Home' InDaily : November 18th 2010 Contents Vol 21 No 10 November 2010 | 1
continued on page 2...
2 Antibodies to the world
3 Improving water policy
4 Grant successes
5 Challenges in China
6 Righting legal wrongs
7 Engineering excels
8 Mixing culture and cocktails
A new family of bugs, which could potentially
play a role in future pharmaceuticals, has
been discovered in a car park at Flinders
University. As a result, Matthew Flinders now
has a group of microbes, along with a
mountain range, a national park and a
University named after him.
The genus Flindersiella has been accepted by
the International Journal of Systematic and
As part of her PhD studies in Flinders
Department of Medical Biotechnology, Dr
Onuma Kaewkla discovered the genus in a
200-year-old Eucalyptus microcarpa, or Grey
Box gum tree, near car park three on the
Her supervisor, Professor Chris Franco, said
that for eight years now researchers in the
Department have been investigating the
presence in plants of the microorganisms
“Usually found in soils, these bugs are very
useful to the pharmaceutical industry in
making antibiotics, blood pressure-lowering
compounds and transplant anti-rejection
drugs,” Professor Franco said.
“They are also used in the bioremediation of
polluted soils and in preventing diseases in
plants,” he said.
Dr Kaewkla, now an academic staff member
at Mahasarakham University in Thailand, said
her aim was to identify new strains of bugs
from native plants.
“Native plants that have been isolated from
other continents for many years have a high
diversity of organisms and microorganisms
that are unique to the continent,”
Dr Kaewkla said.
“The hypothesis is that unique plants may
contain unique organisms, and some may
contain novel bioactive compounds,” she said.
Vol 21 No 10 November 2010
Flinders gum home to new bugs
2 | Vol 21 No 10 November 2010
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Flinders supplying antibodies to world
Since its inception some 40 years ago, the
Department of Human Physiology has
been engaged in making antibodies
against proteins and small peptides for
various research projects undertaken by
its key researchers, mainly in the areas of
neuroscience and lung physiology.
Antibodies, proteins found in blood and
other body fluids, are the body’s first line
of defence in fighting foreign objects such
as viruses and bacteria.
Although they are critical components of
the body’s immune system, they have
now become an important part of a
The Polyclonal Antibody Facility is
emerging as an important supplier of
antibodies for research internationally.
Facility Director, Associate Professor John
Oliver told Flinders Journal that “in the
early period, antibodies made by
researchers were unavoidably produced
in excess to their needs”.
“Many of these antibodies were simply
stored away and not fully exploited nor
used for the greater good of discovery in
medical research,” Associate Professor
“However, during the past 10 to 15 years,
the Department has formed what is now a
successful small operation selling these
earlier antibodies, as well as engaging in
the preparation of new well-characterised
and highly specific novel antibodies for use
by researchers within the Department of
Human Physiology, in Flinders University,
nationally and internationally,” he said.
“With the help of Flinders Partners [the
University’s commercialisation arm] we
now supply antibodies to distributors in
the US, UK, Germany and Canada who
on-sell them to the international
With the approval of the University’s
Animal Welfare Committee, the Antibody
Facility uses the Flinders Animal House
and operates under their strict code for
ethics and quarantine regulations.
Animals, usually sheep or rabbits, are
immunised with selected proteins.
“We can see through blood tests the
amount of antibody the animal is
producing. When it is producing sufficient
antibody, we harvest plasma from blood,”
Associate Professor Oliver said.
Once the antibody has been isolated,
purified and characterised by chemical/
immuno techniques, it is freeze-dried
and packaged for transport along with
Dr Kaewkla isolated some 570 cultures
from a variety of native eucalyptus, pine
and apricot trees.
She then undertook a range of gene
sequencing, biochemical and
physiological tests and discovered 30 new
species of bugs – four of which have
already been recognised internationally so
far – and the new genus.
all customs and quarantine
The Facility has 46 different products from
27 antibodies that are distributed
internationally through companies such
as Millipore in the US and Abcam in the UK.
Flinders Partners Senior Associate, Dr
Sinead O’Connell said the financial return
to the Antibody Facility is used for
support of ongoing research in the
Department of Human Physiology, to
assist students travelling to scientific
conferences, for teaching purposes, and
to purchase small items of equipment
that can be used by all members of
“The convention is to name genera after
the place of discovery, and so Flindersiella
it is,” she said.
Professor Franco said work continues to
find out what compounds the genus
“The discovery also opens up an ecological
examination, too. Why is this particular
bug in the plant? What is its usefulness?
Associate Professor John Oliver and research assistant Nusha Chegeni
“It’s a real coup and shows the outside
world that the Medical Biotechnology
group at Flinders can isolate new strains
that are potentially very useful to
agriculture, pharmaceuticals and
Cover photo: Dr Onuma Kaewkla
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