Royal Society of NSW News & Events

Royal Society of NSW News & Events
SEP
02

1286th OGM and Open Lecture

Professor John Rasko AO“The Dawn of Molecular Medicine—Gene Therapy: past, present and future”

Professor John Rasko AO
Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and Centenary Institute, University of Sydney

Date: Wednesday, 2 September 2020, 6.30pm
Venue: Zoom webinar
Video recording: YouTube Video

 Summary: Over the next five years a possible 900% increase in Gene and Stem Cell Therapy approvals has been forecast. The convergence of substantial incremental technical advances towards combined cell and gene therapy has led to improved clinical outcomes in immune deficiencies, haemoglobinopathies, blindness, immunotherapies and other inherited diseases. An audit of cell, tissue and gene products with marketing authorization in 2018 worldwide identified 44 unique products, 37 of them are cell and tissue therapies (84%) and mainly autologous (55%).

The challenge of realizing the full potential of genetic understanding has been vital in overcoming the hurdles of efficient gene therapy. Since the first human clinical trial using gene technology in 1989, there have been nearly 3,000 approved clinical trials worldwide. The overwhelming majority of human clinical trials involves short-term gene expression or random integration of a therapeutic gene. Emerging technologies require controlled development in compliance with safety, regulatory and GMP requirements.  More precise gene targeting tools were first described in the early 2000s. Targeted gene editing or replacement using Zinc Finger Nucleases or TALENS have been tested in about a dozen clinical trials since 2009. 

In parallel with objectively proven therapies, ‘stem cell tourism’ has become a billion dollar industry with increasing examples of false claims. Embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cells have been mired in controversy and clinical development has been forestalled. We reported an analysis of the global distribution of more than 400 unique businesses marketing stem cell-based interventions. Many of these online entities promote clinical applications of ‘stem cells’ beyond present-day standards of care. These data should be of immediate concern to governments and ethicists being lobbied to amend laws governing the manufacture, distribution and clinical use of human cell-based medical products. Unregulated, untested or unsafe stem cell ‘therapies’ place the field at a difficult crossroad. Blurring the lines that distinguish evidence-based cell therapies from those that are not remains a fundamental public health concern.

Highlights in the clinical cell & gene therapy field will be discussed with special reference to haemophilia, thalassemia, graft versus host disease and cancer.

 Professor John Rasko is an Australian pioneer in the application of adult stem cells and genetic therapy. Since 1999 he has directed the Department of Cell and Molecular Therapies at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and the Gene and Stem Cell Therapy Program at the Centenary Institute, University of Sydney. He is the President (2018-20) of the prominent International Society for Cell & Gene Therapy.

John Rasko is a clinical haematologist, pathologist and scientist with an international reputation in gene and stem cell therapy, experimental haematology and molecular biology. In over 160 publications he has contributed to the understanding of stem cells and blood cell development, gene therapy technologies, cancer causation and treatment, human genetic diseases and molecular biology.

He serves on hospital, state and national bodies including Chair of GTTAC, Office of the Gene Technology Regulator — responsible for regulating all genetically-modified organisms in Australia — and immediate past Chair of the Advisory Committee on Biologicals, Therapeutic Goods Administration. Contributions to scientific organisations include co-founding (2000) and past-President (2003-5) of the Australasian Gene & Cell Therapy Society; Vice President (2008-12) and President-Elect (2016-18) International Society for Cell & Gene Therapy; Scientific Advisory Committees and Board member for philanthropic foundations; and several Human Research Ethics Committees. He is a founding Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences. In 2018, the Board of the ABC honoured him as the sixtieth Boyer Lecturer. He is the recipient of national (RCPA, RACP, ASBMB) and international awards in recognition of his commitment to excellence in medical research, including appointment as an Officer of the Order of Australia.

AUG
20

Science Week 2020: The Periodic Table

Emeritus Professor Brynn Hibbert“The Periodic Table: ‘.. a medley of haphazard facts falling into line and order’ (C. P. Snow)”

Emeritus Professor Brynn Hibbert AM FRSN
Royal Society of NSW and UNSW Sydney

Date: Thursday, 20 August 2020, 6.00pm 
Venue: Zoom webinar
Video Presentation: YouTube video

The ancients had isolated and named around thirteen substances, mostly metals, not necessarily realising they were unique, chemically-indivisible ‘elements’. With the discovery of Oganesson (118 Og) we have completed the seventh row of the modern periodic table. In between, the science of Chemistry has been built on the discovery and manipulation of more and more of the elements that make up our world.

Periodic Table reduced

2019 was declared the International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements, being the 150th anniversary of the discovery of the modern periodic table by Dmitri Mendeleev.

Brynn Hibbert will take a ramble through the table, re-telling great stories that have been collected by the Royal Australian Chemical Institute as part of its celebrations of Mendeleev’s discovery, and explaining just how we discover and name new elements. Hibbertium here we come!

