we want to be one? Can I speak with Al? These and other questions will be answered…

This Monday evening at a briefing on the Summit at 5.30 pm Monday 10 April at the Dulux Gallery, Melbourne School of Design, University of Melbourne.

More details below.  [click to continue…]