Partnering with Japan, understanding pathogens and more travel grants for students: EMBL Australia in September

EMBL Australia

In this month’s EMBL Australia newsletter:

Over the next four weeks we’re welcoming a series of Japanese research leaders to Australia.

  • Hiroki Ueda, a rising star in systems biology and synthetic biology at Tokyo University, will speak in Melbourne and Adelaide
  • Makoto Asashima, Executive Director of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, will visit Melbourne and Canberra
  • A high level delegation from RIKEN will visit Melbourne
  • Hiroaki Kitano will give Maths of Planet Earth talks in Melbourne and Sydney

EMBL Australia naturally creates links with our partners in Europe – but as the only member of EMBL on this side of the world, we’re also forging links with Japan as part of our mission to internationalise Australian research.

In the longer term, we’re looking forward to strengthening Australia’s ties with Japan through our initiative SBI Australia, which is the first international node of Japan’s acclaimed Systems Biology Institute. Through SBI Australia and the International Systems Biology Conference which we’re hosting next year, we hope to see a growth in the use of systems biology in Australia. We’re off to a good start. I understand that over 90 people are planning to attend today’s systems biology collaborative in Melbourne. There is still room for a few more.

In this month’s bulletin, you’ll also read about the recent visit of Mike Hucka, from Caltech, who spoke with researchers in Melbourne and Sydney about how an open source approach to science can help foster collaboration, and his experiences with the SBML and COMBINE initiatives.

We also announce the closing dates for our 2014 travel grants, which allow students to develop collaborations and study at EMBL’s facilities across Europe.

At the end of the month I’ll be in Perth for ComBio, presenting some of my work in regenerative medicine alongside my EMBL and EMBL Australia colleagues. If you’ll be there, please come and say hello at the EMBL Australia stand where we’ll have people on hand to talk to about all of our initiatives, plus details of any social events we are hosting during the conference.

EMBL Australia’s Japan Month

During September and October, EMBL Australia will be hosting several leading scientists from Japanese research institute RIKEN, and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS).

The visits are an important part in fostering both research and government level collaborations between Australia and Japan and will include one-on-one meetings with high level researchers and government officials, and some public events.

We’ll post all the details at:

In Sydney, Canberra, Adelaide and Melbourne, we’ll be welcoming:

Hiroki Ueda, a rising star in systems biology from RIKEN and the University of Tokyo will be visiting Melbourne and Adelaide from Monday 16 to Thursday 19 September.

According to Hiroki Ueda, the next step in personalised medicine will come from focusing on our body clocks. He’s using the mammalian circadian clock as a self-contained model for the study of a biological system and says our body clock is intimately associated with metabolic and hormonal cycles, including sleep disorders.

  • Hiroki will be presenting a public Victorian Systems Biology Symposium at Melbourne’s Baker IDI on Thursday 19 September. More details at:
  • He’ll also be in Adelaide, hosted by the South Australian Medical Research Institute. SAHMRI is the home of the new South Australian node of EMBL Australia, which will be announcing the recruitment of its first two EMBL Australia group leaders later this year. And he’ll be giving a symposium at 12pm on Wednesday 18 September at The University of Adelaide Medical School (NUMICO seminar room, Level 5 Medical School South room S512).

Makoto Asashima, the Executive Director of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), which is interested in developing relationships with Australia.

  • He’s visiting Melbourne and Canberra (on Wednesday 2 and Thursday 3 October) for meetings and will be giving presentations at Monash University and Canberra’s Questacon. Details to come on our events page:

RIKEN delegation – a delegation of researchers from Japan’s leading research organisation with interests in genomics, systems biology and immunity are coming to Melbourne from Monday 7 to Thursday 10 October.

  • They’ll be looking to develop collaborations with local institutes, attending meetings and networking events, and possibly a public lecture.
  • Monash University will then host the first Nature Café outside of Japan on Tuesday 8 October. Nature Café is about bringing an expert panel into an informal setting to facilitate discussion on a topical scientific issue. At the EMBL Australia Nature Café at Monash, 80 Australian researchers will discuss the business of science and ways to internationalise research with Hiroaki Kitano and the RIKEN delegation. This is an invitation only event.

Hiroaki Kitano, Director of Japan’s Systems Biology Institute (SBI), is returning to Australia in his role as a Maths of Planet Earth Ambassador. The systems biology guru will join the RIKEN delegation and is also presenting public lectures in Melbourne on October 7 and Sydney on October 10.

Understanding Pathogens: A Systems Biology Approach

Taking a collaborative approach, and integrating data from a range of fields can help us understand the complex behaviour and interactions of pathogens with their hosts, researchers told an audience at the Victorian Systems Biology Collaborative last night.

For Robin Gasser from the University of Melbourne this involved taking the next step after genomics to understand neglected tropical diseases, which cost millions of lives in the third world.

Kat Holt’s team at the Bio21 Institute are integrating data from clinical studies with their bacterial genomics and other information to discover how viral and bacterial infections in childhood might contribute to asthma predisposition in adults.

And Stuart Ralph’s group at Bio21 are using computer assisted learning to trawl the vast amounts of data in the search for possible drug targets for the treatment of malaria.

