RMIT University hosted a panel of researchers and industry partners to discuss the innovative research happening at its newest centre as part of 2015 Melbourne Knowledge Week.
The Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics (CNBP) invited guests to Up close and revealed: life at the nanoscale, a breakfast seminar at the City campus to hear from Professor Calum Drummond, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and Innovation and Vice-President, RMIT; Mr Jian Shen, Olympus Australia; Professor Goran Roos, CNBP; Dr Paul Willis, CNBP; and Associate Professor Brant Gibson, CNBP.
The panel discussed how industry, government and universities can work together to bring cutting edge technology to mainstream health care.
With nodes at the University of Adelaide and Macquarie University in Sydney, the RMIT-based centre is using lasers, optical fibres and other high-tech equipment to look at biological materials with light at the nanoscale – one billionth of a metre.
The research aims to develop medical diagnostics tools and to further our understanding of health and disease at the molecular level. CNBP scientists are concentrating on health issues in the areas of fertility, chronic pain and heart disease.
According to Associate Professor Gibson, the long-term funding of the CNBP – for seven years instead of the usual three to five years – provides a valuable opportunity to the research team.
“We can sink our teeth into problems that we just couldn’t consider in a three to five year time span,” Associate Professor Gibson said.
“We’re over a hundred people in size but it takes something like that scale and the duration of seven years with a considerable amount of funding to tackle the problems we’re looking at, so we’re in a very fortunate position.”
RMIT’s Professor Drummond believes the prospects for practical and commercial applications from this research are very good – even at this early stage.
“One of the nice things about this area is that it’s predominantly an optical fibre technology and there’s a huge amount of infrastructure and capability around the world in optical fibre technology,” Professor Drummond said.
“There are very good prospects for taking the technology beyond communications into other applications, so it’s not like we’re starting from scratch.”
The national centre includes experts in specialist areas of chemistry, physics and biology and the teams are focused on many areas that overlap and lie between these disciplines.
“Looking back at the great scientists – Darwin, Faraday and Banks – there was no chemistry, physics, biology back then, it was ‘science’,” Professor Drummond said.
“Research was multidisciplinary in that sense and the big breakthroughs were made thinking holistically.
“Three hundred years later we’re thinking of things holistically again because we’re seeing that that’s where the opportunities are to have significant impact.”
Guests were given a guided tour of the CNBP facilities after the panel discussion.
Melbourne Knowledge Week celebrates Melbourne’s standing as a city of innovation, positioned to excel in the climate of technological, environmental and cultural change that defines the modern knowledge economy.
Story: Nick Besley