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$4.5m in NHMRC Ideas Grants supports the quest to improve human health

Nov 8 2021

$4.5m in NHMRC Ideas Grants supports the quest to improve human health

Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) and University of Newcastle researchers will explore new stroke prevention therapies, preterm birth interventions and a dual approach to breast cancer treatment with the support of $4.5m in National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Ideas grants.  

The NHMRC Ideas Grant scheme supports innovative and creative research. It builds on Australia’s strong skills and international reputation in advanced health and medical research. 

The Health Minister announced the latest round of grants on Thursday, 4 November, and six HMRI and University of Newcastle researchers successfully secured funding. 

Conjoint Associate Professor Christopher Grainge  $909,800 

Impaired mucociliary clearance drives bronchiectasis progression 

How bronchiectasis develops and progresses in the lung remains a mystery. One of the key features of bronchiectasis is the inability to clear mucus from the airways which leads to mucus stagnation. Associate Professor Grainge and his team have identified a defect in production of the cells critical to moving mucus in the airways in samples taken from patients with bronchiectasis. By identifying the causes of this defect Associate Professor Grainge predicts they may be able to reverse it and restore healthy mucus clearance in patients that suffer with bronchiectasis. 

Professor Lee Smith  $733,000 

Adrenal-targeted nanobiotechnology: A novel therapy for adrenal disease 

The adrenal gland produces hormones essential for life-long health. Conditions related to the disruption of these hormones affect 4 million Australians every year, at a cost of $2 billion. Adrenal conditions require life-long drug replacement therapy, with no possibility of a cure. Through the use of a new adrenal specific delivery technology, Professor Smith and his team aim to develop novel drug treatments and single-injection cures for adrenal disease. 

Dr Jonathan Paul $732,300 

Targeted delivery of nucleic acid therapeutics for preventing preterm birth 

Thousands of babies could be saved each year with a timely intervention for preterm birth. Current approaches are hampered by a lack of drug specificity. To address this, Dr Paul and his team first developed uterine-targeted nanocarriers for targeting interventions to the pregnant uterus. He now seeks to leverage this platform for the targeted delivery of nucleic acid therapeutics. This bold strategy aims to modulate cellular phenotype in order to block the premature uterine contractions that cause preterm birth. 

Associate Professor Nicole Verrills $597,800 

A dual approach to activate a tumour suppressor for breast cancer therapy 

Cancer is characterised by inactivation of proteins that inhibit cell growth and survival, called tumour suppressors. A rational way to treat cancer is to re-activate the tumour suppressors. Until recently this was not possible. However, Associate Professor Verrills and her team have developed drugs that can do this. The team will fully characterise how these drugs function in breast cancer, and use this knowledge to develop new anti-cancer therapies that could have wide reaching applicability for many cancer patients. 

Dr Kirsten Coupland  $497,200 

New pathways to improved stroke outcome: the importance of managing intracranial pressure 

Stroke is caused by a loss of blood supply that results in brain tissue death leading to disability. Delayed expansion of stroke injury can occur in the 24-48 hours after stroke. What causes this was previously unknown. Dr Coupland and her team found an increase in cerebrospinal fluid pressure, that affects blood flow to the injury site, is likely to blame. Dr Coupland has evidence that a change in the composition of cerebrospinal fluid drives this increase in pressure and she aims to design therapies to prevent it. 

Dr Suzi Edwards  $1,026,100 

Effectiveness of empirically based tackle technique intervention to reduce the in-game risk of concussion 

Concussion in collision sports, is a prominent community health concern, occurring mostly during tackles. To make the sport safer for all players, Dr Edwards’ research will reveal how a rugby player’s tackles alters their head forces and how retraining their tackle technique could reduce their concussion risk. The research team’s tackle coaching program will have an Indigenous focus as many players identify as Indigenous/Pasifika. Dr Edwards will use this information to develop new coaching guidelines to make the sport safer.