$12.2m federal boost for vital research

Nov 13 2017

Hunter researchers have attracted $12.2m in the latest round of National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funding to investigate some of the nation’s and world’s greatest health challenges.

Announced today by the Assistant Minister for Health, the Hon Dr David Gillespie MP, at the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI), the NHMRC funding for Newcastle will support 17 research projects and three fellowships.

Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation), Professor Kevin Hall, said the NHMRC’s support for Newcastle’s researchers was testament to the University's reputation for conducting world-class research.

"The University of Newcastle boasts some of the most accomplished, innovative and internationally-renowned minds in health and medicine," Professor Hall said.

“Today’s announcement by the Australian Government bolsters Newcastle’s outstanding research performance in stroke and fertility, and acknowledges our strengths in research delivery across respiratory diseases, cancers and, mental health and substance use.”

"Research carried out at UON benefits not only the Hunter community, but also creates impact both nationally, and worldwide. Today's announcement of almost $12 million in new funding will allow our academics to continue to lead the way in health and medical research."

The NHMRC funding announcement includes support for the following projects:

• $1.4m to Professor Amanda Baker and her team to develop Quitlink: Accessible smoking cessation support for people living with severe and enduring mental illness. This project will use the peer workforce, whose development in mental health services is a national priority, to bridge the persistent gap between mental health services and Quitline.

• $385,000 to Dr Chantal Donovan and her team to target remodelling in COPD, chronic asthma and Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF). These diseases have enormous socioeconomic burdens in worldwide, and are amongst the most common, debilitating lung diseases, characterised by a loss of lung function leading to severe breathing difficulties.

• $870,000 to Associate Professor Christopher Dayas and his team: Cognitive inflexibility and the development of pathological habits in brain diseases.

• $1.1m to Associate Professor Murray Cairns and his team to examine complete genomics for mechanistic insight and precision treatments of schizophrenia.

• $640,000 to Associate Professor Murray Cairns to investigate the network biomarkers of traumatic stress resilience and sensitivity. This project will explore why some individuals exposed to trauma respond adversely while others do not. Traumatic stress is a significant precursor for chronic mental and physical illness, which collectively represent a substantial burden of disease globally.

• $650,000 to Associate Professor Brett Graham and his team who will determine how a recently discovered network of nerve cells in the spinal cord contributes to extreme, persistent pain, and explore how it could be targeted to provide pain relief.

• $1m to Associate Professor Christopher Grainge and his team to investigate whether bronchoconstriction (airway narrowing) worsens asthma.

• $925,000 to Professor Philip Hansbro and his team explain the role and potential for therapeutic targeting of toll-like-receptor 7 (TLR7) in emphysema and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

• $905,000 to Professor Phil Hansbro and his team to define the roles and targeting interferon-epsilon as a new therapy for influenza in asthma and COPD.

• $820,000 to Dr Gerard Kaiko and his team to investigate functional characterisation of novel metabolites in asthma and identification of new biomarkers.

• $175,000 to Dr Heather Lee and her team to target cancer-initiating cells with DNA methyltransferase (DNMT) inhibitors, which may lead to the prevention of cancer progression.

• $405,000 to Associate Professor Joerg Lehmann and his team: First ever system to continuously and directly measure the internal anatomy to guide breast cancer radiation treatment under deep inspiration breath hold.

• $530,000 to Professor Brett Nixon and his team for their project: Elucidating the role of epididymosomes in the transfer of fertility-modulating proteins and regulatory classes of RNA to maturing spermatozoa.

• $450,000 to Dr Kirsty Pringle and her team to explore the factors that inhibit the trigger of preterm birth, the single largest cause of death in infants. This may lead to the identification of novel treatments that have the potential to delay the onset of preterm labour.

• $510,000 to Associate Professor Rohan Walker and his team to investigate paralysis of microglial (a type of cell located throughout the brain and spinal cord) in post-stroke neurodegeneration (SND): help or hindrance?

• $490,000 for Associate Professor Rohan Walker to assess stroke induced disturbances in glymphatic clearance: implications for brain repair?

• $675,000 Professor Xu Dong Zhang for their project: Role of lncRNA IDH1-AS1 in regulating c-Myc driven-glycolysis and tumorigenesis.