No chemistry training is required by the audience but the talk does address the NSW Chemistry Stage 6 Syllabus Module 1: Periodicity with inquiry question “Are there patterns in the properties of elements?” and so might be of interest to schools.

Brynn Hibbert is a former, and now Emeritus, Professor of  Analytical Chemistry at UNSW. He is a go-to expert witness in the courts on matters chemical, particularly on drugs of abuse (in society and sports), although he has been known to do the occasional murder. As a member of committees of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC)  he has been involved in the formal recognition process of new elements, his first  foray being Copernicium (element 112) and most recently Oganesson (118). In 2019 he won the first essay competition on ‘stories from the periodic table’ organised by the RACI with his tale of the discovery of iodine (and which will be re-told in his talk). Brynn is a Vice President of the RSNSW, and was President in 2016 – 2017.

AUG
20

Southern Highlands Branch Meeting 2020-6

Professor Toby Walsh“2062—The year that Artificial Intelligence (AI) made”

Professor Toby Walsh
Scientia Professor of Artificial Intelligence
UNSW Sydney and CSIRO Data61

Date: Thursday, 20 August 2020 
Venue: Via email circulation

 While pandemic restrictions on group activities prevail, the South Highlands Branch continues to send members information and summaries from our scheduled speakers.

Summary

Professor Walsh was due to present this lecture at the August meeting of the Southern Highlands Branch. In light of the current circumstances, this lecture has been replaced by recordings of two recent presentations he has made:

Professor Toby Walsh is Scientia Professor of Artificial Intelligence at the University of New South Wales and Data61, a guest professor at theTechnical University of Berlin, and an adjunct professor at QUT. He was named by the Australian newspaper as one of the “rock stars” of Australia’s digital revolution. He is a strong advocate for limits to ensure AI is used to improve our lives. Professor Walsh has been a leading voice in the discussion about autonomous weapons (aka “killer robots”), speaking at the UN in New York and Geneva on the topic.

Professor Walsh is a Fellow of the Australia Academy of Science and a recipient of the NSW Premier’s Prize for Excellence in Engineering and ICT. He recently was made ARC Laureate Fellow. He appears regularly on TV and radio, and has authored two books on AI for a general audience, the most recent titled “2062: The World that AI Made”.

AUG
18

Science Week 2020: The COVID Curve in Context

Emeritus Professor Robert Clancy“The COVID Curve in Context:  or Back to the Future—something old and something new”

Emeritus Professor Robert Clancy AM FRSN
Royal Society of NSW and the University of Newcastle

Date: Tuesday, 18 August 2020, 6.00pm
Venue: Zoom webinar
Video presentation: YouTube video

Image Professor Clancy’s talk will address two issues: (a) the pattern of health in Australia, and how COVID-19 fits this pattern, and what we can learn from past pandemics in Australia; and (b) why old people die and young people “don’t turn a hair”, and how we can make our airways young again.  The talk will also consider why we don’t have a useful vaccine, and what we need to do, and can do, in the future to learn to live with COVID-19.

Emeritus Professor Robert Clancy was the Foundation Professor of Pathology in the University of Newcastle Medical School and a clinical immunologist who undertook research in mucosal immunology and the development of mechanisms to enhance mucosal resistance and control mucosal inflammation. He has a strong involvement in the biotechnology of natural products that maximise mucosal immune competence, protecting against infection, and he maintains a clinic in gastroenterology focused on inflammatory bowel disease.

Professor Clancy also has strong, longstanding interests in histocartography relating to the discovery and development of Terra Australis, and the history of science and medicine, with a focus on epidemics. He has written five books on histocartography and is a regular speaker on maps—curating exhibitions and writing numerous articles on this topic.

AUG
05

1285th Ordinary General Meeting and Open Lecture

Professor Peter Radoll“Growing Black Tall Poppies”

Professor Peter Radoll
Pro Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous)
University of Canberra

Date: Wednesday, 5 August 2020, 6.30pm
Venue: Zoom webinar
Video recording: YouTube video

How do the contradictions of success intersect with race, higher education and Indigenous cultural values?

We are at a time that doing the right thing now seems more important than considering the long-term future of our community. Governments are trying to meet Indigenous employment targets, by funnelling many of our potential best and brightest into government traineeships from year 11, taking them away from the opportunity pipeline of future university study. The competition to attract these students to universities results in letting them know that they do not have to obtain the best grades at school as there are other pathways designed just for them; a subtle message that you do not have to excel. This can become a demotivating factor for Indigenous students who ideally would be better suited to a degree that requires a top ATAR score, and one that they are capable of achieving.

Are these structures supporting our success, or stopping us from reaching our full potential? 

