SIA Forum - Join The Conversation

Operation Archimedes

The Flood & Cyclone Rebuilding Project for Science in Schools


US Supreme Court rules human genes cannot be patented

US Supreme Court rules human genes cannot be patented

The US Supreme Court has ruled that companies cannot patent human genes. The ruling overturns Myriad Genetics patent on genes with links to breast and ovarian cancer. The court has however upheld the ruling that synthetically created exons-only strands of nucleotides known as composite DNA (cDNA) are patentable. The ruling found that “A naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated, but cDNA is patent eligible because it is not naturally occurring”

 The full ruling is available here:

Dr Luigi Palombi is a patent lawyer and author of ‘Gene Cartels: Biotech Patents in the Age of Free Trade’. He is also an academic at the Centre for the Governance of Knowledge and Development at The Australian National University.

“This decision is to be welcomed. It removes 30 years of uncertainty over the patenting of biological materials existing in nature and deals a blow to the semantics over the word 'isolated'. According to the Court merely isolating genetic material from the human body does not render the genetic material patentable subject matter. The Court also make it clear that while cDNA is patentable subject matter, if the genetic sequence housed in the cDNA is "indistinguishable" from the information in the natural DNA, that cDNA is also not patentable subject matter. In other words, before genetic material is patentable the genetic sequence housed in that material must be distinguishable from what exists in nature.” 

Professor Ian Olver is CEO of the Cancer Council

“This is a welcome decision that addresses the issue of commercial monopolies over genetic mutations that are vital to cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment. If there had been greater clarity on the issue back in 2008, the Australian licensee for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 patents would not have been able to demand public laboratories cease conducting the tests. Eventually the patent enforcement claim was withdrawn, but there was, and still is, nothing in Australian law to prevent commercial interests trying to monopolise the use of genetic materials.


“The US Supreme Court’s ruling paves the way for Australia’s federal parliament to change the Patents Act and clarify that human genetic materials are not inventions and are not patentable. We welcome innovation in medical research, which should rewarded by a robust patents system. However, discovery and isolating genetic material is not innovation. The US Supreme Court’s decision is a landmark ruling that provides a clear precedent for Australia.”



Trajan Scientific Completes Acquisition of SGE Business

Trajan Scientific and Medical, “Trajan” has completed its acquisition of the Chromatography and Liquid Handling businesses of SGE Analytical Science, “SGE”.Trajan

SGE was founded by Ern Dawes in Melbourne Australia in 1961 and has remained in the Dawes family for over 50 years. Its business, focussed on components and consumables used in scientific analysis has grown to around 300 staff worldwide with manufacturing operations in Ringwood Australia and subsidiary offices in the USA, Europe and Japan. Dawes Holdings, the parent company of SGE, owned by Peter Dawes, will retain a range of assets, including the ETP Electron Multiplier business. Under the new ownership SGE will continue to work closely with ETP and provide global support and distribution services as is the case today.

Trajan, formed in 2011, acquired the pathology consumables business of Grale Scientific, (Victoria Australia) in October 2011.

“Trajan’s goal is to bring together a group of leading companies with a common focus in the areas of biological, environmental and food analysis. SGE is an ideal platform for Trajan, with a global footprint and a depth of capability and infrastructure, servicing the leadingcompanies in analytical science’ said Stephen Tomisich CEO of Trajan.

Under the arrangement Trajan has acquired the manufacturing operations and site in Ringwood Australia, The SGE sites and operations in Europe and the USA and all shareholdings in the SGE subsidiaries located in Europe, the USA and Japan.

“We believe that we are in a unique position to serve the current and future needs of people working in the fields of scientific and medical analysis. Specifically we aim to invest in technologies that will deliver more sensitive, selective and more affordable analysis in SGE LOGObiological, food and environmental applications. We also intend to fully embrace a global business model where we work with leading companies in the scientific industry to enhance their capacity to deliver solutions in these target areas.”

