We're using state-of-the-art instrumentation and advanced analysis techniques to learn more about cellular processes in a broad range of biological systems.

The challenge

Generating high-quality cellular data

Metabolomics, the study of metabolites in cells, tissues and organisms is a rapidly expanding field with a range of biotechnological and biochemical applications. Instrumentation is being designed specifically to achieve the best resolution possible for small molecule fingerprinting.

The challenges lie in generating high-quality data through rigorous sample processing protocols, finely tuned analytical methods achieving good separation and detection of analytes, and being able to examine the metabolome (the complete set of small molecule chemicals found in a biological sample) as the link between the genome and phenotype in biological systems.

Our response

A world-class analytical facility

We have built a world-class facility to address the complex challenges of metabolomic and proteomic (protein) analyses. The facility is perfectly suited to tackle problems in a hugely diverse range of areas, including agriculture, environmental contamination, next generation tuberculosis treatment strategies, molecular indicators of honeybee colony health and insect pest mitigation.

We are developing an increasingly deeper understanding of the small molecule and protein fingerprints of biological system, and how they relate to other cell processes. This holistic approach is known as ‘systems biology’.

We have joined forces with the Australian National University to form the National Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Precinct (NAESP), which will bring together researchers in metabolomics, proteomics, bioinformatics, genetics and agriculture, to provide transformational solutions for food security, natural resource management and the bioeconomy.

Improved understanding of metabolic processes

Our work in metabolomics and proteomics has provided significant insights into high impact areas such as animal and human health, food safety and environmental microbiology. These insights allow us to gain a deeper understanding of the effects of perturbations of natural systems at the molecular level. This, in turn, enables us to discover new biomarkers that can provide early warnings that these perturbations have occurred. This then allows remediation or mitigation actions to be taken in a much more timely manner, greatly increasing the likelihood of them being effective, be it treatment of disease onset or prevention of batches of contaminated food reaching the market.

Sometimes, direct detection of the perturbation (i.e. a pulse of anthropogenic contaminants in waste water effluent) is not possible due to the low concentrations of the contaminants, or their removal from the local area due to water flux or natural degradation processes. In these cases, we can often vicariously detect their lingering signatures in the small molecule profile (metabolome) of the microbial populations or macrofauna/flora, allowing preventative measures to be taken against future discharges.

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