As new terms, such as ‘cyber feminism’ enter our lexicon in the era of gender politics, within our universities, 75% of all professors are male, yet the majority of Indigenous university leaders are female.  Female Indigenous university enrolments and completions out number Indigenous males two to one. 

As we take on these challenges and complexities,we as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people need to capitalise on our ipseity.  As a Nation, by all of us embracing Indigenous culture, as the whole of our Australian history and story, we do not lose or give away something that we hold close. Instead, we all gain so much more knowledge and become richer for the embrace.

Professor Peter Radoll is a descendant of the Anaiwan people from the New England ranges area of Northern New South Wales.He is currently Professor of Information Technology and Pro-Vice Chancellor Indigenous at the University of Canberra. Peter is also Director of the Ngunnawal Centre at the University which provides support, training and study facilities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students – a role dear to his heart.

Starting out his working life as a motor mechanic, Peter has gone on to well over ten years as a senior academic and leader in the higher education sector at the Australian National University, The University of Newcastle and the University of Canberra. Peter’s passion and commitment to Indigenous Higher Education is also evident in the roles he has outside the University. He is a Director on the Board of the Smith Family, the Australian Indigenous Leadership Centre (AILC), and a Member of the Advisory Group for the CSIRO Indigenous Girls’ STEM Academy.

JUL
29

Hunter Branch Meeting 2020-3

Professor Pia Ednie-Brown“Architecture and the Cultivation of Vitality”

Professor Pia Ednie-Brown
School of Architecture & Built Environment
University of Newcastle

Date: Wednesday, 29 July 2020, 6.00pm
Venue: Zoom webinar
Video recording: YouTube video

This lecture is a joint event of the University of Newcastle (as part of its new Professor series) and the Royal Society of NSW.

How do the spaces we create affect our well-being, our creativity and cultural vitality? We often have a sense that certain places help us feel happier, stronger, more relaxed or more energised, but struggle to pin-point exactly what makes us feel this way. Answers to the question of how and why architectural environments affect us have been offered across disciplines, producing multiple and very different perspectives on the issue. Each offers a fragment of truth perhaps, but the highly contextual and complex nature of architectural environments eludes singular, disciplinary standpoints.

In this lecture, Professor Pia Ednie-Brown will argue that architectural approaches aiming to cultivate vitality can be found through approaching place as a person. This changes the nature of our relationship with buildings and sites such that we don’t design them, we design with them. Crucially, our relationship with places cultivates vitality through forging meaningful, living connections beyond ourselves.

Professor Ednie-Brown is a Professor of Architecture at the University of Newcastle, Australia. Her research projects have investigated relationships between creativity, emergence, ethics and innovation. She has a creative research practice, Onomatopoeia. Her creative work and writing have been published widely, and she has edited two books: Plastic Green: designing for environmental transformation (RMIT Press, 2009), and The Innovation Imperative: Architectures of Vitality (AD, Wiley, 2013).

JUL
20

Southern Highlands Branch Meeting 2020-5

Dr Brad Tucker“Exploding Stars, Dark Energy, and the end of the Universe”

Dr Brad Tucker
Astronomer and Research Fellow, Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics
Australia National University

Date: Thursday, 20 July 2020 
Venue: Via email circulation

 While pandemic restrictions on group activities prevail, the South Highlands Branch continues to send members information and summaries from our scheduled speakers.

Summary

We began with a bang 13.72 billion years ago and are surrounded by hundreds of billions of galaxies. Our knowledge of space–time has expanded greatly over the past century. Technology has allowed us to discover, explore and theorise about the mysteries of our universe at the very small and very large scale. Compounds, atoms and subatomic particles have been discovered. The mystery of dark matter and dark energy are perplexing us today.

Dr Tucker will take us through the brilliant explosions known as supernova and our understanding of the life of stars and what the Universe is made of and how its growing and accelerating due to dark energy. The Universe is growing away from us leaving us with our own Milky Way and our own black hole, the question is “ is this the end of our Universe?”.

Most stars end their lives in brilliant explosions known as supernovae. These massive bursts briefly outshine all the light from the galaxy wherein they occur. The past 15 years has been a “boom” period for supernovae with vast amounts of time and effort being invested in these objects. Not only are they important for understanding the life of stars, but they can be used use as cosmological probes to study what the Universe is made of and how it is growing. This use has shown that the Universe is accelerating in its expansion, the subject of the 2011 Nobel Prize, and is being caused by dark energy which will cause the end of the Universe. I will show how our understanding of these objects has been revolutionized using new techniques including the Kepler Space Telescope and what this means for the Universe.

