Winning the fight against hep C…have we found the Higgs boson…spinal cord repair; forever young

Bulletins, Media bulletins

Here’s some highlights of what’s coming up over the next few days/weeks.

Future hepatitis cure rates expected to soar after “astonishing” preliminary results from new drugs

As the burden of Hepatitis C associated liver failure and liver cancer rises in our community so hepatitis C therapy is undergoing radical and rapid change, says the Centenary Institute’s Prof Geoff McCaughan.

A review in today’s Medical Journal of Australia (MJA)shows how the next generation drugs telaprevir and boceprevir, approved by the TGA in 2011 for use by patients with the most common genotype 1 of the blood-borne viral infection, are significantly improving outcomes for patients living with hepatitis C. It describes how these drugs, when used in conjunction with existing therapy, boost the percentage of patients who clear the virus from 45% to 70%.

Not only do the new drugs allow more patients to be cured, they also work much faster than conventional therapy. The review indicates that adding the drugs to conventional therapy allowed treatment times to be halved, from 12 months to 6 months, for around half of the patients without impacting on outcomes.

Prof McCaughan, writing in an MJA editorial published with the review, said progress in the field is astonishing.

There are also even newer kinds of drugs coming down the development pipeline.

“It seems likely that, within five years, we will have short-duration anti-hepatitis C therapy with minimal side-effects and cure rates above 90%,” said Prof McCaughan, who is head of the Liver Injury and Cancer group at the Centenary Institute and a physician based at Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

“The challenge then will be how we can deliver such therapies to the 200,000 Australians with hepatitis C infection.”

Full story, contacts and background at 

Have we found the Higgs boson – find out in Melbourne on 9 July

Astounded by supersymmetry? Excited by the Higgs boson? Think neutrinos are supremo?

Physicists from around the world, including the leaders of CERN and the other major particle accelerators will be in Melbourne for the 36th International Conference on High Energy Physics from 4 -11 July.

If there’s enough data to confirm, or deny, the Higgs boson then this is the place where we’d expect to hear.

The plenary sessions are from 9 to 11 July and that’s where we’d expect the main action and stories to be.

We’re likely to be helping with the conference and we’ll have more information next week.

More at 

Fish study raises hopes for spinal cord injury repair

This story was issued by Monash last week, but in case you missed it…Scientists have unlocked the secrets of the zebra fish’s ability to heal its spinal cord after injury, in research that could deliver therapy for paraplegics and quadriplegics in the future.

A team from Monash University’s Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI), led by Dr Yona Goldshmit and Professor Peter Currie, discovered the role of a protein in the remarkable self-healing ability of the fish.

The findings, detailed in The Journal of Neuroscience, could eventually lead to ways to stimulate spinal cord regeneration in humans.

More information at 

For the diary: Forever young — growing old gracefully with science

Professor Dame Linda Partridge imagines a future in which we all stay young by taking a pill that reduces the impact of ageing.

She’s not promising immortality, rather she’s working toward a future in which we age gracefully – healthy, happy and active until the end.

She predicts that within a decade, there will be drugs which could keep us healthy in body and mind long into our old age.

Starting in our 40s, we could take medicines to prevent diseases like Alzheimer’s and heart disease; to preserve our vital organs; and even to keep our hair full and shiny.

These are claims we’ve heard before, but Dame Linda is the real deal— she’ll be spending a fair portion of her time in the country with Melbourne’s genetics research community.

Dame Linda will be available for interview from Sunday 15 July until Wednesday 18 July. To arrange interviews, contact me on 0417 131 977 or email

Or you can reach Luan Ismahil, Convenor of the ICT for Life Sciences Forum, 0448 726 698,

She’s in Australia to give the Graeme Clark Oration, a free public lecture established to honour Professor Graeme Clark, inventor of the bionic ear.

Past speakers include: Craig Venter of human genome fame; Terry Sejnowski, a computational neuroscience pioneer; and Graeme Clark himself. 

Will engineering play the lead role in drug discovery in 2030?

International systems biology expert Dr Hiroaki Kitano is speaking at a BioMelbourne breakfast at ACMI. He will describe a future of drug and device development that sees bioengineering replace traditional approaches.

Inspiring Australia grants to be announced Tuesday 12 June – weird and wonderful activities supported in every State and Territory.

Next Tuesday we’ll be helping with the announcement of the Unlocking Australia’s Potential  grants.

Organisations in every State and Territory will be receiving grants to increase the scientific literacy of Australians and work towards a scientifically-engaged Australia.

The grants provide a national program of activities that target people who have had little engagement with science. The program supports the outcomes and principles of the Inspiring Australia strategy.

More nearer the time.

More information

Feel free to share this bulletin with anyone who may be interested. And between bulletins, you can follow me on Twitter (@scienceinpublic) for science news and events.