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Ten years of advocacy: how BCEC capitilised on its scientific community

A partnership between Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre (BCEC) and local scientific and industry leaders has secured 127 conferences for the city since it began 10 years ago.

The BCEC Convention Advocates Partnership recruits expert conference ambassadors to help win important business events for the Queensland capital and now has 84 in its ranks.

In the last ten years these advocates have helped boost the regional economy by A$172m. Against the backdrop of COVID-19, they have continued to inspire and innovate, helping to create real change in world leading research and development.

Here’s what a few have been up to:

Professor Hugh Possingham – a mathematician, environmentalist and conservationist – has been appointed Queensland Chief Scientist, advising government on all scientific matters.

He will continue his long and distinguished career solving nature conservation problems, while engaging Queenslanders to take greater community interest in science through citizen science programs and inspiring young Queenslanders to consider science careers.

Possingham was most recently Chief Scientist at The Nature Conservancy, a global conservation organisation with 400 scientists and 4000 staff that has protected more than 40 million hectares of land and thousands of kilometres of rivers worldwide.

Professor Jeff Dunn

Professor Jeff Dunn, a leader in cancer control, has been voted President-Elect of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), to assume the role of President for the period 2022 – 2024. Dunn, CEO of Prostate Cancer Foundation Australia, is an internationally recognised researcher, widely acclaimed for his work across the social and behavioural aspects of cancer and promotion of innovative and integrated cancer care programs. 

Professor Matt Cooper is a scientific entrepreneur who spends his time in industry within companies he has founded, and in academia where he generates original ideas with potential to be translated into new medicines and diagnostics.

Professor Matthew Cooper

Announced as this year’s EY Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year for Ireland, Cooper and business partner, Trinity immunologist Professor Luke O’Neill recently sold Inflazome, the drug development company they founded, to Swiss pharma giant Roche.

When he is not treading the boards of international big business, Professor Cooper can be found at The University of Queensland where he is Director, Community for Open Antibiotic Drug Discovery at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience, working to improve the way we understand, diagnose and treat antibiotic-resistant bacteria that cause sepsis and other infections.  He hopes to help prevent the arrival of a ‘superbug crisis’, which he refers to as the perfect storm.

Mario Pennisi, a giant in Queensland’s Life Sciences sector and on the boards of a number of life sciences entities, including as a Director of the Queensland Eye Institute Foundation was recently awarded an Order of Australia for

Mario Pennisi

his significant service to the biomedical sector. He continues to support and nurture the industry, involved with the Queensland Government Biofutures Industry Advisory Group, sitting on the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Council and other engagements and committees for both Griffith University and The University of Queensland. Mario reflects that the ability for Queensland and Australia to be involved at the forefront of the global COVID-19 response demonstrates the significant value that continued investment in the knowledge-based industries can deliver.

With news of multiple COVID-19 vaccines showing early signs of promise, world famous immunologist, Professor Ian Frazer, co-inventor of the world’s first cancer vaccine, Gardasil – used around the world to prevent cervical cancer – shared his thoughts with us on the prospect of a successful vaccine, likely effectiveness and timeframe.

Professor Frazer is currently working with his team at The University of Queensland in Brisbane on a skin cancer vaccine – appropriate given Australia is the world’s skin cancer capital.