Life sciences melting-pot in Canberra; call now open to host our bio data resource; life science events and training

Bulletins, EMBL Australia

Posted on behalf of Nadia Rosenthal, Scientific Head, EMBL Australia

Earlier this month I spent time with 60 talented students at our annual EMBL Australia PhD course in Canberra. For me, this course is the highlight of the whole EMBL enterprise. It’s a celebration of enthusiasm, discovery and excitement for the life sciences, and a great way for young scientists to connect with new knowledge and each other. Congratulations to the students and the organisers, and I look forward to keeping in touch with you all in the future.

Not only are we investing in our future science leaders, but also in our science infrastructure. I’m delighted to announce the call for expressions of interest to host our life sciences data resource – the Bioinformatics Resource Australia-EMBL (BRAEMBL). It is a proposed national infrastructure that will strengthen Australia’s exploitation of a global biomolecular data network, and help to keep us integrated and competitive in bioinformatics research, services and training.

I’ve also just returned from Europe, where I was introduced to the UK’s Academy of Medical Sciences. The motto of the Academy is “improving health through research”, which is a central goal of EMBL Australia. I am enormously proud to be included in this year’s newly inducted Fellows, including my friend and colleague Professor Dame Janet Thornton, Director of EMBL’s European Bioinformatics Institute. Janet will also be helping us shape BRAEMBL in the future.

Back in Australia, we recently helped SAHMRI (the new South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute) officially launch the science inside that creativity-inspiring building. The speed at which the institute has begun to develop inside their new home is a testament to the organisational skills and inspirational direction of its leadership. And we’re immensely proud that our EMBL Australia South Australian node is a part of the SAHMRI journey.

Best wishes,

Professor Nadia Rosenthal
Scientific Head, EMBL Australia

Please note that all replies to this newsletter go to If you wish to email me directly, my address is

In this month’s newsletter:

Many more friends and future collaborators at the EMBL Australia PhD Course

Our 60 bright young researchers have just finished their two-week visit to ANU in Canberra for the EMBL Australia PhD Course where they heard about and discussed the latest trends and challenges in life sciences, as well as touching on the promise it holds for the broader public.

Featuring technical sessions that spanned from developmental biology, animal models of disease, and crop genetic engineering (to name only a few), the course also held sessions in science communication, science policy, and science career prospects.

Course organiser and EMBL alumnus Thomas Preiss highlighted the vast range of topics covered at the course. “They’ve discussed the development of drugs to treat diabetes, cancer and sepsis with Professor Chris Parish (ANU); the evolution of venom with Associate Professor Bryan Fry (UQ) and Professor Tim Flannery; the challenges of working with contemporary genomics technologies with Dr Vladimir Benes (head of GeneCore EMBL Europe),” said Thomas. “And that was only half way through the first week.”

The course also tapped into some unique opportunities that Canberra holds as the nation’s capital, including a Q&A session with Australia’s Chief Scientist, Prof Ian Chubb AC, and a public forum on science and politics featuring Senator Kate Lundy, Prof Aidan Byrne (CEO Australian Research Council) and Catriona Jackson (CEO Science & Technology Australia) on the panel.

Technical learning aside, at heart of the course is a shared enthusiasm and excitement for life sciences, facilitated through networking sessions and in breaks between the formal talks.

“I’ve been fortunate to meet young researchers from all around Australia – I’m walking away with many more friends and future collaborators than we came here with,” says Jack Simpson, a student at ANU who attended the course. “I’ve gained a lot of ideas for where our research can go from here.”

As well as new connections with students, the course also forged closer ties with the organisation that helped make the course happen.

“We welcome the opportunity to continue to make links with EMBL and EMBL Australia at a time in which international linkages are paramount to scientific success,” said Ruth Arkell, who heads the Early Mammalian Development Laboratory at ANU, and helped organise this year’s course.

For next year, we’re looking forward to partnering with the University of Western Australia, who will host the course at the Harry Perkins Centre; and with the students, who are already planning the 2015 EMBL Australia Student Symposium after meeting at this year’s course.

Open for business – SAHMRI launches its scienceIf you’ve been to Adelaide, chances are you’ll have seen the ‘spaceship-like’ building on North Terrace – The South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI). Now it’s officially ‘open for business’.The unique building itself received a good bit of attention when it was opened by the Prime Minister in November last year. But the buzz inside the building has been growing since, as scientists and organisations—including EMBL Australia—have been steadily moving in to start on the important work they’re there to do—beating cancer, understanding our immune system, and preventing heart disease to name a few.At the end of June, scientists from all over the world converged on the SAHRMI as the institute celebrated its official scientific launch with four days of talks and seminars for scientists and the public.EMBL Australia group leaders and SAHMRI residents Ville Mäkinen and David Lynn were there.“From a scientific perspective, I was interested in how many of the presentations touched on inflammation, which is an area that underpins my research,” says David. “And I was very interested in the presentations and ensuing workshop discussions on the future of genomic sequencing and the idea of a $100 genome sequence.”
Read more about the launch on the EMBL Australia website.

A new hub for Australia’s Bioinformatics Resource – expressions of interest now open

Living systems are extremely complicated. But in this era of ‘big data’ we’re taking increasingly larger strides in making sense of it all—and we need to ensure that Australia is at the forefront.

The ‘Bioinformatics Resource Australia-EMBL’ (BRAEMBL) is shifting its approach to sharing EMBL’s global collection of biomolecular data with Australian researchers.

