Science animators to make biomedicine beautiful

Sydney’s Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Melbourne’s Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research and CSIRO have jointly received a competitive grant (Inspiring Australia: Unlocking Australia’s Potential) to create scientifically accurate 3D animations that explain the latest biomedical research in a way that inspires and engages the general public.
Science animators to make biomedicine beautiful
Media Release: 13 June 2012

Sydney’s Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Melbourne’s Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research and CSIRO have jointly received a competitive grant (Inspiring Australia: Unlocking Australia’s Potential) to create scientifically accurate 3D animations that explain the latest biomedical research in a way that inspires and engages the general public.

Inspiring Australia is an initiative supported by the Australian Government through the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education, which aims to increase the engagement of Australians in science.

The current round of funding, announced this morning, will support around 60 projects nationwide, to be delivered between 2012 and 2014. Garvan, the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute and CSIRO jointly received $350,000 – one of the largest grants awarded – and will add matching contributions, bringing the total value of the project to just over $1 million.

Called “VIZBI+ - Visualising the Future of Biomedicine”, the project is being led jointly by Dr Kate Patterson at the Garvan Institute, Dr Sean O’Donoghue at CSIRO and Garvan, and molecular animator Mr Drew Berry at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.


Mr Berry, and his colleague at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute Ms Etsuko Uno, will train three new science animators. The animations created by the project will be presented at a series of high-profile VIZBI+ outreach events at the participating organisations in 2013-2014. The animations will also be available for television broadcast and online education.

“To see a process happening, rather than hear or read about it, can make a huge difference in people’s understanding of complex scientific concepts and medical problems,” said Dr Kate Patterson, a scientist and future animator at Garvan.

“This is a great opportunity to communicate science – especially with people who may not have been exposed to these ideas in the past.”

Emmy award winner Drew Berry, who has many years of experience creating scientific animations, uses the same animation software as Pixar Animation Studios and video game creators. His work has been reaching large national audiences through television news bulletins, science documentaries and installations in museums, as well as global audiences through YouTube and international film festivals. Click here to see examples of previous work by Drew Berry and Etsuko Uno.

“I’m really looking forward to the collaboration between Garvan, the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute and CSIRO, as I believe it will help magnify our messages greatly,” he said.

“I like to make sure that representation of research is as accurate as possible, and so my animations always draw on real data. That takes quite a bit of time, with a typical production taking anything from three to 12 months to produce three to six minutes of animation.”

Dr Sean O’Donoghue, who holds a joint position at CSIRO and Garvan, is a specialist in ‘bio-data visualisation’, a field which represents biological data visually using many techniques. “Our plan is to take Drew Berry’s approach, scale it up and use CSIRO’s infrastructure to deliver content nationally and beyond,” he said.

“The overriding idea is to create capability to deliver inspiring communication of cutting-edge biomedical research that will endure well beyond the life of this grant.”

 

ABOUT THE WALTER AND ELIZA HALL INSTITUTE
The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute is Australia's oldest medical research institute, and will celebrate its centenary in 2015. It is home to more than 650 scientists who are working to understand, prevent and treat diseases including cancer – particularly blood, breast, ovarian and lung cancers - type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, coeliac disease, hepatitis and malaria. The institute’s award-winning biomedical animation studio, WEHI.TV, has produced more than 15 animations to explain the discoveries of scientists at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute through 3D animation.

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