Media releases

The inventor of the nanocar; the man who unboiled an egg is now unfolding a $160 billion industry; confusing insects so they can’t mate; and more

Wednesday, 26 July 2017, at the RACI Centenary Chemistry Congress, Melbourne Convention Centre

Today at the Centenary Chemistry Congress

From a molecular motor to the nanocar and beyond: 2016 chemistry Nobel Prize recipient Ben Feringa is speaking in Melbourne and available for interview today and Thursday. More below.

The man who unboiled an egg: Colin Raston won an IgNobel Prize in 2015 for unboiling an egg. Now he and his team are taking the technology to market. And it’s set to transform the $160 protein folding industry. More below.

A pheromone-based alternative to insecticides; and cleaner, greener household products: Frances Arnold is confusing insects so they can’t mate (a bit like spraying bad perfume). And James Clark wants to take the fossil fuels out of solvents used in paint and cleaning products. More below.

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Chemical terrorism a stark reality; periodic table on a hair; how water and CO2 can replace toxic solvents; wood waste into green chemistry; and more

Tuesday, 25 July 2017, at the RACI Centenary Chemistry Congress, Melbourne Convention Centre

Nobel Peace Prize winner on eliminating chemical weapons

While the threat of countries using chemical weapons has diminished, “chemical terrorism is no longer a theoretical proposition or even imminent threat, but a stark reality,” according to His Excellency Mr Ahmet Üzümcü.

Winner of the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize, Mr Üzümcü is the Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

In 2013, the OPCW along with the United Nations and 30 partner countries participated in an operation to remove all the chemical weapons declared by the Syrian Arab Republic.

Since then, the OPCW has remained engaged in Syria through an ongoing fact-finding mission to establish whether chemical weapons have been used in Syria.

They’re also keeping a close eye on North Korea, one of only four countries who haven’t yet joined the Chemical Weapons Convention, an international treaty outlawing the production, stockpiling or use of chemical weapons. The treaty came into force 20 years ago.

Limited availability for interviews – talk is at 2.30pm.

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

Business can help make the world a better place by driving the solutions to problems like climate change, food security and rising energy demand.

“I firmly believe that the companies who will lead the 21st century will be the ones that invent solutions to these mounting global challenges,” said Andrew Liveris, speaking last night at the RACI Centenary Chemistry Congress.

For Dow that’s meant developing a paint that removes toxic formaldehyde from the air, innovative packaging technologies that reduce food waste, and new methods of desalination that allow us to put more of the planet’s water to use.

Last year the company was awarded 754 US patents – eight times the number they were getting a decade ago.

“More and more companies are seeing that we can do well by doing good,” Andrew said.

But we also need governments to set smart regulatory and policy frameworks that enable innovation to flourish, and that’s not happening enough in Australia he said.

According to the World Economic Forum, Australia ranks 25th in the world when it comes to “business capacity for innovation”. And we’re also falling behind in our competitiveness in teaching young people maths and science.

Andrew says our quality of life will go backwards “if all we are is a farm, a hotel and a quarry”.

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Growing bones; inside Chernobyl; Obama green chemistry adviser; Trump’s Aussie mate; from frog venom to TV screens

It’s a week of discovering how chemistry is changing our world—international and national speakers are in Melbourne and ready to talk. Here are some highlights and we’ll have daily alerts for you with more people and ideas through the week. Media are welcome.

This Sunday, 5pm

  • Meet Trump’s ‘Aussie mate’ Andrew Liveris—Australian-born, US-based chairman and CEO of Dow Chemical Company, who Trump has appointed to lead his American Manufacturing Council. Liveris is not doing any media interviews but you can see and report his talk at 5pm
  • Opening of the RACI Centennial Chemistry Congress: 2,500 chemists, three Nobel Prize winners.

Monday 24 July

  • How seaweed and frog venom led to today’s OLED phone and TV screens. Andrew Holmes discusses what’s next for plastic electronics and solar energy
  • Molly Stevens grows bones—Molly is a tissue engineer growing bones, cartilage, nerve and heart tissue for regenerative medicine and bio-sensing. Last December she announced a patch that could fix a broken heart
  • Obama White House insider, and father of green chemistry, Paul Anastas on how we need to design smarter to create a sustainable society. For example, we need non-toxic solar cells, and biofuels that don’t compete with food production
  • New solvents from wood—invented in York, made in Tassie. The world needs good solvents for everything from cleaning the house, to making drugs, and miracle materials like graphene. York University’s James Clark has invented a new solvent that’s now being made in Tasmania.