Dr Tucker was due to present this lecture at the July meeting of the Southern Highlands Branch. In light of the current circumstances, this lecture has been replaced by a recordings of a recent presentations he has made:

Dr Brad Tucker is an Astrophysicist/Cosmologist, and currently a Research Fellow. at the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Mt. Stromlo Observatory at the Australian National University. He received Bachelor’s degrees in Physics, Philosophy, and Theology from the University of Notre Dame. He then undertook a PhD at Mt. Stromlo Observatory at the Australian National University, working with Nobel Laureate Professor Brian Schmidt. He is currently working on projects trying to discover the true nature of dark energy, the mysterious substance causing the accelerating expansion of the Universe, which makes up 70% of the Universe. He is the lead of the Kepler Extra-Galactic Survey, a program to understand why and how stars blow up. He is also leading a project to build a network of ultraviolet telescopes in the upper atmosphere, which are being built at Mt. Stromlo, a search for Planet 9, a proposed new planet in our Solar System, and also leading a group designing an Asteroid Mining Mission.

In addition to his research, Brad frequently gives talks to school groups and the general public about Astronomy and has regular segments on various radio and TV stations talking about astronomy news and events. Among other things, Brad has also developed a series of Astronomy Coins in conjunction with the Royal Australian Mint and has consulted on science fiction movies such as Alien: Covenant.

JUL
08

1284th OGM and Open Lecture

Elizabeth Ann Macgregor OBE FRSN“Why Art Matters in Times of Crisis”

Elizabeth Ann Macgregor OBE FRSN

Director, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney

Date: Wednesday, 8 July 2020, 6.30pm
Venue: Zoom webinar
Video recording: YouTube video

The Royal Society of NSW has long emphasised science, but literature, arts and philosophy have always been categories of interest and responsibility. Today, we find more and more that neither the arts nor science can stand alone; each needs the other. Ms Macgregor is fascinated by the interrelationship of science and creativity. In this important talk she will raise ideas about the indispensability of the arts especially in a time in which it seems as if our survival depends only on science.

Summary: Museums and galleries around the world have had to close their doors, turning to digital programs to stay connected with their audiences. News is dominated by the health crisis and the consequent financial issues. What role can museums and galleries play in these unsettling times where social distancing is the norm? MCA Director Elizabeth Ann Macgregor believes in the social impact of art and will outline how artists can play a critical role as we face the challenges of a changed world post crisis.

Ms Elizabeth Macgregor began her career as curator/driver of the Scottish Arts Council's Travelling Gallery. which ignited her commitment to engaging new audiences with the work of living artists. In 1989 she was appointed director of Ikon Gallery, Birmingham and in 1999 she took up the directorship of Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art when it was facing significant challenges. To secure its future, she negotiated a new funding model with government, sponsors and philanthropists. Committed to supporting artists and expanding the audience for art, she has initiated a unique program of partnerships in Western Sydney. She successfully negotiated a $53m building redevelopment completed in 2012 which includes a National Centre for Creative Learning. Last year, the Museum attracted over a million visitors. Ms Macgregor’s innovation and contribution to the arts has been recognised with the Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Award in 2008 and the Australia Business Arts Foundation Business Leadership Award. In 2011 she received an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. In 2019 she was included in ArtReview’s International Power 100 list; she won the 'Arts & Culture Category' of the Australian Financial Review '100 Women of Influence Awards', and was awarded the Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue’s Patrons’ Prize for Collaboration. She sits on the Foundation of the Sydney Swans and the Board of UNICEF Australia.

JUN
27

Annual Dinner 2020, Distinguished Fellow's Lecture and 199th Birthday Celebration

2020 Annual Dinner, Distinguished Speak Lecture and 199th Anniversary

 

YouTube video of the Event.

Join us, online, for the Royal Society of NSW’s black-tie Annual Dinner and to celebrate our 199th Birthday, looking forward to our third century. Our Patron, Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC QC, Governor of New South Wales, will deliver her annual message to the Society.

Easing of COVID-19 Restrictions now allow small gatherings—so why not dress for the occasion, invite friends to share this intellectual and celebratory evening, and toast the Society on its 199th Birthday!

What is an important Birthday without presents?

As a birthday present to the Society for its extraordinary 199-year achievement, we invite Members, Fellows and friends to support our Library and expand its digital collections. We have begun to record and curate our lectures and events, but we are reliant on sub-professional equipment.

Our priority is to buy video/audio recording, streaming and editing equipment—cameras, microphones, video switching equipment, editing software, etc. Help us to enable the Society to build on what it has learnt during these unprecedented COVID times and continue to provide quality online services as we transition to a future that combines face-to-face and online events.

