Australian University to establish Centre for Nanoscale Biophotonics

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The University of Adelaide in Australia has been awarded $23 million by the Australian Research Council (ARC) in order to establish a Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale Biophotonics, which will develop light-based technologies to probe molecular processes within living systems. The facility is one of 12 to receive grants under the ARC Centres of Excellence funding scheme which will provide financial and expert support to innovative research projects in 2014, with the aim to enhance Australia’s research excellence.

The funding programme will commence in 2014 and provide a total of $285 million to the 12 Centres of Excellence over the next seven years. According to the ARC 2014 Selection Report, the scheme will also encourage collaboration between university researchers and end-users at partner organisations, both within Australia and internationally. The centres will collaborate with 106 partner organisations from 44 countries and will also receive more than $392.2 million in further funding and in-kind support from participating organisations.

The University of Adelaides' new Centre for Nanoscale Biophotonics brings together leading researchers from the University of Adelaide, Macquarie and RMIT Universities with key international, national and industry partners. In addition to the ARC funding of $23 million, the team has managed to secure a further $15 million from the participating institutions and partner organisations.

The light-based tools, techniques and sensors to be developed by the Centre will offer new ways to explore and quantify the molecular structures and compositions within cells and tissues in the body with a sensitivity and spatial resolution not previously possible. The facility will cross the boundaries of biology, lasers and nanoscience with the aim to: explore approaches to sensing in and around developing embryos; probe immune signals linked to touch and pain in the central nervous system and; explore the role of the endothelium within blood vessels and the damaging effects of plaque.

‘We will use nanomaterials and photons to serve as an interface between organisms and artificially engineered systems. By bringing these fields together we will transform our understanding of nanoscale events in living systems,’ said Professor Tanya Monro, the director of the new Centre of Excellence. ‘We will create a window into the body, with tangible outcomes from our research in areas such as reproductive health, the immune system, and cardiovascular health. These challenges have been selected because they pose measurement questions that cannot be addressed with existing technologies.’

The University's acting VP and president, Professor Mike Brooks, added: ‘This funding announcement is an outstanding result, and is testament to the University of Adelaide's world-class research strengths across a range of disciplines.

‘The University of Adelaide is a key partner in a further three Centres of Excellence just announced, in mathematics and statistics, robotic vision, and plant energy biology,’ Brooks concluded.