A new way of looking at the immune system; our rippling Universe; and science news from Canberra

Bulletins, Media bulletins, Media releases


The $39 million ARC Centre of Excellence in Advanced Molecular Imaging launches in Melbourne today with the mission of changing the way we see the immune system.

Understanding our immune system is central to fighting cancer and infectious diseases. And understanding why our immune system sometimes over-reacts is critical to tackling auto-immune diseases.

The current Ebola epidemic highlights how infectious disease can rapidly have disastrous consequences. And the need to better understand how these viruses so quickly overcome our body’s defences.

The Centre launches at 11am today; Monash University.  More below.

And in other news:

Touring UK astronomer, Sheila Rowan, will be talking about ripples from the dark side of the Universe in a public lecture series starting this week. She’s available for media interviews in Victoria, Tasmania, the ACT, WA, NSW, SA and Queensland until 15 November – dates below.

The Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science will be announced on Wednesday 29 October. I can give access to embargoed information about the winners to working media.  More below.

How can cities like Townsville double their population sustainably?  With urban intelligence, of the type provided by the Australian Urban Research Infrastructure Network (AURIN), which launched this week.  More below.

And finally:

The Prime Minister and Industry Minister have unveiled the government’s plans for science and industry, including the new Science Council, incentives for STEM education, and new Industry Growth Centers.

The Academy’s Secretary of Science Policy, Professor Les Field, says “anything which aligns science more closely with industry has got to be a big plus, especially when this is an area where Australia traditionally struggles”.

I wonder if anyone is doing the sums on how much the government has cut from science versus how much they are putting in?  What CSIRO projects will be lost for ever?

The experts have started to respond.  If you are looking for someone to talk to about it the AusSMC is a good bet  www.smc.org.au

Kind regards,


In this bulletin:

A new way of looking at the immune system; Imaging Centre launchImagingCoE logo

11 am Wednesday 15 October 2014

Building 75 (STRIP Building), Monash University, Clayton.  Click for map.

With Professor Aidan Byrne, CEO of the Australian Research Council and MP Michael Sukkar. 

The $39 million ARC Centre of Excellence in Advanced Molecular Imaging will be launched today with the mission of changing the way we see the immune system.

Understanding our immune system is central to fighting cancer and infectious diseases. And understanding why our immune system sometimes over-reacts is critical to tackling auto-immune diseases.

Yet many of the workings of our immune systems are a mystery, especially at a molecular level – for example:

  • How does trauma and infection trigger inflammation?
  • How does a T-cell recognise an infected and cancerous cell?
  • And how does it persuade other T-cells to join the fight?
  • What happens when our immune system over-reacts?
  • How is coeliac disease triggered?
  • How do diabetes and other autoimmune diseases start?
  • How can we persuade the immune system to accept organ transplants?

The key to the way our bodies fight infection and disease lies in understanding how proteins and cells interact at the molecular level. Before the Centre has even officially opened, its researchers have:

  • found how one of the ‘triggers’ for coeliac disease works, discovering the precise molecular interaction that launches the body’s immune system when it mistakes gluten for a toxic threat
  • discovered how some viruses hide in our bodies for decades behind fake human proteins that trick our immune cells into thinking that everything is ok
  • invented a $2 microscope that rivals $1000 pathology lab equipment, and could ultimately be implanted into the body’s organs.

The Centre brings together physicists, chemists and biologists from five universities to characterise and visualise the key interactions that underpin immune responses.

The Centre’s researchers are based at La Trobe University, the University of Melbourne, Monash University, the University of New South Wales and The University of Queensland.

They’re supported by partners from the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, The Australian Synchrotron, Carl Zeiss Pty Ltd, Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (Germany), Leica Microsystems Pty Ltd, University of Warwick (UK).

They’ll use almost every imaging technology possible to unravel immune secrets and open up new pathways for disease treatments: ranging from existing microscopes as well as new ones they develop; through to the $200 million synchrotron and Europe’s new 3.4 km long X-ray free electron laser.

More at www.imagingcoe.org and www.scienceinpublic.com.au/category/arc-imaging

Media contacts

Urban data project to make Townsville a resilient city

Townsville City Council is partnering with the Australian Urban Research Infrastructure Network (AURIN) on a major data project that will help guide Townsville’s future water and energy security.

The Townsville Data Hub will research information and trends on energy and water consumption that will assist residents, business, and Council plan for a sustainable future for the city’s predicted population growth.