We welcome contributions to the Society’s Library Fund and are grateful to each of you for your gift and your participation in the Society. Donations to the Library Fund are tax deductible and may be made by:

  • Electronic Funds Transfer: from your bank account directly into the Society’s account using the details below. To receive your tax receipt, please also email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. advising that you have donated and stating the amount and the transaction date.
Account name:  Royal Society of NSW Library Fund   BSB: 062 319
Reference:  Your family name and initials  Account Number:  1027 5175
  • Credit Card: Via Currinda, at this link, or by phone through the Society’s administrative partner, The Association Specialists, on 02 9431 8691. Please note, credit card payments incur a small transaction fee.
JUN
18

Southern Highlands Branch Meeting 2020-4

Professor Geordie Williamson“Light, sound, and the magic of the Fourier Transform”

Professor Geordie Williamson FRS FAA
Director, Mathematics Research Institute
University of Sydney

Date: Thursday, 18 June 2020 
Venue: Via email circulation

Summary

Why do guitars, flutes and voices sound different? How do we hear the different notes in a piece of music? What would music look like if we could see it? Most importantly, what does this have to do with the cover of Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of the Moon”? Join Professor Geordie Williamson for a journey into the shape of sound and sound waves to explore the fascinating world of timbre, overtones, modes and frequencies.

While pandemic restrictions on group activities prevail, the South Highlands Branch continues to send members information and summaries from our scheduled speakers.

Professor Williamson was due to present this lecture at the June meeting of the Southern Highlands Branch. In light of the current circumstances, hislecture has been replaced by a recording of arecent presentation:

It is a great lecture containing plenty of examples with which you can identify. 

Professor Geordie Williamson grew up in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia. He was an undergraduate at the University of Sydney, and completed his PhD at the University of Freiburg in Germany. Following his PhD studies he was a Junior Research Fellow at Oxford for three years, and then an Advanced Researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in Bonn. In 2020/21 he will direct a year long program at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

Professor Williamson has lectured all over the world, and has had visiting positions in the US, Germany and Japan. His has been awarded several prizes for his work, including the Chevalley Prize of the American Mathematical Society (2016), the European Mathematical Society Prize (2016), the Clay Research Award (2016), the New Horizons in Mathematics Prize (2017) and the Medal of the Australian Mathematical Society (2018). In 2018 he was elected to the Australian Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society, and is currently the youngest living fellow of both institutions.

JUN
03

1283rd OGM and Open Lecture

Distinguished Professor Elizabeth Elliott“Drinking for three: Mother, baby and society”

Distinguished Professor Elizabeth Elliott AM FRSN FAHMS

The University of Sydney and
Sydney Children’s Hospital (Westmead)

Date: Wednesday, 3 June 2020, 6.30pm
Venue: Zoom Webinar
Video recording: YouTube video

Summary: Australians love alcohol! Amongst the highest consumers in the world, we are renowned for our excellent quality wine. Our national sporting teams are sponsored by the alcohol industry and advertising and promotion of alcohol is rife, including to children. Yet the costs of alcohol are immense. It is difficult to measure the full economic impact of alcohol on our health and mental health and our education, child protection and justice systems. It is impossible to measure the costs to individuals and society.

Alcohol has a particularly devastating impact on the most vulnerable members of society — our children. Tonight, I will discuss the topic of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) and the current state of play in Australia. FASD results from the brain injury to the unborn child that is caused by prenatal alcohol exposure. Children with FASD have severe neurodevelopmental impairment, birth anomalies and learning and behavioural problems, which have lifelong consequences.

Over two decades there has been enormous progress in the recognition of FASD as a significant but preventable public health problem. Clinical practice, education, service development and policy have been guided by a national collaborative approach involving clinicians, researchers, parent support groups, Indigenous communities and NGOs — with government and NHMRC funding. We have a national action plan, advisory group, website, and disease register, training programs and specialist FASD assessment clinics, and research and clinical networks. We have innovative diagnostic techniques and access to the NDIS. But, the future is prevention, which remains our biggest challenge: 60% of Australian women continue to drink during pregnancy and children are increasingly diagnosed with FASD. We know what will minimise alcohol harms but face significant challenges to implementing these interventions, as will be discussed.

About the speaker: Distinguished Professor Elizabeth Elliott holds a Chair in Paediatrics and Child Health at the University of Sydney and is Consultant Paediatrician at the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network (Westmead). She holds a prestigious Practitioner Fellowship, her third, from the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia. In 2019 she received the James Cook Medal for 2018 from the Royal Society of NSW – its highest honour – and was the first female amongst its 47 recipients at that time.

Professor Elliott has dedicated her career to advancing human rights, health and quality of life for ill and disadvantaged children in Australia and beyond, through education, research, clinical care and advocacy. Specific examples include promoting the health and human rights of: children disabled by rare diseases, FASD and vaccine-preventable and other infectious diseases; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, particularly those in remote Australia; Asylum Seeker and Refugee Children, particularly in Immigration detention; children receiving Cochlear implants; Children with Female Genital Mutilation or Cutting (FGMC); and Children living in developing countries in our region, particularly Vietnam.

