20 October 2011 — Researchers at Monash University and the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute will be at the forefront of drug discovery and development, as the leaders of Victoria’s first structural cryo-electron microscopy centre, to be built at Monash University. The Clive and Vera Ramaciotti Centre for Structural Cryo-Electron Microscopy will be established with the prestigious $1 million Ramaciotti Biomedical Research Award, presented to the research team at an awards dinner in Melbourne last night.
The centre, to be led by Professors James Whisstock and Ian Smith from Monash University, and Associate Professor Mike Lawrence from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, will also include collaborators from The University of Melbourne, La Trobe University, Burnet Institute and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.
Professrs James Whisstock and Ian Smith
Professor Whisstock said the centre would significantly enhance understanding of protein interactions and so lead to the development of new treatments for a range of medical conditions, and new strategies for drug delivery.
“Structural biology reveals the shape and molecular function, and dysfunction, of proteins – the molecules of life,” Professor Whisstock said.
“The centre will allow researchers to create powerful images of nature’s tiny machines, in order to develop therapeutics for diseases such as cancer, diabetes and immune disorders.”
Associate Professor Lawrence said cryo-electron microscopy could be used to reveal the shape, interactions and structural changes of large, complex proteins.
“Many of the proteins that are central to life require complex interactions or undergo dramatic changes in shape to deliver their biological function,” Associate Professor Lawrence said.
“Understanding such events in exquisite detail drives our ability to design and develop treatments to correct aberrant protein function in human disease.”
Associate Professor Lawrence said there was significant demand for the technology in Victoria, with researchers currently having to travel overseas to access cryo-electron microscopy.
“Not only will the centre be critical for structural biologists to continue their research but, from a broad perspective, the Australian community will benefit through our ability to better understand human disease and develop new and more effective medical treatments,” Associate Professor Lawrence said.
Professor Whisstock said the centre would boost the competitiveness of the Melbourne biomedical community and attract international interest. “Australia, and Victoria in particular, has an international reputation in structural biology, however there is currently no widely-accessible, dedicated, national centre for structural cryo-electron microscopy and this is a major deficit. The Clive and Vera Ramaciotti Centre will fill a key technological gap.”
The $1 million Ramaciotti Biomedical Research Award is granted every two years by the Ramaciotti Foundations, managed by Perpetual.
For more information or to interview Professor Whisstock, contact Emily Walker, Monash Media & Communications on
+ 61 3 9903 4844 or 0428 277 308.
To interview Associate Professor Lawrence, contact Liz Williams, Walter & Eliza Hall Institute on
+61 3 9345 2928 or 0405 279 095.
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