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22 June 2010

The Queensland Brain Institute has strengthened its ties with China, following the announcement of $1m to further collaborations with the Institute of Biophysics (IBP) in Beijing.

The Queensland Brain Institute has strengthened its ties with China, following the announcement of $1m to further collaborations with the Institute of Biophysics (IBP) in Beijing.

QBI’s Director Professor Perry Bartlett welcomed the National and International Research Alliances Program (NIRAP) grant, which was announced by Queensland Treasurer Andrew Fraser during Queensland Week at the World Expo being held in China.

“Beijing’s expertise aligns closely with our own – plus they have access to significantly more people suffering from neurological disorders, advanced expertise in fruit-fly behavior and high resolution, functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging facilities,” Professor Bartlett said.

“Combined with existing expertise at the Queensland Brain Institute, this will put us in front of the pack worldwide when it comes to identifying the genes involved in learning and memory, and ultimately our understanding of what happens in the case of disorders like dementia, depression and schizophrenia.”

QBI and IBP have previously signed a Memorandum of Agreement, cementing the Institutes’ relationship as key collaborators and underpinning the establishment of a joint research laboratory. There are already a number of key projects researching animal models, such as fruit flies, underway.

Fruit flies have a large number of genes in common with humans and are widely seen as pivotal in improving understanding of learning and memory in the human brain. The NIRAP grant is expected to accelerate this line of research.

“The one thing that has been holding back neuroscience is the inability to subcategorise diseases,” Professor Bartlett said.

“For example, there could be 20 different diseases contributing to a diagnosis of dementia – our research will begin to unravel what is happening in the brain to better identify exactly what is going on, what changes are occurring, why they are occurring and what can be done to start to repair the damage.”

He predicts scientists will be able to identify learning and memory genes in fruit flies within three years, which could further inform research into learning and memory genes in humans.

Meantime, Professor Bartlett will today sign a Memorandum of Agreement for Research Cooperation between QBI and the Shanghai Changzheng Hospital of the Second Military Medical University.

The agreement will underpin the establishment of a Neurogenetics Research Program, which will focus on improving therapeutic outcomes for neurological diseases.

“This is a wonderfully unique opportunity for us to collaborate with outstanding clinical researchers at the Shanghai Changzheng Hospital, to uncover the genetic basis of a range of devastating brain diseases,” Professor Bartlett said.


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Notes to the Editor:
Professor Perry Bartlett is internationally renowned in the field of cellular and molecular neuroscience, a fact highlighted by his election as a Fellow of the Australian Academy and the awarding of a prestigious Australian Research Council Federation Fellowship in 2003. In 2002 he was appointed Foundation Chair in Molecular Neuroscience at The University of Queensland and the inaugural Director of the Queensland Brain Institute in 2003.

The Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) was established as a research institute of the University of Queensland in 2003. The Institute is now operating out of a new $63 million state-of-the-art facility and houses 27 Principal Investigators with strong international reputations. QBI is one of the largest neuroscience institutes in the world dedicated to understanding the mechanisms underlying brain function.