Trailblazing ideas for treating disease and improving ecology

A potential new treatment for gastrointestinal diseases and a smart phone app for ecologists have won the top two prizes in this year's UniQuest Trailblazer innovative ideas competition at James Cook University.


QTHA researchers, Associate Professor Andreas Lopata and Professor Norelle Daly from the Faculty of Medicine, Health and Molecular Sciences won the 2012 Staff Category prize for their work developing a new therapeutic for treating gastrointestinal diseases.


A new smart phone application and database-driven website developed by Stewart Macdonald from the Centre for Tropical Biodiversity and Climate Change, won the student category top prize.


Runner up prizes were awarded in the staff category for an environmentally and economically sustainable technology to remediate underground coal mine and landfill-derived methane; and in the student category for a software program simulating work in a law firm, including taking virtual cases to trial.


Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Chris Cocklin, who was on the judging panel, said this year's finalists presented excellent pitches to compete for $12,500 in cash prizes.


"I was very impressed with both the range and the calibre of innovative ideas in this year's Trailblazer competition," Professor Cocklin said.


"Each of the 10 projects pitched to the panel addressed challenges specific to an industry that looks to university research for innovative solutions, from ecologists wanting to spend more time in the field and less at the desk, to achieving better health outcomes for humans by making parasites earn their keep with their potent proteins.


"Trailblazer has highlighted the excellent research and critical thinking that is taking place at JCU, and I congratulate both the winners and the other finalists on adding a commercial dimension to their research careers," Professor Cocklin said.


As JCU's research commercialisation partner, UniQuest runs Trailblazer as part of a comprehensive education program for stimulating and motivating entrepreneurial activity at the University.


"We are thrilled that our Trailblazer competition has brought these innovative ideas to light," said UniQuest Managing Director, David Henderson.

Seven prizes were awarded this year (details below), with the staff and student winners receiving $6,000 each as well as trophies and merit certificates.


The QTHA's Dr Michael Smout, the JCU Final Pitching Excellence winner, was also awarded the overall Pitching Excellence trophy at the Trailblazer Grand Final at The University of Queensland in Brisbane this week. The Award recognises excellence in pitching ideas.


"We expect promising outcomes for the ideas that made the finals of the 2012 Trailblazer competition. They were among the most sophisticated and well-researched ideas yet to be presented and we congratulate all the winners as well as thank the students and staff who supported the competition," Mr Henderson said.


"We also appreciate the ongoing support of our sponsors, which helps us to offer an attractive prize purse at the university heats and the Grand Final."


The 2012 Trailblazer competition was sponsored by patent attorney firms Davies Collison Cave and Fisher Adams Kelly; Travel sponsor, Campus Travel; Pitching Skills sponsor, Corporate training company NRG Solutions; Incentive sponsor, Patent and trade mark attorneys and IP lawyers Griffith Hack; and Webcast sponsor, Redback Conferencing.


More information about Trailblazer is available on the website:


Winner: Staff Category

A/Prof Andreas Lopata and Professor Norelle Daly, Faculty of Medicine, Health and Molecular Sciences Microproteins for gastrointestinal disease therapy


Winner: Student Category

Mr Stewart MacDonald, Faculty of Science and Engineering

Information technology for ecological data


Runner Up: Staff Category

A/Prof Kirsten Heimann, Faculty of Science and Engineering

Waste and solar powered sustainable renewable biofuels


Runner Up: Student Category

Mr Simon Walker, Faculty of Law, Business and Creative Arts

Interactive Law practice simulation (ILPS)


Highly Commended: Staff Category

Prof Alex Loukas and Dr Severine Navarro, Faculty of Medicine, Health and Molecular Sciences

Anti-inflammatory proteins from parasitic works

Dr Patrick Schaeffer, Faculty of Medicine, Health and Molecular Sciences

All-in-one tropical test


Pitching Excellence Award

Dr Michael Smout, Queensland Tropical Health Alliance


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