Contact Information Chris Clapham, Global Marketing Communications Manager


T: :+61 3 9837 4282


Thermo Fisher to buy Life Technologies in $13.6 billion cash deal

This merger of two behemoths represents a great opportunity for the smaller, nimble and quicker companies operating in our space.

The first thing that goes out of the window when mergers like this occur is the customer's wishes and wants. The beauracracy that necessarily weighs down and constricts such a large company serves to make that company immune to outside influences and the Wal-Mart Disease can rear its ugly head.

What is the Wal-Mart Disease....?? Well according to Forbes Magazine it is when senior management (especially CEOs) " develop an obsession with sticking to the core business, and doing everything possible to defend and extend it — even when rates of return are unacceptable and there is a constant struggle to improve valuation."

The disease develops further and "becomes so obsessive about execution, so focused on doing more of the same, that you forget your prime objective is to grow the investment.  Not just execute. Not just expand with more of the same by constantly trying to enter new markets – such as Europe or China or Brazil.  The #1 job of company leaders is to improve the rate of return.  The Disease keeps management so focused on trying to work harder, to somehow squeezing more out of the old success formula, to finding new places to implement the old success formula, that they ignore environmental changes which make it impossible, despite size, for the company to ever again grow both revenues and rates of return.  And they remain disconnected from other, better opportunities."

Whether or not this happens to the newly merged Life Tech. and TFS remains to be seen, however their respective recent share price history indicates they're well on their way.


Australia - all R & little or no D….the saga drags on and on and…..

"Only one Australian company, CSL Limited, can make it onto the top 100 of Forbes Magazine’s list of the world most innovative companies and this just goes to show just how Australia is punching under its weight in the innovation stakes.

Science Industry Australia, tired of this impasse has partnered with the newly formed John Monash Innovation Institute (JMII) to bridge the considerable gap between academic abilities, skills and outcomes and business. More information here….."


Business spending on R&D up 7%

Business spending on R&D up 7% "

Business spending on research and experimental development (R&D) reached $17.9 billion in 2010-11, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), an increase of 7% from the previous year.

Businesses in the manufacturing industry reported the largest growth in R&D expenditure, increasing by $499 million over the last financial year. This was followed by the Research Careerprofessional, scientific and technical services industry which increased by $140 million. 

The major contributors to R&D expenditure were the manufacturing (27%) and mining (21%) industries. Financial and insurance services and professional, scientific and technical services industries contributed 15% each.

While all states and territories reported increased expenditure on R&D, growth since 2009-10 was strongest in Queensland (up $322 million), Western Australia (up $265 million), and New South Wales (up $255 million).

Between 2009-10 and 2010-11, business expenditure on R&D as a proportion of GDP decreased from 1.30% to 1.28%.

Further information is available in Research and Experimental Development, Businesses, Australia, 2010-11


(Via.Research Career)


Scrapping the R&D tax incentive is hardly a smart idea for economic policy

Scrapping the R&D tax incentive is hardly a smart idea for economic policy:

"Did you know that last June Australia set a new world record?

And it had nothing to do with sport.

Australia racked up 21 years of uninterrupted economic growth.

While the rest of the world's economies have undergone their usual ups and downs, Australia experienced not one year of recession. This is the first time that this has happened in the history of modern economics. No other modern economy has ever fared so well.

Yet, what do we have to show for for it?

Recently, during a media interview, I was asked what keeps me awake at night.

Here's what I said:

"I worry that this boom will end and we'll have nothing to show for it. Mining still represents a whopping percentage of our GDP and, when it goes (and it will), we'll be genuinely screwed unless we can develop other industries to replace it."

(Via: James Tuckerman-Anthill Online)


Science enrolments stable over 50 years: report on higher education

The Conversation

Science enrolments stable over 50 years: report on higher education:

"Contrary to fears of falling enrolments in the sciences, the proportion of students taking NewImagescience at Australian universities has been remarkably stable over the past half century: in 1962 16.4 percent of university students studied science, rising a touch to 17.2 per cent in 2010."

(Via The Conversation.)


Aging Geniuses - There's hope for all of us yet….!!

