Brisbane’s Brain Power

Resource type: News

Invest Brisbane |


The $63 million Queensland Brain Institute’s new headquarters at The University of Queensland’s St Lucia campus, officially opened by Premier Anna Bligh in November, place the state at the forefront of neuroscience, the study of the brain.


Professor Perry Bartlett is the institute’s director, recognised throughout the world for his part in the discovery in 1992 that the brain can generate new cells and make new connections.


“There’s been a complete change in our view of how the brain works,” he said.


“We used to believe that we were born with a specific number of brain cells and that the brain was degenerating from birth. That old view’s been totally turned on its head. We now know the brain has the ability to generate new cells and to make new connections between them.”


What is the principal focus of the QBI?


We’re studying the fundamental molecular and physiological mechanisms that regulate brain function with the aim of developing new therapies for brain diseases.


The need is urgent. Mental and neurological diseases account for 45 per cent of the burden of disease in Australia, more than cancer and heart disease, and cost the nation billions of dollars each year.


What will be the QBI’s ultimate staffing level?


We expect that, by the middle of 2008, just over 200 people will be working at the QBI. A year later, that figure should have reached 250 people. Ninety per cent of our staff are newcomers to Queensland. I can recruit from wherever I want to.


Queensland is a good place to come to. We’ve attracted 500 or 600 new scientists to Queensland in the last five years. That’s changed our culture and it wouldn’t have been possible without new institutes like this and the Institute of Molecular Biosciences.


Ten years ago Queensland was still largely a backwater for cutting edge science. Now we’re right up there with the best in Australia and the Asia Pacific. This wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the Queensland Government and Chuck Feeney’s Atlantic Philanthropies.


Do you see the QBI as part of an international effort to help develop therapies to treat brain disease?


Absolutely, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region. We have strong ties with the Institute of Neuroscience in Shanghai, China’s most prestigious brain institute. The same is true in Japan, where we are in close contact with the Riken Neuroscience Institute, that country’s most prestigious neuroscience body. In India we have direct contact with the Tata Institute and we’re actively building further relationships in these countries.


Source: Catalyst – Issue 25

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