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Eureka Prize

September 20, 2011

It takes more than just one person to develop a scientific breakthrough – or claim the most prestigious award in Australian science.

Just ask Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology Professor Mark Kendall, who was last night awarded the Eureka Prize for Research by an Interdisciplinary Team.

Professor Kendall and his AIBN team have worked with engineers, mathematicians, material scientists and immunologists from three other institutes on the needle-free vaccine delivery device, the Nanopatch™.

The research has involved input from laboratories of cervical cancer vaccine inventor Professor Ian Frazer, the Translational Research Institute at Brisbane's Princess Alexandra Hospital; Professor Michael Roberts, Director of the Therapeutics Research Unit at Queensland University's School of Medicine; and the University of Melbourne's Professor Lorena Brown from the Department of Immunology and Microbiology.

Last night's win goes a step further than the team's finalist berth in the same category last year.

"To win such a coveted award is a thrill," Professor Kendall said. "Research is a challenging field – and interdisciplinary research can be even more challenging. But when you get it right, the sparks fly and it is hugely rewarding. You can do something that has not been done before. My team takes great encouragement in this award."

Australian Museum director Frank Howarth described the Nanopatch™ as "vaccine utopia" for immunisation experts. The Nanopatch™ has thousands of small projections designed to deliver the vaccine to abundant immune cells in the skin, whereas the traditional syringe hits the muscle where there are few immune cells.

Early stage testing in animals so far has shown a Nanopatch™-delivered flu vaccine is effective with only 1/150th of the dose compared to a syringe.

In addition to improving the efficiency of delivery, the Nanopatch™ has the potential to dramatically improve patient convenience and reduce the complications associated with needle phobia, needle stick injuries and cross contamination, which are key global health issues.

The Nanopatch™ is designed for thermostability and to not need refrigeration, making transport much cheaper and easier, particularly to developing nations around the world.

The $10,000 Eureka Prize for Excellence in Research by an Interdisciplinary Team is awarded to an Australian research partnership, group or team for a groundbreaking research outcome that has involved collaboration and integration between researchers from two or more unrelated disciplines. It is sponsored by the Australian Research Council.

AIBN is a multi-disciplinary research institute bringing together world-class researchers in bioengineering and nanotechnology, working at the interface of biological, chemical and physical science to alleviate problems in human health and environmental issues.

The focus of AIBNs research efforts is on developing new products, processes and devices for improving human health and quality of life. In this way the institute goes beyond basic research to promote and develop the growth of innovative industries, which will benefit the Queensland and Australian economies.

Source: AIBN