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    Coat of ArmsMedia Release
    Minister for Innovation, Science and the Digital Economy and Minister for Small Business
    The Honourable Leeanne Enoch

    Advance Queensland funds fight against tropical disease

    Minister for Innovation, Science and the Digital Economy and Minister for Small Business
    The Honourable Leeanne Enoch

    Wednesday, April 20, 2016

    Advance Queensland funds fight against tropical disease

    The Palaszczuk Government is looking to help tackle two of the world’s major tropical diseases with two promising research initiatives among more than $10 million in Advance Queensland funding for scientific research.

    Minister for Innovation, Science and the Digital Economy Leeanne Enoch said the Palaszczuk Government was providing $345,000 this year to two critical Queensland tropical disease research projects as part of the Government’s $180 million Advance Queensland initiative.

    “Both projects are extremely important, with global implications for improving the health and well-being of millions of people living in the Tropics,” Ms Enoch said.

    “One project is looking at a new way to treat malaria and the other is looking at chikungunya, a mosquito-borne disease which has not yet reached our shores in Queensland, but does pose a significant global threat.

    “Both of these projects have the potential to make a significant difference to medical research in Australia and around the world.

    Dr Natalie Prow from the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute has been awarded a $300,000 Advance Queensland Research Fellowship to help develop a vaccine for chikungunya virus.

    Carried by the Asian tiger and Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, the chikungunya virus is primarily an arthritic disease, similar to Ross River virus, although more severe.

    Dr Prow will help develop a vaccine based on a proprietary vaccine delivery technology developed by Australian biotechnology company Sementis.

    "There is currently no licensed vaccine for chikungunya,” Dr Prow said.

    “There are non-specific treatments, but the relief afforded is often inadequate.

    “My work will help evaluate a vaccine developed by Sementis and that uses genetic engineering techniques to produce antibodies to fight disease.

    "Our aim is to help develop a vaccine product that we can take to a phase 1 human clinical trial in collaboration with Sementis."

    QIMR Berghofer Research is contributing $75,000 to Dr Prow's research with Sementis providing $325,000.

    Megan Arnold from the Eskitis Institute for Drug Discovery at Griffith University has received a $45,000 Advance Queensland PhD Scholarship for her work in sourcing new leads for prophylactic drugs against malaria.

    “Traditionally, drug development has focused on treatment drugs that act to rapidly kill malaria parasites in order to relieve symptoms,” Ms Arnold said.

    “Prophylactic drugs work by killing any malaria parasites that might be present in the body before symptoms occur.”

    Ms Arnold will use the Palaszczuk Government’s Advance Queensland PhD Scholarship to look for new drug leads through Griffith University’s Nature Bank and CSIRO’s Compound Library.

    “These two compound libraries contain thousands of chemical compounds, not only synthetic man-made chemicals but also naturally derived compounds from plants and marine organisms. They are a treasure chest of potential new medicines,” she said.

    Ms Arnold will work closely with the Swiss-based Medicines for Malaria Venture, a non-profit organisation dedicated to fighting malaria and supported by the Swiss Government and the World Bank.

    Dr Prow and Ms Arnold are among 54 grant recipients sharing in a total of $10 million research grants under the Advance Queensland Research Fellowship and PhD Scholarship programs dedicated to supporting critical scientific research.

    The three-year fellowships and scholarships incorporate a provision that researchers must collaborate with industry and the community.

    Read more about the Advance Queensland Research Fellowships and PhD Scholarships recipients on the Advance Queensland website.

    Media contact: Daniel Lato 0438 830 201