Generous donation broadens research horizons

A significant gift from two passionate and generous philanthropists will help University of Wollongong researchers unlock the potential for ground-breaking research at a molecular level.

Published

14/04/2020

Story By

Sarah Vickery

A significant gift from two passionate and generous philanthropists will help University of Wollongong researchers unlock the potential for ground-breaking research at a molecular level.

Enhancing the University’s ability to gain a clearer understanding into the diagnostics and the pathology approaches to the early detection of disease, the $300,000 gift will support the creation of a new Fellowship – the Horizons Fellow of Molecular Pathology – to be based at UOW’s newly opened Molecular Horizons facility on the Wollongong campus.

The donors, who wish to remain anonymous, were inspired to channel their funds into this valuable research to help accelerate the research capability and potential for life-changing outcomes.

Their personal interest in molecular sciences combined with a desire to have a positive impact on the health of our community formed the basis of a vision shared between the donors and the Institute.

In welcoming the gift, Distinguished Professor Antoine van Oijen, Director of Molecular Horizons, acknowledged the profound influence such generous donations can have.

“It’s a great example of how philanthropy can be aligned with strategic research directions. This gift will prove to be catalytic for our efforts to develop cutting-edge technology to visualise disease processes in human tissue. By applying fundamental science to clinical problems, our research will have real-world impact.

Molecular Horizons is all about developing molecular visualisation technology to drive the life sciences and develop new medical approaches.

“Together with the donors, we looked carefully at how the gift can have the biggest impact on the goals that are shared by both the donors and the University,” says Distinguished Professor van Oijen.

The new Fellow position is seen as a globally prestigious research opportunity that will attract interest from researchers in Australia and offshore. An international search has commenced to identify talented candidates who could add to UOW’s rich knowledge base and innovative approach to research. The University aims to welcome the inaugural Fellow to Wollongong later this year.

Under the mentorship of Dr Shane Ellis, who joined UOW’s Molecular Horizons team this year, the Fellow will have the opportunity to support the development of tissue imaging techniques by chemical fingerprinting.

Dr Ellis graduated from UOW with a PhD in Chemistry in 2012, before moving to the Netherlands for postdoctoral research at the Maastricht Multimodal Molecular Imaging Institute where he became an Assistant Professor (tenured) in 2014.

“We have been lucky to recruit Dr Ellis to the Illawarra and are happy to be able to help the establishment of his research team with this Horizons Fellowship of Molecular Pathology,” says Distinguished Professor van Oijen.

“A pioneering researcher in the area of mass spectrometry, a technique that measures chemical fingerprints of material, he uses this method to measure the chemical composition of living material, spot by spot. This allows him to construct chemical photographs of cells and tissues, not using light but using the chemical information as a way to image.

“We look forward to continuing this exciting journey with the donors to help move the science forward. We are also excited about supporting the career growth of a talented junior researcher with this Fellowship.

“I would like to thank our donors for the generous contribution they have made, enabling us to make this Fellowship possible,” applauds Distinguished Professor van Oijen.

About Molecular Horizons

A world-leading research facility, Molecular Horizons was completed at the start of the year and is dedicated to impact-driven research, where the world’s best molecular research will be put into practice to improve and save lives. It illuminates how life works at a molecular level, enabling our scientists to solve some of the biggest health challenges facing the world.

To enable this ground-breaking research, UOW has invested in a suite of revolutionary technology including Australia’s most powerful biological electron microscope, the Titan Krios cryo-EM microscope.

The molecular life sciences are at the forefront of scientific discovery, unlocking the innermost secrets of the living cell and developing new ways to detect and attack disease. If cancer is to be cured, new classes of antibiotics developed, and Alzheimer’s disease reversed it will most likely be biochemists and molecular biologists powering these breakthroughs.

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