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First female scientist to win the David Syme Research Prize in over thirty years

Fighting drug resistant bugs with ‘tyre tracks’

Cynthia Whitchurch discovered that dangerous bacteria in biofilms follow each other like ants, or 4WD drivers following tracks in the sand. Then she showed she could create microscopic tracks on medical devices to limit the spread of the bacteria that cause infection. Based on her work, new types of catheters are being developed that are less likely to become infected.

Cynthia Whitchurch in her lab. (Credit: UTS)

For these and other discoveries, University of Technology Sydney (UTS) scientist Associate Professor Cynthia Whitchurch has been jointly awarded the David Syme Research prize for the best original research in biology, physics, chemistry or geology, produced in Australia during the preceding two years. The prize was established in 1904 by a bequest from the publisher of The Age. It is administered by The University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Science.

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Meet the publisher who believes science should be social and research should be read

Steven Inchcoombe, Chief Publishing Officer for Springer Nature, is visiting Australia.

Steven Inchcoombe is the Chief Publishing Officer for Springer Nature, overseeing the publication of over 2,900 journals including influential titles like Nature and Scientific Reports.

Steven was responsible for the Nature Publishing Group’s move into open access publishing, resulting in 60 per cent of their 2015 research articles being open access. Following the merger of the parent company in the same year, Springer Nature became the world’s largest open access publisher.

He was also behind the SharedIt content-sharing initiative which allows authors, subscribers and media partners to share links to the Springer Nature’s peer-reviewed research articles on social network and websites. A 15-month trial of this idea on nature.com led to 1.3 million additional article views.

Visiting Australia from the UK, Steven is speaking about big data, open data and open access publishing, and their value for academic research at a series of half-day symposia and networking events being held this week in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

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Naturejobs celebrates Melbourne

The extraordinary diversity of scientific research and collaboration found in Melbourne is celebrated in a Naturejobs supplement which publishes alongside Nature today. It includes an interactive map – based on data from the Nature Index – that reveals the extensive local, national and international links that make the city Australia’s life science capital, and number three in the world for biomedical research after Boston and London. “Our map shows Melbourne’s top 44 research institutions and charts the links between them,” says David Swinbanks, the founder of the Nature Index, the high-quality research publications database behind the map. “It allows users to dive in, explore the networks, and see the impact of each institution’s research.”

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Saving billions of teeth from a blood-eating mouth bug, Pg

You’ll want to brush your teeth after reading this media release

(Image credit: pixabay.com)

Melbourne is hosting a global conference this week of experts in the fight against a blood-eating bug that’s destroying bone and causing tooth loss in nearly one billion people, including nearly three million Australians.

“Most of us will get a bit of mild gum disease or gingivitis from time to time when ‘bad’ bacteria in our mouths get out of balance with ‘good’ bacteria,” says Professor Eric Reynolds, the Conference Chair. “Bacteria get between our gums and our teeth and an inflammation kicks off. If we’re unlucky then Pg moves in.”

“As this blood-eating bacterium grows in a biofilm (plaque) next to the gums it creates an environment that protects it and other similar bacteria in the plaque. It also changes the ecology of the mouth, setting off a cycle of inflammation and disease leading to the loss of bone from your jaw. Then your teeth fall out,” says Reynolds who is also Director of the Oral Health CRC based at The University of Melbourne. Quarterly scraping of the plaque helps, but doesn’t eliminate the infection in some individuals.

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Find out how to future-proof cities

Speakers announced for the Ecocity World Summit, Melbourne, July

·      Cooling urban heat islands: in Australia, India and Spain

·      Urban transport politics: how did Canadian cities get through it?

·      Australian housing: we’re (sadly) getting what we paid for

·      Women leading sustainable and resilient cities

·      How will India’s coastal megacities cope with climate change?

100 sessions with 300 speakers from 30 different countries will explore these and many other topics.

How do cities become resilient, and how do you measure it? What are the hidden costs of cheap buildings? Can we increase density without losing green space? Can we grow food on rooftops? And what can cities and sub-national governments do when national governments don’t want a piece of the climate action? All this and more are on the agenda of the Ecocity World Summit in Melbourne this July.