For over 20 years, Professor Elliott has worked to improve the lives of children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) in Australia. She is regarded as pre-eminent in advocacy, research, policy and clinical care regarding FASD and has an international reputation in the field. She is a member of the Australian Government’s FASD Advisory Committee; Co-Director of the NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence in FASD; Co-Director of the Care and Intervention for Children and Adolescents with Drug and Alcohol Problems (CIDADA); and Head of the CICADA NSW FASD Assessment clinic.

Australian Government funding has allowed Professor Elliott and colleagues to: conduct a FASD prevalence study in remote Aboriginal communities of WA and develop a national Guide to the Diagnosis of FASD, a national Hub (website), a national surveillance system and case Register for FASD, a program to evaluate and disseminate the Diagnostic Guide, and a series of online e-learning modules on alcohol use in pregnancy and FASD. She leads several NHMRC and government funded projects on alcohol in pregnancy and FASD. In 2018 she received the Australian Medical Association’s Excellence in Healthcare Award for her work in FASD and in 2019 received the Starfish Award for research and advocacy in at the International FASD conference in Canada.

Professor Elliott will speak on “Drinking for Three: Mother, baby and society”, a consideration of the urgency of properly addressing Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.

MAY
27

Hunter Branch Meeting 2020-2

Emeritus Professor Eugenie Lumbers“COVID-19 and confusion: the story of a nasty but nice viral receptor”

Emeritus Professor Eugenie Lumbers AM FAA DistFRSN
Hunter Medical Research Institute and
University of Newcastle

Date: Wednesday, 27 May 2020, 5.30pm
Venue: Zoom webinar
Video recording: YouTube video

COVID-19 is an infection caused by a corona virus (SARS-CoV-2). To get into the body it binds to a protein on the surface of the cells of the body’s organs by a viral protein spike. These spikes stick out from the surface of the virus giving it a crown-like appearance, hence the name corona virus. The spike protein binds to an enzyme, ACE2. It is thought that the more ACE2 there is on cell membranes the greater the load of infectious particles there will be to enter cells, i.e., the greater the level of infection.

When the spike protein binds to ACE2 it ‘destroys’ it. ACE2 protects lung, heart and kidneys from the actions of angiotensin II which activates inflammatory pathways, by removing angiotensin II and converting it to an anti-inflammatory peptide. SARS-CoV-2 by binding to ACE2, therefore removes its protective effects.

Recombinant ACE2 can be easily introduced into the body. The question is could ACE2 be used safely to treat COVID-19? Do drugs that lower blood pressure by blocking angiotensin II and also by causing upregulation of ACE2 enhance the severity of COVID-19? Or do these drugs protect against severe tissue damage by suppressing angiotensin II’s inflammatory actions? These conflicting actions of ACE2 are causing confusion in the race to manage patients with COVID-19 and to prevent infection.

Emeritus Professor Eugenie Lumbers is the Honorary Secretary of the Hunter Branch of the RSNSW. She studied medicine at University of Adelaide and subsequently gained a Doctorate in Medicine for her research into the renin-angiotensin system. She was the first woman to be awarded an NHMRC CJ Martin Fellowship and she studied fetal physiology in Oxford where she was a Junior Research Fellow at Wolfson College. Returning to Australia, Eugenie and her husband settled in Sydney where Eugenie was employed at University of NSW. She developed her research on fetal physiology and her team published numerous papers on the fetal and maternal renin-angiotensin systems and their cardiovascular and renal systems. Eugenie was awarded a Doctorate in Science and a personal professorial chair. Subsequently she was the first woman at NSW to be awarded a Scientia Professorship. Eugenie served on numerous university committees as well as committees of the NHMRC, NHF and ARC. She was elected to the University of NSW Council. Eugenie was Head of the School of Physiology and Pharmacology for 9 years. In 2002 she was elected to the Australian Academy of Science and made an Member of the Order of Australia in 2012.

Eugenie retired in 2003 to go sailing. In 2007 she began work at University of Newcastle where she held an adjunct professorial appointment. She also holds an adjunct appointment with University of Queensland. After achieving success in gaining funding, Eugenie began a research program into the reproductive tract renin-angiotensin system together with Dr Kirsty Pringle (now Associate Professor). Eugenie is still actively involved in research at the University of Newcastle in the Hunter Medical Research Institute. The team has been developing a research program in ACE2 among other components of the renin-angiotensin system.

Eugenie has three daughters and five grandchildren.

