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Feature article

Meet Our New Chief Scientist

By Stephen Luntz

Professor Ian Chubb says he expects to do his best work behind closed doors, but he has already made a significant mark on the public debate about science.

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Biological Patent Amendment: Good Intentions, Unnecessary Risk

Genetic research

Bringing a new medicine to market takes years or decades and many hundreds of millions of dollars. Credit: iStockphoto

By Julian Clark

Dangerous uncharted waters lie ahead if our politicians vote to support the proposed amendment of Australia’s Patents Act to ban patents on biological materials and genes.

Julian Clark is Head of Business Development at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.

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Heat Cheats

The smallest camaenid snail in the Pilbara

The smallest camaenid snail in the Pilbara, a newly discovered species of Strepsitaurus found only on the south-facing wall of a single, small gorge. Photos: Roy Teale

By Michael Johnson

The diverse snails of the hot, dry Pilbara region survive by selecting the best microhabitats and through adaptations of shell form, reproduction and behaviour.

Michael Johnson is Winthrop Professor in the University of Western Australia’s School of Animal Biology.

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Raising the Kids: Do You Need Good Genes or Good Friends?

Dolphin mother and calf

Females who have successful relatives and successful “friends” are much better at producing calves.

By Bill Sherwin

Genetic and social influences on reproduction have never before been studied together in one wild species, but a new study of dolphins shows that not only do genetic and social effects both matter, but they interact synergistically.

Bill Sherwin is an Associate Professor in the Evolution and Ecology Research Centre of the School of Biological Earth and Environmental Science, University of New South Wales.

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Aboriginal Skies

Aboriginal group gazing towards the Southern Cross.

Artwork depicting an Aboriginal group gazing towards the Southern Cross. Artwork by Gail Glasper

By Paul Curnow

How do indigenous cultures interpret the constellations above?

Paul Curnow is a lecturer in astronomy at the Adelaide Planetarium, University of South Australia.

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Policing the Immune System

Not all T-reg cells are equally effective in policing immune responses.

Not all T-reg cells are equally effective in policing immune responses. Credit: iStockphoto

By Erika Cretney and Stephen Nutt

The discovery of cells that regulate the body’s immune response will help scientists to interpret the effectiveness of newly developed drugs and have wide-ranging repercussions for the treatment of conditions including cancer and multiple sclerosis.

Erika Cretney is a Senior Postdoctoral Fellow and Stephen Nutt is Division Head in the Molecular Immunology Division at The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research.

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Vitamin Danger for Cancer Patients

Might vitamins actually be harmful for cancer patients? Image: iStockphoto

Might vitamins actually be harmful for cancer patients? Image: iStockphoto

By Ray Lowenthal

Cancer patients need to think twice before adding vitamins to their treatment.

Ray Lowenthal is Professor of Oncology at the University of Tasmania. This article was first published in The Conversation (theconversation.edu.au).

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The Perfect Pill?

Sunflower seeds are an attractive system for making protein drugs.

Sunflower seeds are an attractive system for making protein drugs.

By Joshua Mylne

A protein found in sunflower seeds could be the key to developing plants as pharmaceutical factories.

Joshua Mylne is an Australian Research Council QEII Fellow based at the University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience.

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Ageing Young

iStockphoto

iStockphoto

By Dannon Stigers, Samuel Fraser & Christopher Easton

New evidence suggests that age-related diseases can begin to develop much earlier than we expect, making prevention more important than cure.

Dannon Stigers is a Postdoctoral Fellow, Samuel Fraser is a PhD student and Christopher Easton is a Professor at the Australian National University’s Research School of Chemistry.

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Vicars & Vagrants

image credit Juan Sagardia

The flightless takahe and flying swamphen or pukeko (P. porphyrio) are related, but molecular and fossil evidence indicates that the swamphen arrived in New Zealand about 300 years ago and probably from Australia – after the takahe evolved. Curiously, takahe plumage is more similar to the swamphen P. madagascariensis from Africa (pictured here; image credit Juan Sagardia) than the one from Australia, implying a shared ancestry that is also supported by molecular data.

By Steve Trewick

DNA studies of New Zealand’s birds are causing a rethink of the importance of colonisation events in the evolution of its endemic species.

Steve Trewick is Principal Investigator with the Phoenix Group at the Institute of Natural Resources, Massey University (www.massey.ac.nz~strewick).

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