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Koalas and students win in latest research funding

Date: 09 July 2012

An anti-Chlamydia vaccine for koalas and a program to introduce primary school students to engineering will be developed by Queensland University of Technology (QUT) researchers with funding announced this weekend (June 30).

They were among seven QUT projects awarded more than $3 million in funding under the Australian Research Council's Linkage Projects scheme.

Linkage funding of $465,000 has been given to a project to develop and test a multi-strain Chlamydia vaccine on koalas in the wild, with the assistance of several partner organisations, including Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, Gold Coast City Council, Moreton Bay Regional Council Department of Transport and Main Roads and Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management.

QUT's Professor Peter Timms, who leads the project, said his group's previous vaccine trials had had great success in captive and hospitalised koalas, but a controlled long-term trial on wild populations was needed to confirm the vaccine's ultimate success.

"Many koala populations are under threat of extinction from chlamydial disease, with up to 50 per cent of koalas infected in Queensland," Professor Timms said.

"The vaccine can be tailored to specific koala populations, depending on which Chlamydia strains are present.

"In our previous trials, koala antibody and immune responses to the vaccine are extremely good and give every indication that the vaccine should protect koalas against a natural live challenge, but we still need to monitor the vaccine's success when vaccinated koalas encounter Chlamydia in the wild.

"The results will also feed back into studies on developing vaccines for multiple Chlamydia strains in humans."

QUT's education researcher Professor Lyn English is leading a project to address Australia's skills shortage in engineering by integrating engineering experiences within Australia's National Curriculum for primary school students.

The project, Developmental Engineering Education in the Primary School, received $370,000 in linkage funding and included Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads, Engineers Australia and a wide range of schools among its partners.

"This three-year study will implement engineering education across Grades 4 to 6 in both private schools and state schools in low socio-economic areas," Professor English said.

"Engineering is the perfect combination of maths, science and literacy. It involves the design process of identifying a problem, creating a solution, testing and refining the solution, and communicating the results."

"The project aims to spark children's interest in the world of engineering."

Other QUT projects that received funding are:
-Faculty of Education: Accelerating the mathematics learning of low socio-economic status junior students, $640,000
-Faculty of Education: Ethical leadership: a collaborative investigation of equity-driven evidence-based school reform, $529,599
-Science and Engineering Faculty: Practical cyber-security for next generation power transmission networks, $255,000
-Science and Engineering Faculty: Bearing capacities of innovative LiteSteel beams and their floor systems, $195,000
-Science and Engineering Faculty and Oodgeroo Unit: Digital noticeboards for remote aboriginal communities, $600,000

Media contacts:
- Rachael Wilson, QUT media unit, 07 3138 9449 or media@qut.edu.au (Wed/Thu)
- Rose Trapnell, team leader, QUT media unit, 07 3138 2361 or rose.trapnell@qut.edu.au

Content sourced from QUT News Web Service.