MAY
21

[email protected]: May 2020

Governor of NSW Crest-Silver and Gold-2020[email protected]

Presented by

Her Excellency the Honourable
Margaret Beazley AC QC, Governor of NSW

Emeritus Professor Robert Clancy
“Ten: the Mapping of Colonial Australia

Emeritus Professor Robert Clancy AM FRSN
The University of Newcastle

Date: Thursday, 21 May 2020, 7.00pm
Venue: Zoom webinar
Video recording: YouTube video

About the talk: Maps are documents of history: they tell a story of place in context. The printed map has been available for 500 years—a remarkable coincidence with the story of Terra Australis, the mapping of Australia, and of the transition from mythology to empiricism as Western science took centre stage. The human history of New South Wales pre-dates all this by at least 60,000 years, engraved in rock, and embedded in a social history looking at the stars.

The intent of this talk is to highlight a very small part of the cartographic story, namely that of the colonial period from 1788 to 1901. The story will be told through a cartographic record of change events, covering a century where a “gaol of 1000 souls would become an independent nation with the highest standard of living in the world”, and told in the context of the colonial governors of the day — ten from the date of colonisation in 1788 through to responsible government in 1855, and ten from 1855 up to Australian Federation in 1901.

Which governors do you think made the most significant differences during this transition?

About the speaker: Emeritus Professor Robert Clancy was the Foundation Professor of Pathology in the University of Newcastle Medical School and a clinical immunologist who undertook research in mucosal immunology and the development of mechanisms to enhance mucosal resistance and control mucosal inflammation. He has a strong involvement in the biotechnology of natural products that maximise mucosal immune competence, protecting against infection, and he maintains a clinic in gastroenterology focused on inflammatory bowel disease.

Professor Clancy has strong, longstanding interests in histocartography relating to the discovery and development of Terra Australis, and the history of science and medicine, with a focus on epidemics. He has written five books on histocartography and is a regular speaker on maps—curating exhibitions and writing numerous articles on this topic. Together with his wife, Christine, he run tours in Europe on the history of medicine and pharmacy, and the history of science.

About [email protected]: In late 2019, Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC QC, Governor of New South Wales and Patron of the Royal Society of NSW, invited representatives of the Society to discuss how the Governor might open Government House to a series of public events based on important and/or influential ideas. Her Excellency’s proposal was that the Royal Society of NSW and other organisations might devise a series of lectures, to be held at Government House, and known as [email protected] on topics of our choice for an invited audience of our Members and Fellows, together with others to be invited by Her Excellency. The lecture would be followed by a reception hosted by Her Excellency. In January 2020, the Governor accepted three topics proposed by the Society. Since then the social restrictions of COVID-19 have intervened, with the face-to-face presentation and reception having to be replaced by an online webinar followed by a live question and answer session. We look forward to a future when we can enjoy the Governor's hospitality at the House.

MAY
21

Southern Highlands Branch Meeting 2020-3

Gut Microbes“The Microbiome and Gut-Brain Axis”

Associate Professor Andrew Holmes 
School of Molecular Bioscience and the Charles Perkins Centre
University of Sydney

Date: Thursday, 21 May 2020 
Venue: Via email circulation

 While pandemic restrictions on group activities prevail, the South Highlands Branch continues to send members information and summaries from our scheduled speakers.

Summary

For this month, we had scheduled Professor Andrew Holmes to speak on the Gut Microbiome. Instead, we have decided to split the material on this subject into three sections as enumerated below.

  1. An introduction by Dr. Giulia Enders: “The gut, The inside story of our Body’s most underrated organ” (TedX video)
  2. A podcast interview of Associate Professor Andrew Holmes by Tom Ballard and Julia Zemiro: “What's the Story with The Gut by Giulia Enders?” (Apple Podcasts)
  3. A more detailed, academic lecture on the Microbiome by Professor Lora Cooper: “Mammalian Gut Microbiota” (iBiology video)

Biographical Details 

Dr Giulia EndersDr Giulia Enders is working to reveal how our gut is at the core of who we are. She is is a medical doctor and author from Germany. In 2012, her presentation “Darm mit Charme” (“Charming Bowels”) won her first prize at the Science Slam in Berlin and went viral on YouTube. Shortly after that she was asked to write a book which turned out a great success in Germany and around the world. Her bestseller Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body's Most Underrated Organ has sold more than four million copies and has been published in over 40 countries. Today Enders is doing research for her medical doctorate at the Institute for Microbiology in Frankfurt and has continued to communicate science in TV and museum projects.

 Associate Professor Andrew HolmesAssociate Professor Andrew Holmes, of the School of Molecular Bioscience and Charles Perkins Centre, University of Sydney, has general interests in microbial diversity, its evolutionary origins and ecological applications. He undertook his PhD studies at the University of Queensland (1989-1992) before postdoctoral stints at the University of Warwick, UK (1992-1996) and Macquarie University (1996-2002). In 2002 he commenced his current position at the University of Sydney where he is now Associate Professor in the School of Molecular Bioscience and Microbiome Project node leader in the Charles Perkins Centre. Andrew’s current research is focussed on understanding the dynamics of gut microbial community composition, the mechanisms of host-microbe interaction in the gut and development of tools to enable management of the gut microbial ecosystem for health. He has particular interests in the relationship between our nutrient environment and its effect on host-microbiome interactions in health. He is a Senior Editor for Microbiology and The ISME Journal and a member of the Editorial Boards of Applied and Environmental Microbiology and Environmental Microbiology.

