Keeping ahead of a child killer: stopping gastro from birth

A new rotavirus vaccine should soon be available thanks to a collaboration between PT Bio Farma and researchers in Melbourne and Yogyakarta. The new ‘RV3’ vaccine is aimed at protecting babies from birth, improving protection and simplifying delivery.

The current vaccine, available in Australia and only on the private market in Indonesia, can only be administered from six weeks of age.

Diarrhoea is the leading cause of death in children under five years of age in Indonesia, and rotavirus has been found to be the most common cause of diarrhoea in these children admitted to hospital with gastroenteritis.

But the cause was unknown until Ruth Bishop and her colleagues, working with babies at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital and The University of Melbourne, found the rotavirus. The discovery triggered a global effort to fight the disease. Today GAVI, the global vaccine alliance, are getting rotavirus vaccines to over fifty million children in the poorest countries.

The vaccine is saving millions of lives, but it’s hoped that the new version, RV3, will take protection a step further. Developed through a collaboration between Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM), Bio Farma, and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute (MCRI), RV3 has been through clinical trials in New Zealand and Australia.

“The rotavirus vaccine RV3 trial in Indonesia is one of outstanding and long collaboration between UGM and the Rotavirus Group at MCRI/Royal Children’s Hospital and The University of Melbourne which has been established for almost 40 years, involving academic exchange, research and training,” says Dr Jarir At Thobari, of Universitas Gadjah Mada.

“We hope the success story will continue
in future.”

An Indonesian trial started in 2013 with two regional hospitals, 23 primary healthcare clinics, and more than 35 doctors and 300 midwives. Bio Farma hopes to licence the vaccine in Indonesia in 2019.

From jet engines to personalised surgical tools

The Monash scientists who led the creation of the world’s first 3D-printed jet engine in 2015 are now improving the design and cost of manufacturing medical implants, surgical tools, aerospace components, and more.

They’ve been working with surgeons to design tools for specific operations, to replace ‘one-size-fits-all’ tools currently available.

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Collaborating to combat killers

Indonesian and Australian researchers are working together to combat two big killers: pneumonia, and tuberculosis.

Around six million young Indonesians catch pneumonia each year, according to a 2008 study, and it’s the number one killer of children under five. Researchers now think there might be a link to how much time kids are spending out in the sunshine—more specifically, their level of vitamin D.

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Renewable fuels turn over a new artificial leaf

‘Artificial leaves’ are bringing us one step closer to cheap, renewable and commercially-viable fuels that could power your car, house or whole community, thanks to researchers at Monash University.

Professor Doug MacFarlane and his team at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science are using sun, water and CO2 to produce hydrogen and methanol fuels.

Their artificial photosynthesis takes its inspiration from the way plants convert sunlight into energy, and then recreates it in an industrial setting.

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Making jet engines (and power generation) more efficient

It’s very hard to set up a jet engine in a wind tunnel and get accurate measurements inside it while it’s rotating 7,000 times a minute.

As air passes over these turbine blades (flowing from right to left) a wake is created which interacts with the next (lower) blade. Credit: Richard Sandberg and Richard Pichler
As air passes over these turbine blades (flowing from right to left) a wake is created which interacts with the next (lower) blade.
Credit: Richard Sandberg and Richard Pichler

So while other members of the University of Melbourne’s mechanical engineering department use wind tunnels to measure turbulence on the surface of airplanes, Professor Richard Sandberg has developed a computer program to make the same measurements inside an engine.

His work also applies to the turbines used to generate power from gas, wind and wave.

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Putting a window and lasers in a ship’s hull to improve efficiency

Every shipping manager wages an endless battle against fouling—the bacteria, seaweed, barnacles and other marine life that take up residence on the hull of ships within days of it entering the water.

window4-300x169[1]This biofouling is thought to add more than 20 per cent to the fuel costs of commercial shipping, not to mention the added journey time for a ship weighed down with barnacles. That’s a big cost for the maritime trading nations of Australia and Indonesia, potentially adding up to billions of dollars per year.

Using lasers and a window in a ship’s hull, researchers will assess how quickly the efficiency of the ship declines, and then how to balance fuel efficiency and the cost of putting a ship in dry dock to clean it. Continue reading Putting a window and lasers in a ship’s hull to improve efficiency

Distilling value from industrial waste

Hot and salty water is a common by-product of industries such as textiles, food and dairy production. But new technology that allows this water to be purified, collected and re-used on site has been developed by Victorian scientists.

Their compact module, smaller than the size of a human, can transform a wasteful industrial operation into an efficient process that recycles energy, water and materials.

“We’ve calculated that our module can reduce water use by more than 90 per cent in some industrial settings,” Professor Mikel Duke says.

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Making efficient ports to keep cities connected

Port cities can be lively, vibrant hives of activity—the hub of a nation’s economic health— if they’re planned well.

Indonesia’s busiest port, Tanjung Priok, has roughly two and a half times the container traffic as the Port of Melbourne. But it also has a reputation as one of the least efficient ports in Asia.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has recognised the need to transform the nation’s ports and plans to develop 24 new ports by 2019. One recently established, state-of- the-art port is Teluk Lamong in Surabaya.

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Making waves in a wind tunnel

We know the Southern Ocean plays a big role in our climate, but there’s much to learn about how and where clouds form over the sea, how they influence global temperatures, and how the wind affects cloud formation and how much carbon dioxide our oceans can absorb.

A wave pool in a wind tunnel: Professor Jason Monty’s work on air-sea interaction will inform climate models and more. Credit: Joe Vittorio
A wave pool in a wind tunnel: Professor Jason Monty’s work on air-sea interaction will inform climate models and more.
Credit: Joe Vittorio

Now a 60m ‘wave pool in a wind tunnel’ built by Associate Professor Jason Monty is allowing researchers from The University of Melbourne, Swinburne, and Monash University to find out.

“We know that small eddies at the surface of the ocean affect how evaporation occurs and gasses are exchanged, but this turbulence is not included in climate models, as no one has been able to measure it,” Jason says.

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Reading the whispers of MH370

A communication ‘heartbeat’ has helped narrow the search area for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. The flight disappeared in March 2014 with 239 people on board.

“Essentially we’ve had to develop, and measure the accuracy of, a way to use the extra data collected during the satellite communication,” says Dr Neil Gordon, Head of Data and Information Fusion at the Defence Science and Technology Group in Australia.

“The main communication data is a ‘heartbeat’ signal every hour, asking the aircraft ‘are you there?’ When it says ‘yes,’ a little bit of information attached to that message is captured, giving hints on the speed and direction the plane is travelling, and the distance between the satellite and the aircraft,” Neil says.

Continue reading Reading the whispers of MH370