“In Australia, we’ve just come through Cyclone Debbie, and seen severe storms and flooding across the Eastern states,” says Brendan Gleeson, Director of Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute and Summit co-convenor.

“We urgently need to safeguard our cities, towns and their people, in Australia and across the planet. The Ecocity World Summit program is designed to bring leading thinkers, researchers and practitioners together to share the evidence, strategies and tools we need to keep our cities liveable and sustainable in the face of global challenges.”

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Smashing the road toll: Easter and beyond

World Congress on Public Health points towards safer roads

  • Australia has been a leader in road safety policy but we’re still losing more than 1,200 lives on our roads each year
  • First year of driving critical for keeping adolescent drivers awake, alert and alive
  • Paving the way for autonomous vehicles
  • Aboriginal Australians three times more likely to die on roads: can we close the gap?

Road deaths in Australia peaked in 1970, when 3,798 people died. A long-term downwards trend in road deaths means our road toll is now less than a third of that peak figure, but the road toll and the burden of injuries from road accidents remain a public health challenge.

Globally, the road toll has plateaued at 1.25 million per year, but there are still high fatality rates in low income countries and it’s the number one cause of death among people aged 15 to 29 years.  [click to continue…]

International spotlight on Indigenous public health equity

Media release from the World Federation of Public Health Associations

Monday 10 April 2017

The World Federation of Public Health Associations has formed its first Indigenous Working Group on its 50th Anniversary.

At the 15th World Congress of Public Health Melbourne conference, 40 Indigenous and non-Indigenous conference delegates of the yarning circle unanimously supported in principle the establishment of the World Federation of Public Health Associations Indigenous Working Group.

The Public Health Association of Australia, on Tuesday 4th April 2017, hosted a yarning circle to talk about establishing an Indigenous Working Group. The yarning circle was led by Adrian Te Patu, the inaugural Indigenous representative on the World Federation of Public Health Association (WFPHA) Governing Council.

Once supported by the delegates, the formation of the Indigenous Working Group was accepted by acclimation by the world assembly of Public Health Associations. Under Mr. Te Patu’s leadership, the next steps are to formalise the Indigenous Working Group and develop its vision. [click to continue…]

Demand for Action on World Health Day

  •    On public health
  •    On chemical weapons
  •    And a call to Rome in 2020

Today, at the final day of the 15th World Congress on Public Health, delegates from over 83 countries carried by acclamation two Demands for Action.

Demanding that the World’s leaders make the public’s health a priority

  • Improving health outcomes for all
  • Fighting inequity as the primary driver of poor health
  • with political, social, environmental, and economic change across all sectors for better and more sustainable health.

The full text of the Demand is at http://www.wcph2017.com/d/WCPH2017-Melbourne-Demand-for-Action.pdf  [click to continue…]

World Health Day Statement: Meagre Rate Of Newstart IS A Health Issue – Time For A Raise

Joint Statement from Anti-Poverty Network SA and Public Health Association of Australia

Info: Anti-Poverty Network SA spokesperson Pas Forgione on 0411 587 663 or at antipovertynetwork.sa@gmail.com.
Public Health Association of Australia CEO Michael Moore on 0417 249 731 or at mmoore@phaa.net.au.

World Health Day, Friday April 7th, presents a timely opportunity to address the gross inadequacy of Newstart Allowance, which severely impacts the physical and mental health of the 800,000 Australians receiving the payment.

While none of Australia’s welfare payments are generous, it is alarming that Newstart, at $267 per week (roughly $13,800 per year), is over $160 per week (roughly $8,000 per year) below the poverty-line. It has not been raised in real terms since 1994. [click to continue…]

Thursday’s highlights from the World Congress on Public Health

  • congressPouring water on fast food kids’ meals
  • The inside story on Syria and eliminating chemical, nuclear, and bio weapons
  • WHO guru on what globalisation means for health security
  • Labia Library reveals ‘normal’ and fights genital cosmetic surgery trend
  • Providing abortion by telehealth: safe and effective
  • Making Melbourne a global health epicentre
  • Healthy Parks for public health
  • From dental health to MasterChef to Sugar Free Smiles

Thursday 6 April at the 15th World Congress on Public Health in Melbourne
Call Niall on 0417-131-977 for interviews

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Women’s health roundup from the Public Health Congress

  • congressLabia Library reveals ‘normal’ and fights genital cosmetic surgery trend
  • Women have gained 20 years of life expectancy since 1960 but 1 Australian woman dies each week due to domestic violence—today the WHO reveals the global problem
  • A smartphone app puts health advice in women’s pockets
  • Economic abuse is a form of domestic violence
  • Dead or Deadly: an Aboriginal women’s health that’s working
Women’s health, Thursday 6 April at the 15th World Congress on Public Health in Melbourne

Media contacts

1 in 3 women experiences violence from their partner

More than broken hearts says WHO’s Claudia Garcia-Moreno, head of research on violence against women at the WHO.

