From the power of seagrass in tackling climate change to pain relief from spider venom, The University of Queensland researchers are tackling some of the world’s biggest challenges with the help of a $500,000 boost from Golden Casket’s unclaimed prize money. 

Our latest contribution continues our ongoing support of The University of Queensland (UQ), with this year’s donation targeting three different research projects. The total amount donated to UQ now totals $2.5 million over four years. 

The first research project aims to better understand how seagrass can be used to address climate change.

It will look at the factors that impact its resilience and how its carbon sequestration can be protected and maximised. 

Seagrass meadows are declining at an alarming rate and are among the most critical habitats in the Great Barrier Reef. They nurture fish and shellfish, are critical feeding grounds for some of our largest marine animals, protect shorelines, reduce pollution and sequester carbon.

The University of Queensland’s Associate Professor Chris Roelfsema said coral reefs and seagrass habitats were of great significance to local communities.

“It’s important that people know that their livelihoods are influenced by what's in the ocean. It’s a truly symbiotic relationship, and so we must do all that we can to preserve it,” he said.

“To better take care of the land and sea country, we need to know what habitat we have, which is where our mapping project comes in.

“This funding from The Lott by Golden Casket will help us to continue our conservation efforts and connect people to help save these marine habitats.”

The second research project will continue the progress of the potentially game-changing Clamp2 – the re-engineered Molecular Clamp technology. 

This aims to create a rapid-response vaccine pipeline that can respond to a future viral outbreak or epidemic with a safe, effective, cost-efficient, and easy-to-distribute vaccine in just 100 days.

The University of Queensland’s Associate Professor Keith Chappell said the clamp would be applicable across multiple different viral families. 

“We are developing vaccines to protect against current and future viral threats, including influenza viruses, coronaviruses, Ebola viruses and other highly pathogenic viruses,” he said.

“The new molecular clamp platform can be deployed quickly in the event of future pandemics, and the donation from The Lott will help us to reduce the timelines for developing safe and effective vaccines.”

The third research project aims to use spider venom to develop new pain relief medicines.  

The donation will be directed to IMB’s Venoms Lab to advance the development of peptides from spider venom into more effective therapeutics for IBS – a highly prevalent form of chronic pain that affects more than 10% of the world, and endometriosis – a chronic debilitating disease that impacts one in nine women in Australia.

The University of Queensland’s Professor Glenn King said the seemingly unlikely source of painkillers – the venom of some of the world’s largest spiders – could provide relief for people suffering.

“Endometriosis affects one in nine women, while 11 per cent of Australians are afflicted with irritable bowel syndrome,” he said.

“These debilitating diseases have few effective treatments, so support from partners such as The Lott will allow us to develop treatments and work towards a world free of disease.”

The Lott Partnerships Manager Ally Ramsamy said it was an honour to support three world-leading Queensland research projects. 

“Supporting the community is why lotteries was first established in Australia, so we’re proud to continue this tradition by donating to UQ for the fourth year in a row,” she said.

“We hope that with this donation, we help UQ to tackle some of the biggest health and environment issues of our generation.”

To learn more about these important initiatives or to find out how you can support one of UQ’s research projects, head here.