Research network for fluorescence applications

Wednesday, 25 May, 2005

A network that brings together over 60 leading Australian researchers who advance cutting-edge fluorescence technologies has been launched at Macquarie University.

The Australian Research Network for Fluorescence Applications in Biotechnology and Life Sciences (FABLS) was established last year by the federal government with $2 million in joint funding (2004-2009) from the Australian Research Council (ARC) and National Health and Medical Research Council (NH&MRC).

Fluorescent molecules and chemicals - which naturally 'glow' when struck by light of a certain colour - provide a powerful tool which can be used for immediate medical diagnostics and to resolve scientific questions such as an understanding of processes in living cells. Fluorescent molecules attached to cellular proteins help track their movement, so that progress of drug therapies can be monitored. Similar fluorescent molecules are already being used to screen for disease-causing microbes in water supply.

Network Convenor and Associate Professor in Physics at Macquarie University, Ewa Goldys says FABLS is designed to inspire and coordinate research programs relating to applications of fluorescence.

"Research teams across the country - in biology, physics, chemistry, bioengineering and medicine - are currently using fluorescent technologies," Goldys says.

"FABLS integrates over 60 world-class members from 35 institutions, including 11 commercial organisations. Through its focus on academic-industry collaboration, the Network will help turn basic scientific discoveries into commercial outcomes."

Examples of cross-disciplinary projects undertaken by Network members include the development of time-resolved fluorescence instrumentation for ultrasensitive microbial screening, laser-based biochemical assays to instantly recognise heart attack; extraction of commercially significant fluorescent proteins native to Australian reef corals; and the search for specific microorganisms in complex environments such as industrial waste using high level multiplex fluorescent probes.

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