Could the Great Barrier Reef hold the answer to a cure for cardiovascular and other diseases and help treat prostate cancer?
In Vancouver, Canada on the latest leg of a trade mission, Premier Anna Bligh today announced more than $3.5 million funding boost to three key research projects that could also potentially attract around $10 million in Canadian investment.
"There is groundbreaking medical research that's underway thanks to the combined efforts of Canadian and Queensland researchers - and it deserves to be supported," Ms Bligh said.
"If successful, these projects have the potential to find cures for diseases such as malaria, treat diseases like prostate cancer, and aid those living with spinal cord injuries."
Ms Bligh announced the successful applicants of the 2010 National and International Research Alliances program grants:
* A $1.5 million grant for the Queensland British Columbia Drug Discovery Alliance - a joint initiative between Griffith University's Eskitis Institute and researchers from British Columbia;
* A $1 million grant to the Queensland-Canada Spinal Cord Injury Alliance, a joint initiative of QUT's Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation (IHBI) and Canadian researchers; and
* More than $1 million to the University of Queensland's Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN).
Ms Bligh said the Eskitis Institute has built a collection of over 300,000 natural compounds from plants and marine invertebrates from tropical Queensland, the Great Barrier Reef, Tasmania, Papua New Guinea and China, with a view to unlocking their potential to produce new medical drugs.
"The Eskitis Natural Products Library could well hold the key to some of the worst diseases blighting human kind, including malaria and African sleeping sickness," Ms Bligh said.
"The Institute will supply its collection of natural product extracts to the Vancouver-based Centre for Drug Research and Development which would screen the collection to help develop drugs for a number of illnesses, including prostate cancer."
Research into spinal cord injuries would also receive support through a $1 million grant to the Queensland-Canada Spinal Cord Injury Alliance, a joint initiative of QUT's Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation (IHBI) and Canadian researchers.
The IHBI research project, led by Dr Ben Goss and in partnership with the Princess Alexandra Hospital, would look at implementing the Rick Hansen Spinal Cord Injury Registry in Queensland to track patients, their treatment and clinical outcomes with a view to improving quality of care.
Ms Bligh met up with Mr Hanson on her mission - a Canadian sporting legend and advocate for people with spinal injuries, famed for covering more than 40,000 km and 34 countries in his wheelchair in the 1980s.
"This is important work and the Government is pleased to make this strategic investment because of the world-class expertise of the Rick Hansen Foundation and the potential of the research to improve the quality of life for thousands of people suffering spinal cord injuries," Ms Bligh said today.
Ms Bligh said Dr Goss and his team would also look at implementing a series of clinical trials and observational studies both in Vancouver and Brisbane.
"The researchers will look at a number of potential therapies including implanting cells to aid spinal repair," Ms Bligh said.
More than $1 million would also to the University of Queensland's Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) which is also working on ways to repair spinal cord damage.
Professor Andrew Whittaker from the AIBN is working with the Centre for Advanced Imaging at the University of Queensland and the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, focusing on using nanotechnology to mobilise the body's own healing abilities to repair or regenerate damaged cells.
Premier and Minister for the Arts
The Honourable Anna Bligh