Brisbane's Trailblazers: Five minutes with Christina Schroeder and Johan Rosengren

“The Trailblazer Grant will provide an opportunity to broaden your horizons and interact with world-leaders in your field and I highly recommend anyone who is interested in organising a conference to apply for the Trailblazer Grant and take advantage of the support you will receive.”

In 2018, Brisbane Marketing launched the Lord Mayor’s Convention Trailblazer Grant, an initiative designed to empower the city’s early-career professionals and researchers to make their mark and to grow Brisbane’s reputation as a global conventions city.

Christina Schroeder and Johan Rosengren were two of the seven winners of the inaugural grant and travelled to Tokyo in December 2018 to attend the International Peptide Symposium. Working with the Business Events team and various other industry stakeholders, Brisbane won the bid to host the 2021 International Peptide Symposium which will see over 650 scientists converge on the city, providing opportunities for networking, collaboration and knowledge sharing. Learn a little more about Christina and Johan, the ground-breaking research they are doing and why they encourage professionals and researchers to apply for the grant.

Tell us a little about yourself and your current work:

Christina: I am an Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellow and an Institute for Molecular Bioscience Industry Fellow research-only academic at The University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience. Over the last 15 years I have been working in the field of bioactive venom peptide research mining the venom of cone snails, spiders and snakes in search of novel therapeutics for the treatment of chronic pain and cancer.

Johan: I am a senior research fellow at the School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Queensland. My position is research-focussed and I work primarily on bioactive peptides. These naturally-occurring substances have evolved for specific functions and they have uses in both biotechnological and pharmaceutical applications. My laboratory isolates and characterises novel substances, and through molecular design aims to develop them for innovative purposes.

What inspired you to get into your field and what excites you about your industry?

Christina: Our industry delivers high impact medical research in the field of Life Sciences. I am inspired by the life-changing benefits which bioactive venom peptide research aims to achieve and excited about the current research in our industry and the development of novel, potent therapies with fewer side effects. I am passionate about the power of worldwide academic collaborations and am excited to see the shift towards universities engaging with industry, resulting in higher impact research through access to industry facilities, expertise and technology platforms.

Johan: Biomedical Sciences fascinate me, and I enjoy the freedom to lead a lab that explores my own research interests across bioactive peptides. I am excited about the research my lab is conducting and am passionate in leading our research group to become a leading force nationally and internationally in peptide science, contributing to knowledge, teaching and research.

What makes you excited about bringing the International Peptide Symposium to Brisbane and what is the potential legacy for the industry?

Christina: Bringing the symposium to Brisbane will further cement Australia’s role as a key player in the global peptide community – the conference will bring delegates from all over the world to the city. The symposium will also give the Australian Peptide Association an opportunity to strengthen its international reputation.

Johan: Collaborations are essential for success in research and hosting the symposium in Brisbane will help further strengthen and grow our international knowledge network. It will be an exciting opportunity for the University of Queensland to showcase its world class research, and for the large number of peptide scientists at UQ and other universities across Brisbane and Queensland to interact with leading scientists from around the world.

When you offer up your ‘elevator pitch’ of sorts, how do you describe Brisbane?

Christina: Brisbane as a city has so much to offer both from a scientific and a liveability perspective and is the gateway to the beautiful Moreton Bay with easy access to Moreton, Stradbroke and Fraser Islands as well as Lamington and Binna Burra National Parks – all drawcards for delegates looking to extend their visit in Australia.

Brisbane’s excellence in Life Sciences research has helped boost Australia’s reputation as a leading player in the world-wide peptide community. Hosting the International Peptide Symposium here in 2021 will facilitate further networking opportunities creating long-lasting collaborations and partnerships with the city.

Johan: Brisbane is a modern new world city that is easily accessible for both international and national delegates with excellent flight connections and plenty of accommodation options. The tropical climate and beautiful surroundings of Brisbane are major drawcards which offer further opportunities for delegates to extend their stay.

How has your involvement with the Trailblazer Grant program benefitted you?

Christina: The Trailblazer Grant allowed Johan and I to attend and present our research at the conference in Tokyo and to present our bid to bring the conference to Brisbane. The support from Brisbane Marketing and Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre was crucial to us winning the bid – the team assisted us with applying for conference funding and made the whole process easy thanks to their support every step of the way.

Johan: The program has significantly helped raise my international profile in my field – I have made many new important connections and future collaborations by attending the International Peptide Conference and the liaison meeting with the chairs for various international societies.

Do you have any advice to offer potential applicants and future Trailblazers?

Christina: The Trailblazer Grant will provide an opportunity to broaden your horizons and interact with world-leaders in your field and I highly recommend anyone who is interested in organising a conference to apply for the Trailblazer Grant and take advantage of the support you will receive.

Johan: Go for it! The long-term benefits to your career will outweigh the monetary value of this grant many times down the track.

Find out more about the Lord Mayor's Convention Trailblazer Grant.