Worldwide, almost 1 in 3 women who have been in a relationship have experienced physical or sexual violence at the hands of an intimate partner.

Claudia García-Moreno from the World Health Organization has studied the serious consequences of domestic violence for women’s physical, sexual and reproductive, and mental health—and what can be done to address it. [click to continue…]

Built environment codes and standards: an oft-overlooked determinant of the public’s health

Media release from Public Health Association of Australia

6 April 2017

phaPublic health discussion about the built environment often focuses on factors such as walkability, green spaces, liveability and transportation, yet overlooks the fact that most of the world’s population spends the greatest amount of their time in buildings, and that as a result the codes influencing their design, construction, operation and use are key determinants of health.

This issue will be addressed at the 15th World Congress on Public Health 2017, where over 2500 international delegates are gathered to share research, knowledge and ideas about public health, including its social determinants.

“Standards that govern design and construction regularly affect our health, security, safety, accessibility and wellbeing” said James Chauvin, former Director of Policy at the Canadian Public Health Association who sits on the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes. [click to continue…]

Public Health on Wednesday

  • congressSyria, chemical weapons, and industrial chemicals
  • Self-driving cars will save lives
  • Best of times, worst of times for Australian adolescents
  • Obesity and climate—two linked global crises we’ve created
  • Multi-nationals and mozzies—both great at spreading diseases
  • Big bad companies blocking life-saving public health policies

More at www.wcph2017.com/media.php and @wcph2017 on Twitter.
Contact Niall on 0417-131-977, niall@scienceinpublic.com.au or Tanya on 0404-083-863 for interviews

The World Congress on Public Health is on from 3 to 7 April at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. Researchers at the World Congress on Public Health in Melbourne available for interview Wednesday, 5 April including

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RACP: Australians concerned about the health impact of extremely hot weather

Media Release: Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP)

April 5 2017

RACP2016_CMYK_withtag_OL

New research* from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) has revealed more than two thirds of Australians (68 per cent) are concerned about the rise in extremely hot weather and the impact it will have on health and wellbeing.

The topic of climate change and health will feature prominently at the World Congress on Public Health this week, with more than 2,000 health professionals descending on Melbourne for the World Federation of Public Health Associations event.

RACP Faculty of Public Health Medicine President-elect Associate Professor Linda Selvey, who will share the RACP research during her session this afternoon, said it was pleasing that the majority of Australians are united in viewing climate change as a significant health issue. [click to continue…]

Tobacco: Australian achievement, Global challenge

  • congress6 trillion sticks sold per annum
  • Killing half its users – over five million people a year
  • Australia, UK, and Canada are winning the fight – we’re smoking less and pension funds are pulling their money
  • Tobacco’s new ruthless tactics for blocking health policy
  • Multinational companies, like mosquitoes, are vectors of disease
  • What’s happening for the 800 million smokers in developing countries?

Researchers at the World Congress on Public Health in Melbourne available for interview.

Plus, Mike Daube, the man behind Australia’s plain packaging laws receives the highest honour from the World Federation of Public Health Associations—the Hugh Leavell Award for Outstanding Global Health Leadership.

Contact Niall on 0417-131-977, niall@scienceinpublic.com.au or Tanya on 0404-083-863 for interviews

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Even ‘healthy’ weight gain raises pregnancy diabetes risk

Media Release from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (ALSWH) 

Mothers who gain weight in the years leading up to pregnancy have an increased risk of gestational diabetes, even if their weight remains within the healthy body mass index (BMI) range.

University of Queensland School of Public Health researcher Akilew Adane said women who gained more than 2.5 per cent of their body weight each year had almost triple the risk of gestational diabetes compared to women who maintained a stable weight. [click to continue…]