The top two prizes in UniQuest’s annual Trailblazer innovative ideas competition at The University of Queensland (UQ) have been won by a genetic discovery that could help feed up to a billion people and a safer way to monitor the breathing of premature babies.

Professor Robert Henry and Dr Agnelo Furtado from the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) won the 2012 Staff category for their wheat protein innovation, which aims to improve the bread making properties of cereal grains.

Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology undergraduate, Thomas Drewett won the 2102 Student Category for his technology to help clinicians measure lung inflation when using High Frequency Oscillatory Ventilators (HFOV).

UniQuest Managing Director, David Henderson, said this year’s Trailblazer winners demonstrated how university research could contribute novel and viable solutions to major global challenges.

“We are thrilled that our Trailblazer competition has brought these these innovative ideas to light,” said Mr Henderson.

“Despite being a $150 billion market, current wheat production is not matching global demand. The superior bread making properties of the wheat protein gene that Professor Henry and Dr Furtado have discovered could lead to the development of new cereal crops and help for farmers to meet the world demand for food,” Mr Henderson said.

“HFOV are mechanical ventilators used in the care more than 2,000 Australian babies in neonatal ICU nurseries each year, so a technology to help clinicians achieve the optimum level of lung inflation could mean a significant improvement in the health and development outcomes of premmie babies in the future.”

As UQ’s main research commercialisation company, UniQuest has run Trailblazer every year since 2003 within of a comprehensive education program for stimulating and motivating entrepreneurial activity at the University.

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 Winners and Runners Up in both categories will compete for $50,000 in the Trailblazer Grand Final to be held on 4 September at UQ, against the prize winners from Trailblazer heats at James Cook University, University of Technology Sydney and University of Tasmania.

“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 here:, including the results from the finals at James Cook University, University of Tasmania, and University of Technology, Sydney.

2012 UQ Trailblazer Prize Awards

Winner: Staff Category

Prof Robert Henry & Dr Agnelo Furtado, Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI)
Predicting and controlling superior wheat-baking

Winner: Student Category

Mr Thomas Drewett, Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology
Chest wall monitoring of HFOV neonates

Runner Up: Staff Category

Dr Fiona Simpson, A/Prof Nicholas Saunders & A/Prof Brian Gabrielli, UQ Diamantina Institute
Traffic control for cancer therapy

Runner Up: Student Category

Mr Patrick Littlejohn, Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology
Recovering valuable minerals from mine waste

Highly Commended: Staff Category

Professor Rob Capon, Institute for Molecular Bioscience
Ecological solution for an ecological disaster

Highly Commended: Student Category

Mr James Chalmers & Mr Jake Schoermer, Faculty of Business, Economics, Law and Tourism, Faculty of Arts and Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology

Pitching Excellence Award

Ms Anh Do, Institute for Molecular Bioscience
Easy subcutaneous injection for rodents

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