Currently located at the University of Queensland, the data resource is looking for a new physical hub in 2015. The resource hosts genomic data from all over the world that is stored at EMBL’s European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI).

EMBL Australia has opened expressions of interest to host the new hub, which will establish research links with EMBL Australia, as well as directly to the EBI in Europe for the new host.

Marking the start of a fresh phase of development for the resource, the new hub will be a place from which to coordinate future nodes around the country.

“A world-wide ecosystem of computational resources has been developed to help scientists benefit from biomolecular information,” says Nadia Rosenthal, EMBL Australia’s scientific director. “Major centres in the USA, Europe and Japan collaborate to maintain this ecosystem and ensure world-wide access to it at a total cost of around US$250 million per year.

“BRAEMBL will strengthen Australia’s exploitation of this global ecosystem, and allow Australian scientists to contribute to the knowledge bank.”

Some of BRAEMBL’s recent projects include:

  • Deadly bugs – supporting UQ investigations into how virulence factors evolve in local clinical isolates of important human pathogens including E.coli, Pseudomonas, Staphylococcus, Legionella etc.
  • Koalas – helping the Australian Museum, QUT and their collaborators with their work to determine the full genome and transcriptome sequence of the koala
  • Bearded dragons – supporting the University of Canberra/BGI work to share and annotate the full genome of the dragon
  • Next Gen Sequencing – developing a data submission service for AGRF clients
  • The Reef – supporting the Reef 2020 Future Genomics Consortium with submission of 360Gb of data on coral and associated algae, bacteria and viruses
  • Toxic proteins from spiders, scorpions and other arthropods – submitting 1,000 toxic protein structures for UQ
  • Supporting the analysis of Sydney Harbour microbial diversity and seagrass ecology for UTS
  • Melanoma – assisting QIMR in the publication of 100TB of data on genes associated with melanoma, oesophageal cancer, endocrine tumours and other cancers.

Expressions of interest are now open, and must be received by Thursday 31 July 2014. View and download the request for EOI and further information.

Connection Grants come to life – conferences and networking for bioinformaticians in Melbourne and Sydney

The inaugural Australian Bioinformatics Conference, ABiC 2014, will be happening in Melbourne on 11 and 12 October 2014.

It’s a meeting by bioinformaticians, for bioinformaticians, which focuses on methods, tools and community-building, rather than biological outcomes alone. And it’s open to anyone in any stage of their career who is using bioinformatics or wants to learn to use it more effectively.

The call for abstracts is now open, and there are travel bursaries and prizes available for students and early-career researchers who submit.

Registration and further information

The conference is supported by this year’s ABN Connections Grant Scheme – a program that funds ideas that connect Australian bioinformaticians with each other and with the latest knowledge and tools in their field.

Also funded by the Connection Grants Scheme this year is the Bioinformatics Education and Training breakout session at the International Conference on Bioinformatics 2014, which is running from 31 July to 1 August at Brighton Beach, Sydney.

The session is designed to foster networking and exchange of best teaching and learning practice.

Registration for the conference is still open.

Systems biology conference workshops and call for abstracts

To capture the latest research and developments in the systems biology space, the International Conference on Systems Biology has released a late-breaking call for abstracts.

Abstracts are open until Friday 1 August, and applicants will be notified within two weeks of the deadline if successful.

A series of educational workshops and tutorials now been confirmed within the ICSB conference program this coming September in Melbourne. Workshops and tutorials include:

  • modelling and simulation of biological models
  • how to get published (lunch symposium)
  • standards for data and model exchange in systems biology

View the full workshop and tutorial details

View the full program

Register before 18 July 2104 and save $100.

Discounted rates are also available for a group registration of at least 10. Visit the website for more details

Biology at the beach

Advance your knowledge of developmental biology at The Australian Developmental Biology Workshop amongst the natural beauty of Moreton Island, Queensland, this November.

It’s an intense, highly-personalised meeting which includes in-depth plenary research talks by international and national speakers, and round-table discussions of experimental strategies, model systems and career issues.

EMBL Australia will be there too—Group Leader Dr Edwina McGlinn is on the organising committee, and our host organisation, the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI), is a sponsor.

Further information on the workshop is available at the website

Applications addressing the selection criteria should be emailed to:

A mix of students, postdocs and lab leaders will be chosen on the basis of their interest in the field, track record and potential benefi­t.

The workshop will be held at the Tangalooma Island Resort, Moreton Island, QLD, Australia
12th-15th November 2014.

Applications close on 1st August 2014.

Events coming up

If you have events to add to the EMBL Australia events calendar, drop us a note at with the details and a link for more information.

International Conference on Bioinformatics 2014
31/07/2014 Novotel, Brighton Beach, Sydney

AusBioTech QLD BioBeers & Bubbles
6/08/2014 5:30:00 PM, RACV Royal Pines, Gold Coast

AusBioTech WA BioBeers & Bubbles
6/08/2014 Harry Perkins Institute for Medical Research

AuSBioTech SA BioBeers & Bubbles

AusBioTech VIC BioBeers and Bubbles
14/08/2014 Insieme Restaurant Bar, South Yarra

15th International Conference on Systems Biology
14/09/2014 Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre

For a full list of upcoming events, head to the EMBL Australia events page.

About EMBL Australia

EMBL – the European Molecular Biology Laboratory – is Europe’s flagship for the life sciences. The Australian government joined EMBL as an Associate Member in 2008.

EMBL Australia is an unincorporated joint venture between members of the Group of Eight universities and the CSIRO, supported by the Australian government.

Read more about EMBL Australia