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Getting emergency animal disease under the microscope

11 August 2008, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Australia’s ability to respond to the threats posed by emergency animal disease will be strengthened with the establishment of the Australian Biosecurity Microscopy Centre (ABMC), a specialist service and Linked Laboratory of the Australian Microscopy and Microanalysis Research Facility (AMMRF).

AMMRF Executive Director and CEO, Professor Simon Ringer said the AMMRF unites microscopy and microanalysis centres into a cohesive national facility.

“Forming Linked Laboratories is an important strategy of the AMMRF to develop our “hub and spoke” model, so forming a distributed national capability grid. It helps Australian researchers access a variety of specialised laboratories thereby enabling world-class research outcomes,” he said.

To be constructed within the purpose built facilities of CSIRO Livestock Industries’ Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) in Geelong, Victoria, the new centre will include live-cell imaging and advanced transmission electron microscopy capability – all in a microbiologically secure environment.

The ABMC is being made possible by co-investment from two capability areas of the Commonwealth Government’s National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) programme – Characterisation and Networked Biosecurity - and from the CSIRO.

Another key initiative of NCRIS is establishing the Australian Biosecurity Intelligence Network (ABIN) – an information network to support the delivery of biosecurity outcomes and reduce the impact of disease and invasive species on the Australian economy, society and the environment.
According to the ABIN Board Chair, Professor Helen Garnett, establishment of the ABMC and the linkage with the AMMRF is likely to result in a substantial enhancement of our national disease diagnostic capability and a strengthened national biosecurity framework. “By upgrading our laboratory infrastructure and bringing a range of disciplines together we are developing a better connected biosecurity system for Australia,” she said.

NCRIS is investing A$8.5 million to develop the secure microbiological laboratories at AAHL, providing additional physical containment level three (PC3) and PC4 laboratory space and technology platforms for biosecurity researchers nation-wide.

The additional PC4 facilities – including the new microscopy centre – are scheduled to be available for use during 2009.

The AMMRF is Australia’s peak research facility for the characterisation of materials by means of advanced microscopy and microanalysis, providing capability and services to all areas of the physical, environmental and biological sciences, to engineering, to medicine and to technology development.

Established under the Commonwealth Government’s National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS), the AMMRF is a truly national research facility with nodes at the University of Sydney (which also serves as the national headquarters), the University of Queensland, the University of New South Wales, the University of Western Australia, Australian National University, Flinders University, the University of Adelaide, and the University of South Australia.

The facility is funded by the Commonwealth Government through NCRIS and the State Governments of New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia. The facility unites microscopy and microanalysis centres at these universities into a national collaborative grid of laboratories, unified in terms of both equipment and research expertise. The AMMRF will provide new, state-of-the-art instruments that will be accessible by researchers from Australia on merit basis at nominal rates.

Contact: Dr Miles Apperley, AMMRF General Manager, ph. 02 9351 2887.