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Thursday, 21 March 2013
Page: 3006

Mrs PRENTICE (Ryan) (09:54): I recently had the honour of attending the launch of the Clem Jones Centre for Ageing Dementia Research at the Queensland Brain Institute, based at the University of Queensland. QBI was established 10 years ago; one decade later, the institute is celebrating another milestone with the opening of Australia's first facility focused solely on the prevention and treatment of dementia.

Brain disease is more common than cancer and heart disease, and impacts the lives of millions of Australians. Dementia is the fourth leading cause of death among Australians over 65, part of an at-risk group of Australians making up 13 per cent of the population, or about 2.7 million people. A further 1.2 million Australians care for someone with dementia. According to Alzheimer's Australia, by 2050 the at-risk population will have increased to between 6.5 million and 12.7 million, and millions more will be impacted. These are concerning figures, and medical advances are desperately needed. Investing in medical research leads to better healthcare practices, less disease and improvements to quality and longevity of life. It also helps to address the significant pressures facing the public health system.

The centre will be headed by leading neuroscience expert Professor Jurgen Gotz. Professor Gotz has made several groundbreaking discoveries, including work that brought to light the molecular mechanisms underlying the loss of brain function in Alzheimer's. It is wonderful to have people like Professor Gotz working to improve the health of Australians, and I wish him and his team success with their future research.

Earlier this month, Premier Campbell Newman announced a $4 million international collaboration to improve sorghum productivity under drought conditions. Scientists from UQ's Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation will work with colleagues in the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry to address problems common to sorghum growers in many of the globe's low-rainfall regions. The research is bolstered by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, supported by the department, UQ and the Ethiopian government.

Sorghum is the world's fifth most important cereal and a staple food crop for millions of people in the semi-arid tropics. It is crucially important to food security in Africa, as it is grown in the drier and resource-poor areas, where its capacity to better tolerate drought, high temperature and low fertility make it a preferred crop to maize. This project will use sophisticated computer modelling to exploit new marker technologies, which allow rapid development of new varieties and will generate benefits beyond the initial target countries and Australia. The research template provides a basis for other crop improvement programs in impoverished countries such as Ethiopia.

This is just a snapshot of some of the groundbreaking work being done at the University of Queensland which is benefiting people not just in Australia but across the world.