Water and energy security is seen as fundamental areas of future planning for Townsville with the expected doubling of the city’s population over the next 25 years.

A related project showed last year that just giving households access to daily information about trends in their water use helps them use water smarter – saving on average ten per cent.

The AURIN project will bring energy and water consumption data, and weather records and climate data, together with council’s land use, geospatial and demographic information.

Townsville Mayor Cr Jenny Hill said the project would assist researchers and urban planners to identify strategies to make Townsville a more affordable, more sustainable and healthier place to live into the future.

“This project continues Council’s approach of creating partnerships and leveraging the latest technology to benefit our community,” Cr Hill said.

“Analysis of energy and water consumption data allows us to read the vital signs of our city, showing the flow and use of these resources as they support the activities of our homes and businesses”.

“We can use this knowledge to model the impact of proposed policies and make the choices needed to create a more sustainable future for our city and its citizens”.

“Importantly, the project will also determine how non-personalised or anonymous information can be shared across government, business and the community that will lead to better planning and reducing costs generally”.

The project is a partnership between the City, AURIN, James Cook University, and Ergon Energy, Queensland University of Technology and the Queensland Cyber-Infrastructure Foundation.

The AURIN Portal will provide easy to use access to this data for researchers and urban planners. AURIN is supported by the Australian Government’s National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS).

“We congratulate Townsville City Council on the leadership they’ve demonstrated in undertaking this project,” says Professor Bob Stimson, Director of AURIN.

“The Townsville Data Hub and the models that will ultimately draw on it will be powerful tools for planners to test policy ideas and will empower the community to make informed decisions about the shape of their city and eventually optimising their own use of energy and water.”

“We hope Townsville’s evidence-based approach to planning using our urban intelligence capability will encourage Australia’s other cities to do the same.”

The Queensland Cyber Infrastructure Foundation, James Cook University and Queensland University of Technology are also involved in this collaborative project.

The Townsville Data Hub project builds on the success of the Townsville IBM Smarter Cities Challenge, which won the Smart Infrastructure Project award at the 2013 National Infrastructure Awards.

Read more about AURIN

Media contacts

  • For Townsville City Council: Tony Wode on 0417 610 656 and Greg Bruce on 0427 898 384
  • For AURIN: Niall Byrne, on 0417 131 977, 03 9398-1416 or niall@scienceinpublic.com.au

Ripples from the dark side of the Universe; speaking tour

Sheila Rowan: 2014 AIP Women in Physics Lecturer

Available for media interviews in the following states:

  • 15-17 October – Victoria
  • 20-22 October  – Tasmania
  • 23-24 October – ACT
  • 10 November – WA
  • 12-15 November – NSW
  • 17-19 November – SA
  • 21 November – QLD

Gravitational waves are amongst the most elusive signals from our Universe reaching the Earth: “ripples in the curvature of space-time”. The information carried by these signals will give us new insight into the hearts of some of the most violent events in the Cosmos – from black holes to the beginning of the Universe.

Sheila Rowan from the University of Glasgow will talk around the country about experiments to detect gravitational waves.

A global network of gravitational wave detectors – including the UK-German GEO600 detector, the US LIGO detector project, the French-Italian Virgo detector project, and the Japanese detector KAGRA – is now reaching the final stages of construction, with the first data expected in 2015.

As director of the Institute for Gravitational Research in the School of Physics and Astronomy in the University of Glasgow, Sheila will discuss the nature of gravitational waves, how the detectors work and what the data from the detectors can tell us about the Universe we inhabit.

Media contacts

Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science – 29 OctoberPMs logo

The Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science will be announced on Wednesday 29 October.

The prizes will be presented by the Prime Minister at the Prize Dinner in the Great Hall of Parliament House, at a dinner m/c’ed by mathematician and broadcaster Adam Spencer.

This year’s winning scientists and teachers will share $500,000 in prizes – and they’re from Perth, Canberra, Melbourne and Adelaide.

Embargoed media pages with profiles, photos and videos will be available at www.scienceinpublic.com.au/prime-ministers-prize

But we can only give you access to those pages if you’re working media and require access to hit a publication deadline.

For more information contact me at niall@scienceinpublic.com.au, (03) 9398 1416 or 0417 131 977

Science in Public

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If you’re looking for ideas or people for features we know hundreds of science prize winners past, present, and future and are always happy to chew the fat about the developing themes in Australian science.

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