Technological advances have transformed our understanding of disease and we now know more than ever about the building blocks of life. In organisms ranging from plants to humans, we are dissecting disease mechanisms at a molecular level with the potential to improve disease outcomes.
We are understanding the origin of diseases such as dementia, cancer, heart disease and diabetes that are acquired during our lifetime and also developing diagnostic tools for inherited diseases. Such knowledge will help realise the move to individualised healthcare plans. We will help develop better treatments as well as personalised nutrition and lifestyle strategies. We will also contribute to the battle against infections and global epidemics.
Understanding the biology of disease in land and marine plants and animals has immense consequences globally for food supply, health and economics. Applied technologies and the molecular sciences are revolutionizing food sources, identifying novel pathways to combat diseases that impact food chains and improving our ability to ensure adequate and safe nutrition worldwide.
In 2013, we opened the A$94 million La Trobe Institute of Molecular Science (LIMS). LIMS provides laboratories and research spaces that build on our reputation as an international research leader in molecular science, biotechnology and nanotechnology. The institute studies molecular structures and processes fundamental to life on earth, underpinning environmental, biochemical and biomedical issues, and inspiring and training the next generation of Australian scientists.
La Trobe is also home to AgriBio, a $288 million world-class facility for agricultural biosciences research and development, as well as the Research and Development Park, the Northern Biosciences Precinct, the Murray Darling Freshwater Research Centre and the La Trobe Rural Health School.
Understanding Parkinson 's disease
Ground-breaking work by La Trobe microbiologist Professor Paul Fisher and fellow Understanding Disease Researchers, Dr Sarah Annesley and Dr Danuta Loesch-Mdzewska has provided new insights into the cause of neurodegenerative diseases. The discovery has led to development of a potential blood test for Parkinson's disease. They have received funding from US-based Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research and its local partner, the Shake It Up Australia Foundation, to help develop the test as a diagnostic.
Australia Day Award
In the 2016 Australia Day Honours list, leading Understanding Disease researcher, Professor Marilyn Anderson was made an Officer of the Order of Australia for her distinguished service, as an academic and researcher, to science and higher education, particularly in the fields of biochemistry and molecular biology. Professor Anderson's area of expertise is agricultural biotechnology and most recently she has explored novel sources of insecticidal and antifungal molecules.
Understanding Disease researchers Emeritus Professor Nick Hoogenraad, Dr Amelia Johnston, Dr Hamsa Puthalakath, and Dr Megan Maher have made a significant discovery about the process that drives wasting and muscle atrophy in late stage cancer patients. There work was recently published in the prestigious journal, Cell. With local collaborators from the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute and the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, along with members of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, they have been awarded research funding by the Victorian Cancer Agency to refine a potential treatment that could be taken to human clinical trials.