Q&A: Aging Geniuses | The Scientist: "

According to economists Benjamin Jones and Bruce Weinberg, young scientists making groundbreaking contributions to their fields are becoming an endangered breed. In a study published yesterday (November 7) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they reported that the chances a Nobel Prize winner at the turn of the 21st century produced their winning work by the age 30 or even 40 isThescientistlogo close to zero.

Their analysis of 525 Nobel Prize winners (182 in physics, 153 in chemistry, and 190 in medicine) between 1900 and 2008, revealed that while the mean age at which they did their Nobel-prize winning work was around 37 for the three fields in the early 20thcentury, they are now around 50, 46, and 45 for Physics, Chemistry, and Medicine, respectively

(Via .The Scientist)

Technorati Tags: , , ,


Olympus-saga fallout worries Japan PM

THE scandal engulfing Japanese camera maker Olympus over massive advisory payments risks tarnishing the image of corporate Japan, the country’s Prime Minister has said.My paper

In an interview with the Financial Times, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda called for clarification on the issue and said he was concerned it would be seen as part of a wider problem in the country’s business culture.

“What worries me is that it will be a problem if people take the events at this one Japanese company and generalise from that to say Japan is a country that (does not follow) the rules of capitalism,” he told the paper, adding: “Japanese society is not that kind of society.”

Mr Noda’s comments come as concern grows among policymakers over the impact of the scandal, which has shone a light on the sometimes-murky world of dealmaking in the Japanese boardroom.

Olympus has been mired in crisis since ousting its British chief executive and president, Mr Michael Woodford, on Oct 14. Mr Woodford contends he was fired because he raised questions about payments made in a series of deals between 2006 and 2008.
Among four deals queried by him was the US$1.92 billion acquisition of British medical-instruments company Gyrus Group in 2008, and the US$687 million that Olympus has admitted it paid an adviser on the deal.

Mr Woodford was dismissed only six months after being appointed president and two weeks after he was also named chief executive.
The 30-year company veteran, Olympus’ first non-Japanese president and chief executive, said he was removed after he wrote to chairman Tsuyoshi Kikukawa and urged him to resign over the payments, citing major governance concerns.
Mr Kikukawa assumed Mr Woodford’s roles but, under increasing pressure as media scrutiny and shareholder anxiety intensified, resigned last Wednesday.


(Via My Paper.)

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , ,


The future of Australian science - a Nobel Prize winner's view

The future of Australian science – a Nobel Prize winner's view: "

I often hear it said that science and education policy never won an election. But nations rise and fall on the outcomes of science and education.

Improvements in our lives are largely due to technology powered by these endeavours. The lack of political acknowledgement of this may be because science and education do not run on a three-year cycle. It takes decades for such pThe Conversationolicies to run their course, but they provide a similarly long legacy.

The policy makers of this generation have a unique opportunity to shape the long-term prosperity of this country. Using the opportunities that arise from a prosperous, agile economy, Australia can ensure its future in a rapidly changing world through a strategic vision of, and investment in, education, science and technology.

(Via The Conversation.)

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,


Review of Health and Medical Research in Australia

Department of Health and Ageing - Review of Health and Medical Research in Australia: "Last time the Feds conducted a review like this (the Wills review in the late '90s) it lead directly to a doubling over the next 5 years of the NHMRC budget.

Dept of Health  Ageing

Don't expect the same this time around.

The Federal Government has announced Australian of the Year Simon McKeon will chair a new independent review of health and medical research in Australia and recommend a 10-year strategic health and medical research plan for the nation.

Mr McKeon will be joined by leading Australian researchers and prominent business leaders including Professor Ian Frazer, Bill Ferris AC, Elizabeth Alexander, Professor Henry Brodaty and Professor Melissa Little to carry out the review.


The review will focus on optimising Australia’s capacity to produce world class health and medical research across the research spectrum, from discovery through to translation.



Fingers crossed: the role of randomness in medical research funding


Fingers crossed: the role of randomness in medical research funding:

"The total costs of the project grant process – from application to allocation – is estimated to be $49 million with 85% of the cost incurred by the applicants themselves.

