The News – 10 September 2014

Overview

  • Melbourne researchers are making progress towards new antimalarial drugs, after revealing how an antibiotic called emetine blocks the molecular machinery that produces the proteins required for malaria parasite survival.
  • THE most advanced research ship in Australia’s history finally arrived at its base in Hobart this morning where the $120 million RV Investigator will undergo a hi-tech equipment fit out.
  • This week the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) announced its latest round of funding. Congratulations to Professors Chris Goodnow and Jonathan Sprent, recipients of Senior Principal Research Fellowship funding for the next five years.


Stories Discussed
News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the 10th September 2014. Read by Rebecca Foster.

http://www.wehi.edu.au/site/latest_news/new_discovery_could_help_turn_antibiotic_into_antimalarial_drug

Melbourne researchers are making progress towards new antimalarial drugs, after revealing how an antibiotic called emetine blocks the molecular machinery that produces the proteins required for malaria parasite survival.

Although emetine is effective against malaria it is not used as a preventive drug due to its significant side effects. However, the work of Walter and Eliza Hall Institute researchers Dr Wilson Wong, Dr Jake Baum and colleagues in showing how emetine attaches to and blocks the molecular machinery that makes the proteins required for malaria parasite survival has revealed new approaches for antimalarial drug development.

Their study, involving collaborators led by Dr Sjors Scheres from the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK and the Bio21 Institute in Melbourne was published in the journal eLife.

Dr Wong said knowledge of emetine and related antibiotics such as pactamycin could be used as the basis for developing new antimalarial drugs.

The research was funded by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, Australian Research Council, Wellcome Trust (UK), UK Medical Research Council, Australia–Europe Malaria Research Cooperation (OzEMalaR), Human Frontier Science Program and the Victorian Government.

Read the journal paper ‘Cryo-EM structure of the Plasmodium falciparum 80S ribosome bound to the anti-protozoan drug emetine’.

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/health-science/scientific-research-ship-rv-investigator-docks-in-hobart-for-hitech-fitout/story-e6frg8y6-1227052500704

THE most advanced research ship in Australia’s history finally arrived at its base in Hobart this morning where the $120 million RV Investigator will undergo a hi-tech equipment fitout.

The 10-storey tall, 95m Investigator will do things “bigger, better and longer” than its forebear the Southern Surveyor and can spend 300 days each year at sea, although it is only funded for 180 days for now.

“There is just nothing like this out there, this is one of the most modern research vessels in the world,” said Dr Brian Griffiths, a retired biological oceanographer who helped design the ship.

The Marine Research Facility ship will be operated by the CSIRO but all scientists in Australia will have the opportunity to pitch projects on board, spanning a variety of fields including geology, oceanography, meteorology and more.

Executive director of the CSIRO’s Future Research Vessel Project Toni Moate said around 30 applications had been received for projects totalling 800 days at sea in the 2015-16 year.

The first research voyage will be in March next year. Independent steering committee will decide who gets time on board.

http://www.garvan.org.au/news-events/news/professors-chris-goodnow-and-jonathan-sprent-receive-top-tier-nhmrc-fellowships

[LAST] week the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) announced its latest round of funding. Congratulations to Professors Chris Goodnow and Jonathan Sprent, recipients of Senior Principal Research Fellowship funding for the next five years.

Both have stellar scientific records and reputations, both are Fellows of the Royal Society and the Australian Academy of Science, and Professor Goodnow is a Member of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America.

Professor Chris Goodnow will be joining Garvan’s Immunology Division in November, setting up a lab in Immunogenomics. He will also be Deputy Director of Garvan. He currently heads the Division of Immunology at the John Curtin School of Medical Research, Australian National University. 

Professor Jonathan Sprent has led the Cellular Immunity lab at Garvan since 2006, where he works on many aspects of T cell biology.

The Sprent lab is working on three promising immunotherapies, which are at various stages of animal and laboratory testing, with the ultimate goal of making them safe for use in people. 

The first project involves manipulating the immune system to boost certain populations of immune cells, while subduing others. This is done using a ‘chemical complex’ including the messenger molecule known as IL-2. By combining IL-2 with different antibodies, you can direct it towards either ‘killer cells’ (to ramp up an immune response) or towards ‘regulatory cells’ (to dampen an immune response). Already the latter complex has been shown in mice to suppress the immune system for long enough for a tissue transplant to be effective without the need for toxic immunosuppressive drugs.

Jon Sprent co-founded a biotech company to develop these IL-2 complexes. His colleagues in Switzerland are making ‘humanised’ monoclonal antibodies and are testing them on human T cells in ‘humanised mice’ – that is, mice that have been genetically modified to contain specific human genes.

The second project is attempting to expand a melanoma patient’s own killer T cells (immune cells that kill invading microbes, or ‘antigen’) in the laboratory, and then inject the expanded population of ‘activated’ T cells back into the patient.

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