Rolling out the red carpet for inspiring biomedical animation

Three biomedical animations will be premiered today at Melbourne’s spectacular glass-walled Deakin Edge theatre in Federation Square, prior to being made available for television broadcast and online education.

Dr Kate Patterson

Media Release: 10 April 2014

Three biomedical animations will be premiered today at Melbourne’s spectacular glass-walled Deakin Edge theatre in Federation Square, prior to being made available for television broadcast and online education.

The clips are a labour of love and have been a year in the making. To celebrate their birth, the red carpet will literally be rolled out for their creators, three scientist-animators: Dr Kate Patterson from Garvan, Chris Hammang from CSIRO, and Dr Maja Divjak from Melbourne’s Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research.

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

BAFTA and Emmy award winning biomedical animation guru, Drew Berry, mentored the trio of animators as part of an Inspiring Australia* project.

The animators used the same animation software as Dreamworks, Pixar Animation Studios and video game makers to create mesmerising magnifications of our interior molecular landscapes. While fantastic, the animations are not fantasies. They are well-researched 3D representations of what actually happens in our bodies at the micro scale.

Drew’s three protégés all emulate his meticulous methods of representing real science in a way that makes it meaningful outside the lab.

Kate Patterson's DNA moleculeKate Patterson’s animation (image left) shows that cancer is not a single disease. She highlights the role of the tumour suppressor protein p53, known as ‘the guardian of the cell’, in the formation of many cancer types.

“Mutated p53 is just one of thousands of mistakes that can occur in cancer,” said Kate.

“DNA sequencing and other new technologies now enable these mistakes to be detected in individual cancers. What’s really exciting is that different types of cancer can share some molecular mistakes which means treatments developed for one cancer could be used to treat another.”Owned by Chris Hammang of CSIRO

Chris Hammang’s animation (image right) describes how starch gets broken down in the gut. It is based on CSIRO health research about ‘resistant starch’, which protects against colorectal cancer, one of Australia’s biggest killers. Chris hopes viewers will see the importance of eating beans and other foods rich in resistant starch.

Maja Divjak's animation (image below) highlights how diseases associated with inflammation, such as type 2 diabetes, are ‘lifestyle’ diseases that represent some of the greatest health threats of the 21st century.

"My animation focuses on the role of the newly-discovered 'inflammasome' in type 2 diabetes, which is being studied by researchers at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute," said Maja.
Owned by Maja Divjak of WEHI"The inflammasome is a really amazing structure assembled by the immune system to protect the body from foreign invaders, but is also plays a key role in type 2 diabetes."

 Dr Sean O’Donoghue, one of the three project leaders and long-term champion of biodata visualisation, pointed out that many of the current YouTube generation are watchers rather than readers.

“We are in the middle of a communication revolution, and I see animation as one of the keys to unlocking the mysteries of science,” he said.

“In modern science, we are discovering very complex phenomena that are often hard to communicate because they are occurring at a molecular scale. Biomedical animations, such as those being presented in Melbourne, have the power to make these invisible events visible.”

“Animation is critical for helping to keep the public informed, particularly when advances in fundamental research lead to exciting breakthroughs in healthcare.”

The clips will be viewable online after the event at:


* Inspiring Australia is a Federal government initiative, Australia's national strategy for engagement with the sciences.

The goal of VIZBIplus is to train three scientists to create scientifically accurate 3D animations that explain the latest biomedical research in a way that inspires and engages the general public, and then present this work in public events to maximise the reach of the work.


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