Researchers are required to provide up to 70 pages of information and include a nine-page research plan, which is the meat of the peer review process.

The median time spent preparing the paperwork was 22 days with a maximum of 65 days. In total, 180 years of research time was used up preparing grant applications in 2009.

But the process is not just onerous for the applicants. Members of grant review panels process up to 100 proposals in four days.

Not only are long applications costly to prepare they may reduce the quality of peer review because panel members are discombobulated by the volume of paperwork.

But the variation between panel member’s scores addresses just one aspect of the grant allocation process.

As grants are discussed by the panels before scores are awarded it would nice to know how these discussions influence the scoring process."

(Via "The Conversation".)


ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions

If your reaction on hearing that this Centre received $24M in funding when the Cooperative Research Centres program has lost $33M was similar to mine, then you'd be still standing there scratching your head and wondering about the National Research AND Development priorities........

Don't kid yourselves we have not left the GFC behind us. If you take out the current contribution to the GDP of the "mining boom" in WA & Qld., the rest of the country is in (or soon will be) another recession. The evidence is abundant and everywhere.

So, what does a prudent government do under these circumstances...?

Does it -

a) Invest in commercially viable R&D which can be translated into new industries, new companies, new collaborations and opportunities....and, most importantly, new jobs to add extra company and income tax receipts and export earnings to the economy, or

b) Spend $24M in establishing a Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions.....

Not only that but the ARC Centres of Excellence Program funded 4 out of 10 applications in its last round, compared with a little better than one out of ten in the cooperative Research Centres Funding round. There is a vastly widening gap between the R and the D, so that as a nation we are deciding that $24 million into a Centre for the Study of Human emotions in Europe from 1100AD to 1800AD is now four times easier to come by than a Centre for Polymer Research or a Centre for Biosecurity or a Centre for Low Carbon Buildings.... four times!!

Go figure..............


SIA Opinion: Australian Science - All "R" Not Nearly Enough "D"

As a Nation, we need to take the “development” part of the R&D equation more seriously if we are to benefit from our investment in research.

To extract maximum value from our research dollars, we must commercialise as much of the researcher’s outputs ourselves, and not leave it to overseas corporations to make millions from intellectual property paid for by the Australian taxpayer and return peanuts to the Australian economy.
80 per cent of the potential ROI to the Australian people is currently not being captured and kept here in Australia.


Read more....


Prime Minister Opens New Science Centre at Hoppers Crossing Secondary College...SIA Member, Shimadzu, Partners With Victoria U to Deliver State of the Art Instrumentation

The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, last Friday, July 1, officially opened the new $2M Science Centre at Hoppers Crossing Secondary College. Present also on the day was Mr John Hewetson, Director, Shimadzu. In partnership with Victoria University, Shimadzu has continued its program of equipping educational facilities with state of the art equipment. In the case of this new Science Centre the equipment covered the techniques of liquid chromatography, UV/Vis. and atomic spectroscopy.

John was presented with a plaque by school principal, Wayne Terrill, in recognition of Shimadzu's contribution to the new Science Centre.

Before the official opening ceremony, the Prime Minister joined with the students in their laboratory and classrooms discussing their curriculum and watching the students determine the concentration of salicyclic acid in aspirin using the results from the Shimadzu UV/Vis spectrophotometer.

The Prime Minister referred to her days in an undergraduate chemistry lab. by commenting that she had to operate a pipette by mouth then rather than using the safer pipette bulbs the students on the day were using.


Lab workers face health threats - Reynaud's Phenomenon

Lab workers face health threats Laboratory workers are more likely to develop Reynaud's phenomenon if they are exposed to solvents such as toluene or xylene. Exposure to

Otago U

solvents by laboratory workers may be a health risk according to a new study from the University of Otago, Wellington just published in The Journal of Rheumatology.

This is the first ever research to show an occupational health hazard involving solvent use and Raynaud’s phenomenon (RP). Other studies overseas have shown similar solvent associations, but not with people exposed to solvents at work.