The event brought together over 90 researchers and students from across Melbourne to discuss how a systems biology approach can help to progress research in this field. It’s the second of eight collaborative sessions to be held in the lead up to the 2014 Systems Biology Conference, which will be hosted in Melbourne next September.

The format for the collaboratives involves each speaker gives a 15 minute presentation, followed by an extended Q&A discussion and networking drinks. If you have an suggestion for a future topic, or would like to host one of these events, contact Sarah Boyd:

You can read more about the event on the SBI website

Mike Hucka on how to succeed with open source computing

The keys to success for the open source systems biology mark-up language (SBML) project are good timing, addressing real problems and engaging with people in whatever way possible, Caltech scientist Mike Hucka told researchers at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research (WEHI) last month.

Mike addressed audiences in Sydney and Melbourne about the benefits of using open-source and community-based approaches such as SMBL and COMBINE (Computer Modelling in Biology Network) – two initiatives he has spearheaded – to help foster collaboration between researchers.

While in Sydney, EMBL Australia and the University of Sydney also hosted a lunch for Mike, which was attended by EMBL Australia council members, EMBL alumni and others with an interest in bioinformatics.

During his week-long visit to Australia, Mike spoke to researchers at Monash University, held a BioBriefing session for the BioMelbourne Network at St Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research, discussed bioinformatics with Gordon Smyth and Terry Speed at WEHI, and addressed the Sydney Computational Biologists Meet up at the Kinghorn Cancer Centre.

You can access the slides from Mike’s talks at:

From development to regeneration: meet EMBL Australia at ComBio 2013

We’ll be at ComBio again this year with researchers presenting sessions, an EMBL Australia stand at the trade exhibition and hopefully some networking events.

If you’re attending, we’d love to meet you. Do drop by our stand to pick up some information on our research and student programs, and find out about our initiatives and alliances with the Bioinformatics Resource Australia- EMBL (BRAEMBL), the Australian Bioinformatics Network and SBI Australia. We’ll also have information about any EMBL Australia functions happening during the conference.

You can also catch presentations by:

Nadia Rosenthal (scientific head of EMBL Australia) – symposium in session on Bioscaffolds, Bioengineering and Tissue Regeneration: Immune regulation of regeneration (Thursday 9am)

Nicolas Plachta (group leader) – symposium in session on Imaging: Imaging the molecular and cellular mechanisms controlling early mammalian development (Wednesday 4pm)

Peter Currie (head of EMBL Australia’s Victorian node) – symposium in session on Post-natal Development and Ageing: Muscle progenitor cell biology in muscle growth and regeneration in zebrafish (Thursday 11am).

Peter is also chairing the ANZSCDB Young Investigators Award Presentation, the ANZSCDB President’s Medal Lecture, and the session on Organs and Patterning, on Wednesday in his role as president.

EMBL Associate Director Matthias Hentze, who is based at EMBL in Heidelberg, is a plenary speaker on Wednesday 2 October, with the title Of Nature and Nurture: Connecting RNA Biology and Metabolism.

ComBio2013 is on at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre from 29 September until 3 October.

International researchers to teach sequence analysis master class in Sydney

Are you a bioinformatician, or a molecular biologist who needs to use computational sequence analysis in your research?

The EMBL Australia Master Class on Protein Sequence Analysis is a great opportunity to learn up-to-date, practical methods in protein sequence analysis directly from a range of internationally recognised experts in bioinformatics who are actively developing and applying these methods.

Registrations are now open for the course, which will be held on 21-25 October at the Garvan Institute in Sydney.

More information at:

Helping Australian PhD students get to Europe

EMBL Australia is keen to support young scientists throughout their training and into a research career by providing links to international researchers.

With an EMBL Australia PhD travel grant you could take a short course, attend a conference or networking event, or work alongside some of the researchers at EMBL’s five European facilities.

Applications for travel in the first half of 2014 will open in October and close Friday 8 November 2013.

Find out more information on our students page:

Or ‘like’ us on Facebook for regular updates on our student programs.

Upcoming events and deadlines

EMBL Interdisciplinary Postdoc applications close: 12 September

Applications close on 12 September for the EMBL Interdisciplinary Postdoc program (EIPOD), which specifically recruits early-career scientists to find synergies at the borders of related fields of science, and to apply techniques in new contexts at the five EMBL
campuses across Europe.

The EIPOD program is open to all nationalities and to fellows from a wide range of research backgrounds. The only criteria are scientific excellence and interdisciplinarity. There are around 20 positions available in the current application round.

More details at:

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




Australia’s membership of EMBL

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 was created to maximise the benefits of Australia’s associate membership of EMBL. It creates opportunities for:

  • internationalising Australian research
  • empowering and training our best early career researchers/research leaders
  • embedding powerful new enabling tools such as bioinformatics and systems biology in Australian life science.

EMBL Australia comprises:

  • Victorian node at Monash University, with two research groups and SBI Australia (Systems Biology Institute)
  • South Australian node at SAHMRI, opening in 2013 with three research groups
  • Queensland node at the University of Queensland with the Bioinformatics Resource Australia and plans for future research groups
  • NSW node at the University of Sydney with one research group (currently based in Europe) and plans for future research groups
  • Australian Bioinformatics Network, based at CSIRO
  • A node will be developed at the University of Western Australia as funds and opportunities arise.

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 at: