Monday’s chemistry stories from RACI

DNA fingerprinting in just two hours

The plant whisperer – asking plants how they fight disease

New antibiotics on their way

We’re living 30 years longer with chemistry

Today’s stories from Chemistry for a Sustainable World,  an international conference organised by RACI, the Royal Australian Chemical Institute. Details at

DNA fingerprinting in just two hours

A portable DNA testing device developed by UK scientists is set to change the way forensic analysis of DNA is conducted.

Normally, DNA samples have to be transported back to the lab and need trained people using expensive instruments to conduct the analysis. Steve Haswell and his team at the University of Hull have developed the lab-on-a-chip technology that will reduce the time it takes to produce results from days to hours.

More information here

Live thirty years longer with chemistry

Sir Colin Berry, University of London, will say that modern synthetic chemicals have contributed to giving each of us an extra 30 years of mostly healthy, active life.

He says that vaccines, antibiotics, and other modern medicines are, of course, part of the explanation. But pesticides, fertilisers and other agrichemicals that ensure that quality food with cancer-preventing nutrients is inexpensive and widely available have also played an important role.

The numbers? Americans born this year can expect, on average, to live until 2088 (age 78); many will likely make it to 2100 and beyond (over 90 years of age). A similar person born in 1910, however, would not have been expected to see 1960; very few made it to the 21st century.

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The plant whisperer – ask the plant how it fights pests

A native desert tobacco is revealing its secret weapons to chemist Ian Baldwin from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology (MPICOE) in Jena, Germany.

This tobacco responds to attack with a multi-layered defence system that recognises the different kinds of attackers and responds appropriately. Its battery of defences include toxins, such as nicotine and di-terpene glycosides, and digestibility reducers, such as proteinase inhibitors, that function as direct defences, as well as a battery of indirect defences, that betray the location of feeding herbivores to their own natural enemies.

Ian talks to the plant using gene technologies to determine what genes are switching on and off, what proteins the plant is making and how its metabolism changes. Ian believes that his approach will lead to new approaches to sustainable pest resistance for agricultural crops.

More information here

New antibiotics on the way

Wollongong researchers have created synthetic antibiotics inspired by vancomycin to fight golden staph.

And Queensland researchers are modifying vancomycin,with small protein fragments to produce a new class of anti-bacterials to tackle golden staph and other multiple drug resistant bacteria.

More information here

More on each story at, program and abstracts at
Media contacts: Niall Byrne, 0417 131-977,
AJ Epstein, 0433 339-141,

The Royal Australian Chemical Institute’s 13th International Convention is being held at the Melbourne Convention Centre in conjunction with the 12th IUPAC International Congress of Pesticide Chemistry.

The events’ major sponsors are: Croplife International, Nufarm, Syngenta and Sigma Aldrich. The media program is supported by the Commonwealth Government’s National Enabling Technologies Strategy (NETS) and is delivered by Science in Public.