Raynaud’s phenomenon is vasoconstriction, or the narrowing of blood vessels in the hands and other extremities, and is characterized by pain, colour changes and tautness or fullness of the fingers or toes. Raynaud’s phenomenon usually only occurs in cold conditions.

For some people it may be a symptom or precursor of scleroderma, a rare connective tissue disease affecting multiple systems in the body and mainly amongst women."


(Via University of Otago.)


The weird and wacky world of climate change denial | What Motivates Deniers.....??

The weird and wacky world of climate change denial"With very few exceptions, academic climate deniers are male and either retired or close to retirement. The climate deniers’ champion, MIT’s 71-year old Richard Lindzen, has had a distinguished career, but 30 years after his major contributions, he appears to struggle to respond to devastating peer reviews when he attempts to publish his contrarian views in a major journal. More commonly, the academic climate denier will have had a mediocre career that escaped public notice and left little imprint on science. Some haven’t been able to keep up with the rapid advances in science coming from its increasing complexity and the impact of computers and new technologies. Once respected, these scientists find themselves “out of the loop” and being ignored, which sometimes makes them quite grumpy."

(Via Climate Spectator.)


Operation Archimedes Delivers to Tully and Innisfail

Operation Archimedes Delivers to Tully and Innisfail

A shipment of 10 pallets of scientific equipment was sent from the University of Queensland Herston campus last week, containing things like PCR machines, gel doc's and even keyhole surgical gear!

Four scientists are heading up to Tully High School and Innisfail State College today, to run inservice training for all the teaching staff and help demonstrate the safe use of all the equipment and supplies that have been donated over the past few months.

Over the next 3 days they will have 20 to 40 experiments suitable for school students written up and demonstrated and plans in place for mobile trailers fully kitted with appropriate supplies to rotate around the district to bring science to the whole area.

The scientists even plan to use  the keyhole surgery equipment donated by having students perform practical experiments on dead barramundi or larger animals. This is sure to become very popular with students!

Virgin Airways are supporting the scientists with discounted air fares and the teachers in the region are supplying all meals, transport and accommodation

This is a great outcome for the scientific community and shows what can be done with all that equipment that would otherwise not be used - all great way to ensure schools have the right tools to interest students in science and give them hands on experience!

Many thanks to all those institutions and organisations would have been instrumental in supplying goods to get this first phase off the ground - Tully is just the beginning

Please keep up the good work and keep looking for that unused equipment and supplies

Contact Greg Young

phone 0423021442


Crossbench Support Means New R&D Tax Credit Will Start On 1 July 2011

Crossbench Support Means New R&D Tax Credit Will Start On 1 July 2011: "

Australian Government


The new and improved Credit will target more funds to genuine R&D deserving of public support – good news for industry and better value for taxpayers.

It will deliver a 45 per cent refundable tax credit to companies with an aggregated turnover of less than $20 million and a 40 per cent non-refundable offset to all others.


This will allow more firms to benefit from our massive boost to the innovation, science and research budget, helping them grasp the opportunities of our transition to a cleaner economy.

We welcome the commitment of industry, the Greens and independent parliamentarians who have put good policy ahead of political posturing in supporting this reform.

The development is the culmination of an extensive consultation and negotiation process.

Following discussions with the Greens, the Government will introduce quarterly payments for small and medium businesses from 1 January 2014. These firms will get their credit sooner, significantly improving their cash flow and incentive to invest in R&D.

The deferral of the start date to 1 July 2011 has an overall impact of $40 million, with a negative impact of $310 million in 2011-12 and a positive impact in 2012-13 of $270 million.



Wanted: Another Scientific Revolution | The Scientist


Wanted: Another Scientific Revolution | The Scientist: "Screaming sensationalism and over-the-top claims seem to be required to get the public’s attention, and scientists are trained to make conservative, data-based claims. Most of the really interesting material in recent science cannot be communicated effectively to a public with the profound scientific illiteracy we see today."