Winner in the Australian Innovation Challenge

8 December 2011

Two University of Sydney scientists have won Australian Innovation Challenge awards for their research - Professor Marcela Bilek, from the School of Physics, and her team won the Health award, while Professor Rick Shine from the School of Biological Sciences took out the Environment award.

Professor Shine and Professor Bilek received their $5000 prizes at an awards ceremony in Brisbane.

Another winner was CSIRO physicist Dr David Miljak, a graduate of the School of Physics, for a mineral sorting sensor that could boost copper production efficiency by more than 20 per cent.

Attracting more than 300 entries from across Australia in 2011, the awards inaugural year, winners were chosen in seven professional categories and one backyard innovation category.

Professor Marcela Bilek and her team won the health award.
Professor Marcela Bilek and her team won the health award.

Professor Marcela Bilek, with colleagues Professor David McKenzie, also from the School of Physics, Professor Tony Weiss from the School of Molecular Bioscience, and Professor Cristobal dos Remedios from the School of Medical Sciences in Sydney Medical School, won the Health award for their new technique to attach biologically functional molecules to surfaces, which has a huge range of applications.

"We're really pleased to have won the Health category of the Australian Innovation Challenge, as it recognises the widespread applicability of our new technique of attaching biomolecules to surfaces," said Professor Bilek.

"There is a vast range of sensing and diagnostic devices that use biomolecules, like proteins, attached to surfaces. Our new technology will enhance the performance of these devices, as it provides a more effective way of attaching biomolecules to surfaces," explained Professor Bilek.

"The technology will also enable implantable biomedical devices that are not only biocompatible, but can stimulate optimal tissue responses in the person who has the implant. This will help reduce the problem of implants - like hip and knee replacements or stents in the heart - being rejected by the body."

Their innovation will also impact on industries such as chemical, food and biofuel manufacturing, as it will allow continuous flow enzymatic processing.

"Our new platform technology uses strong covalent bonds, without the need for chemical linkers and wet chemistry. The method is simple, safe and environmentally friendly," said Professor Bilek.

"We use a dry plasma treatment to prepare the surface, then expose the surface to a solution with the biomolecules we want to attach in it. Our surface preparation process can be applied to the surface of any material of any shape, which makes it easy to use on all sorts of surfaces."

The awards are run by The Australian newspaper in association with Shell, with the support of the federal Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research. They recognise the best ideas and inventions in Australia, and will become an annual event.

Contact: Marcela Bilek

Phone: 02 9351 6079

Email: 02554a222d030d6b000f1c272d055c2e03280c1e590d3d1f601421