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Howard Florey Institute of Experimental Physiology and Medicine - grant for gene synthesis laboratory

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PRESS STATEMENT by the Federal Minister for Health |>j^| ^



The Minister for Health, Mr Jim Carlton, today announced a

grant of $400 000 in 1982-83 to support the work of the Gene

Synthesis Laboratory of the Howard Florey Institute of Experimental

Physiology and Medicine.

In announcing the grant, Mr Carlton said the fields of

biotechnology and genetic engineering were now of major importance

world-wide because of their potential applications in agriculture,

animal husbandry, medicine and the chemical and mining industries.

'To fully realise this potential, Australian biotechnology

must have access to gene synthesis technology and expertise1, the

Minister said.

'The essence of the new technology is the ability to

manipulate genes to impart useful and economically important

traits to micro-organisms, plants and ultimately animals'.

Mr Carlton said the Howard Florey Institute was the most

advanced laboratory in Australia at present in gene synthesis.

It had an established research program and the ability to

synthesise genes and gene fragments.

The Institute had already applied gene synthesis techniques

to important problems in medicine and biology, and had had

particular success with the cloning of genes for animal relaxins.

The relaxins are important hormones in the birth process,

softening the fibrous ligaments of the pelvis, allowing an easier

birth and controlling the excitability of the uterus. The work

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with animal relaxing would have application in human medicine, Mr

Carlton said. Work was progressing on the cloning of human

relaxing, which would have important implications in the preven­

tion of brain damage at birth, thereby reducing the incidence

of cerebral palsy or spasticity. '

'The Government is well aware of the leading role of the

Institute in the field of biotechnology and the potential which

these developments have for a wide range of industries well

beyond the field of medical research*, Mr Carlton said.

1 It has given this special grant to ensure that the

impetus of the Institute's research is maintained pending an

overview by the Australian Science and Technology Council of

the whole Australian biotechnology field'.

The special grant would allow the Institute to continue

to develop its research activities into gene synthesis, the

Minister said. Gene synthesis ensures that the genes effectively

produce their product when cloned into bacteria, yeast and

animal cells. It was hoped that the laboratory would be able

to accelerate its developments as a national centre for research

in this field and provide assistance and advice to universities,

Government laboratories and industry.

■ Mr Carlton said the grant had been provided outside the

framework of the National Health and Medical Research Council

as the research activities of 'the Gene Synthesis Laboratory

had broad implications for Australian science and industry

well beyond the field of medical research.

CANBERRA: 12 August 1.982

NOTE: Dr D. Denton, Director of the Howard Florey Institute, may be contacted on the work of the Institute at (03) 3415639; Dr Hugh Niall, Associate Director, may also be contacted, at (03) 3417281.