Professor David Raftos wins prestigious Eureka Prize for oyster research

27 August 2015

For work safeguarding and improving Australia’s iconic oyster industry, Professor David Raftos has been awarded the new Rural Research and Development Corporations Eureka Prize for Rural Innovation.

Research by Professor David Raftos and researchers at Macquarie’s Department of Biological Sciences promises disease protection for entire populations of oyster. Disease can wipe out an oyster population in a single day, which can mean ruin for small oyster farmers and hurt for the surrounding rural communities.

Working with oyster farmers along Australia’s east coast, Professor Raftos has already helped breed stronger, more disease-resistant oysters that promise a 10 to 20 per cent increase in yield for this $200 million industry.

“The work of Professor Raftos and his team allows us to understand and prevent diseases that can kill millions of oysters in a single outbreak,” Kim McKay AO, Executive Director and CEO of the Australian Museum said. “It’s great news for industry and oyster lovers alike!”

The next step may be to immunise entire crops of oysters against a particular virus. The team’s results show that immunising one oyster might also protect its descendants. Potentially, immunising just a few oysters could create a population of disease-resistant offspring.

If his selective-breeding approach works for Sydney rock oysters, Professor Raftos expects it will also work for other farmed marine creatures, from other oyster varieties to abalone and prawns.

Said Professor Raftos of the award: “This prize is fantastic news because it rewards years of collaborative research with the NSW Department of Primary Industries and Australian oyster farmers. It goes to show that you can do first class fundamental research that has direct benefits to real people.”

The Rural Research and Development Corporations Eureka Prize for Rural Innovation is new in 2015.

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Adjunct Professor Dayong Jin wins Eureka Prize for Excellence in Interdisciplinary Scientific Research

Adjunct Professor Dayong Jin also won the Eureka Prize for Excellence in Interdisciplinary Scientific Research.

The world’s smallest flashlights may be able to light up diseased cells in our bodies. These infected or cancerous cells may be hiding among millions of healthy cells. The Super Dots team has created tiny crystals that can be implanted in the body to reveal the dangerous needle in a haystack.

The Super Dots team, led by Professor Dayong Jin from Macquarie University and University of Technology developed the method for detecting these hidden, diseased cells.

Professor Tanya Monro from the University of South Australia and University of Adelaide and Professor Bradley Walsh from Minomic International and Macquarie University are also members of the Super Dots team. The work is being progressed by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics.

The Super Dots team has developed fluorescing nanocrystals that ‘switch on’ at different times, shining an intense, short burst of light – just tens of millionths of a second – that can reveal any diseased cells.

“By combining physics, chemistry and biology, this research should ultimately allow us to watch the interaction between drugs and cancerous cells at a molecular level within the patient’s body,” Kim McKay AO, Executive Director and CEO of the Australian Museum said.

As well as real-time diagnosis of disease, the technology has potential for creating invisible, lifetime-coded inks that could add ‘uncrackable’ security to banknotes and passports.

Established in 1827, the Australian Museum is the nation’s first museum and one of its foremost scientific research, educational and cultural institutions. The Australian Museum Eureka Prizes are the most comprehensive national science awards, honouring excellence in Research and Innovation, Leadership, Science Communication and Journalism, and School Science.

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