Neuroscience research in South Australia is mobilising its efforts against diseases of the brain and nervous system that cause Australians incalculable distress as well as costing billions of dollars each year in treatment and care.
Flinders University researchers are playing a central role in the establishment of a new body, the South Australian Neuroscience Institute (SANI), which will have its inaugural conference on Tuesday August 17 in the Adelaide Convention Centre. The conference will be open to interested members of the public.
The new organisation - "an institute without walls" in the words of Flinders neuroscientist Professor Marcello Costa - will bring together in a cluster researchers from Flinders, the University of Adelaide and the University of South Australia as well as scientists and clinicians from South Australia's major hospitals.
The new body has the enthusiastic endorsement of Baroness Professor Susan Greenfield, the current Adelaide Thinker in Residence and British broadcaster, who is herself a distinguished neuroscientist. Professor Greenfield will speak at the conference on the 17th, and will also present a public lecture [see below], sponsored by Flinders University, on Wednesday August 18.
SANI, which has received funding support from the Premier's Science and Research Fund, will have multiple roles, according to Professor Costa.
"Our aim is to increase the volume and quality of neuroscience research in the State, and by attracting funds nationally and internationally to build world-competitive science and research infrastructure," he said.
The institute also aims to attract leading neuroscientists as well as promising postgraduates from a number of disciplines to South Australia.
"Another area is education, where we intend to improve our communication with the public and also between scientists of many disciplines, so that we can collaborate more effectively."
SANI will also provide training in the form of short courses and workshops to a range of health professionals.
"Yet another aspect will be to achieve commercial sustainability for neuroscience by working with small and large companies, both local and international, to develop new drugs, methodologies and therapies," Professor Costa said.
The SANI conference will feature presentations by 12 leading local neuroscientists, all of whom are international leaders in their fields, on their areas of specialty. These range from aspects of child mental health, Alzhheimer's disease, schizophrenia, epilepsy and stroke through to insect vision, robotics and brain genetics.
The Convener of the Centre for Neuroscience (CNS) at Flinders, Associate Professor Judy Morris, said neuroscience research had the potential to combat neural disorders which would affect up to 75 per cent of the community at some stage of their lives.
Associate Professor Simon Brookes, whose research on the nervous system of the gut has received major grants from both Australian and US funding bodies, said that the CNS, which acts an umbrella for 18 separate research laboratories at Flinders, provided a good model for SANI.
"The CNS been a remarkably co-operative venture for the last 25 years," he said. "It's that spirit that we're now trying to build into a bigger structure."
Dr Brookes said the consequences for South Australian neuroscience of favouring collaboration over competition beween SA institutions could only be positive. "Instead of fighting over each slice of the cake, we can end up growing the cake, so that scientists, educators, patients and the public all benefit."
The conference, at which Baroness Greenfield will be the final speaker, is open to interested members of the public. For registration details, contact Karen Price on 8204 4201.