 Professor Lora CooperProfessor Lora Cooper, a professor of immunology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, describes her career as “a random walk in science.” Her pursuit of science was aided by inspirational mentors who pointed her in directions she might not otherwise have taken. These unexpected turns ultimately led her to study the microbiome: the community of microorganisms that reside in and on multicellular organisms, including humans. When she began her studies, the microbiome was poorly understood and received little attention, but it has increasingly become apparent that the microbiome is essential for human health. In recognition of her work, particularly on how the microbiome manages to safely coexist with its host, Hooper was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2015.

 

MAR
19

Southern Highlands Branch Meeting 2020-2

Professor John Williams“The Murray-Darling Basin Scheme: a challenge in complexity in balancing social, economic and environmental perspectives”

Professor John WIlliams FTSE 
Adjunct Professor
Australian National University and Charles Sturt University 

Date: Thursday, 19 March 2020 
Venue: Via email circulation

 Summary

The Murray–Darling Basin is the largest and most complex river system in Australia. It covers one million square kilometres of south-eastern Australia, across New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory.

 

Murray-Darling Baasin diagram

While pandemic restrictions on group activities prevail, the South Highlands Branch continues to send members information and summaries from our scheduled speakers.

In place of the this talk, two references are provided:

 

Professor John WIlliams is a founding member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering. In 2005, he was awarded the prestigious Farrer Memorial Medal for achievement and excellence in agricultural science. As one of Australia’s respected scientists, John has extensive experience in providing national and international thought leadership in natural-resource management, particularly related to agriculture and its environmental impact. He has published more than 120 papers on soil physics/hydrology and sustainability agriculture. John is currently an Adjunct Professor at ANU Crawford School of Public Policy and Adjunct Professor at CSU Institute for Land, Water and Society. He was formerly Chair of the Water Forum of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering.

John retired in 2011 after nearly six years as Commissioner of the NSW Natural Resources Commission. Other former roles include: Chief, CSIRO Land & Water; Chief Scientist, NSW Department of Natural Resources; member of the Steering Committee of the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems; inaugural Board member for the CRC for Irrigation Futures; member of the Ministerial Scientific Advisory Council for NSW Department of Primary Industry; member of the Commission for the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR); Chair of the Advisory Board to the Commonwealth Environmental Research Fund’s Landscape Logic Hub; Chair of the Environmental Research Advisory Panel to the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities; Chair of the Research Advisory Council to the Murray–Darling Freshwater Research Centre; Scientific Adviser to the Board of Landcare Australia; and a founding Director of the Peter Cullen Water & Environment Trust.
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Royal Society Events

The Royal Society of NSW organizes events in Sydney and in its Branches throughout the year. 

In Sydney, these include Ordinary General Meetings (OGMs) held normally at 6.00 for 6.30 pm on the first Wednesday of the month (there is no meeting in January), in the Gallery Room at the State Library of NSW. At the OGMs, society business is conducted, new Fellows and Members are inducted, and reports from Council are given.  This is followed by a public lecture presented by an eminent expert and an optional dinner.  Drinks are served before the meeting.  There is a small charge to attend the meeting and lecture, and to cover refreshments.  The dinner is a separate charge, and must be booked in advance.  All OGMs are open to members of the public.

Since April 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, face-to-face meetings have been replaced by virtual meetings, conducted as Zoom webinars, allowing the events program to continue uninterrupted.  It is hoped that face-to-face meetings can be resumed in late 2020. 

The first OGM of  the year, held in February, has speakers drawn from the winners of the Royal Society Scholarships from the previous year, while the December OGM hears from the winner of the Jak Kelly award, before an informal Christmas party.  The April or May event is our black-tie Annual Dinner and Distinguished Fellow lecture.

Other events are held in collaboration with other groups, including:

  • The Four Societies lecture — with the Australian Institute of Energy, the Nuclear Panel of Engineers Australia (Sydney Division), and the Australian Nuclear Association
  • The Forum — the Australian Academy of Science, with the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering, the Australian Academy of the Humanities, and the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia
  • The Dirac lecture — with UNSW Sydney and the Australian Institute of Physics
  • The Liversidge Medal lecture — with the Royal Australian Chemical Institute

Sydney meetings 

Hunter meetings

Southern Highlands meetings

 

 

Details of events scheduled for the remainder of the current year by the Southern Highlands branch can be found on its website.

Details of past events held by the Southern Highlands branch can be found here.

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