The HMRI Award for Research Excellence is HMRI’s premier award and recognises the achievements of an outstanding researcher who has made a sustained contribution to research in the Hunter.
Recipients have contributed to enhancing the research environment in the Hunter Region through team building, mentorship, establishment of major research initiatives or research capacity.
This year’s award was donated by Walkom Real Estate.
Through her burgeoning media profile and prolific publication record, Professor Clare Collins needs little introduction to anyone interested in nutritional health.
She completed her PhD in 2000 while working clinically as a paediatric dietitian at John Hunter Children’s Hospital, and now serves as co-director of the UON’s Priority Research Centre in Physical Activity and Nutrition and Director of Research for the School of Health Sciences.
In addition, Professor Collins is a Fellow and spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA).
Her distinguished research record includes 295 journal articles – 190 in the past 5 years alone – and more than 300 conference abstracts. Further, she has mentored more than 20 dietitians to completion and currently supervises 16 Higher Degree Research candidates.
As CI, Professor Collins has received more than $20 million in grant support. Among these are two personal fellowships and five project grants from the NHMRC, plus a recent contribution of $1.7 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Professor Collins has a proven capacity to disseminate research findings, with more than 260,000 people completing her web-based Healthy Eating Quiz and a further 80 research projects purchasing her Australian Eating Survey assessment tool.
It is testament to Professor Collins’ commitment to improving nutritional knowledge and informing the development of evidence-based health policy.
While HMRI has a strong history of recognising the achievements of senior and early career researchers, HMRI Director Professor Michael Nilsson recognised a gap in recognition for mid-career researchers – those within 15 years since completing a PhD.
The HMRI Director’s Award for Mid-Career Research rewards the dedication and achievements of one of the Hunter’s most gifted mid-career researchers.
With physical inactivity becoming a global pandemic, Professor David Lubans is on a mission to ensure that young people have the confidence and competence to be more active, more of the time.
As a theme-leader in the UON’s Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition, his interventions for improved fitness are widely implemented in both primary and secondary school settings.
Of note, Professor Lubans has been a Chief Investigator on projects directly benefitting more than 10,000 children and adolescents in Australia (particularly the Hunter Region), the UK, New Zealand, Brazil and Hong Kong.
Professor Lubans has more than 190 peer-reviewed journal publications. That he is first or senior author on over 60% (since 2012) demonstrates his writing skills. Few other researchers in the area of school-based physical activity interventions have both the quality and quantity of Professor Lubans publications at such an early career stage.
He has secured over $18 million in competitive research funding, including four NHMRC grants, while gaining an ARC Future Fellowship in 2014.
Professor Lubans was Principal Investigator on the HMRI-funded Supporting Children’s Outcomes using Rewards, Exercise and Skills (SCORES) intervention, which is now being disseminated in 200 NSW primary schools.
He provides mentorship for a large team, comprising four early career researchers, one post-doc, 12 PhD students and two research assistants at the University of Newcastle. He has 11 Research Higher Degree completions and four Honours completions.
Providing funds for early career researchers – those within five years since completing their PhD –to help retain the best research talent in the Hunter.
The HMRI Award for Early Career Medical Research supports professional development, raise awareness and acknowledge the work of talented early career researchers at a critical time in their career.
Associate Professor Gould attained her PhD in 2015 as an experienced GP and naturally gravitated to Indigenous health research.
Her passion and dedication was soon demonstrated by her collaborative and culturally inclusive approach to the complex area of smoking cessation during pregnancy, with a practical, applied focus on translation to the groups most affected.
Based at Calvary Mater Newcastle, Associate Professor Gould led a grassroots, indepth qualitative research project in the Hunter and with Aboriginal Medical Services in Taree and Forster. From this, the renowned SISTAQUIT (formerly ICAN QUIT in Pregnancy) intervention was developed.
Associate Professor Gould reached out to pre-test and pilot the project in three States, demonstrating successful translation of her approach in other Indigenous communities. She is further supported by the Hunter Primary Health Network to extend her explorations in Tamworth and Moree.
Over the past three years, she has attracted four prestigious fellowships totalling $1.46 million. SISTAQUIT was awarded $2.26 million by the NHMRC, adding to a research career tally of $6 million.
Through this time, Associate Professor Gould has sustained a high level of research output – 58 publications (56 as first or last author) including 30 peerreviewed journal articles. Her leadership qualities are further evidenced by the establishment of international collaborations with the Mayo Clinic and University College London.
This remarkable career trajectory suggests that Associate Professor Gould has the potential to be one of the highest achieving researchers, early career or otherwise, in her field.
HMRI has proudly initiated five new Fellowships in 2017 with the generous support of donors. By providing long-term financial security, these help to attract, retain and support our talented and leading researchers.
Vanessa McGuigan HMRI Research Fellowship in Ovarian Cancer Honouring the profoundly tragic loss of their daughter Vanessa, Brian and Fay McGuigan – together with the University of Newcastle – are jointly funding a 10-year HMRI Fellowship dedicated to ovarian cancer research. Dr Nikola Bowden is the recipient.
Haggarty Foundation Fellowship Tony and Karen Haggarty are funding a five-year Fellowship to investigate the biological impact of placental ageing on stillbirth rates. Dr Kaushik Maiti is the recipient.
Dalara Foundation Fellowship Allan & Lynn Davies are supporting a five-year Fellowship for a stroke project led by Professor Neil Spratt, tackling a rise in intracranial pressure. Candidate recruitment will commence shortly.
Mark Hughes Foundation (MHF) Fellowship Funded by the Mark Hughes Foundation, radiation oncologist Dr Mike Fay has been named the inaugural recipient of a three-year HMRI Mid-Career Research Fellowship dedicated to brain cancer.
Matt Callander Beanie For Brain Cancer Fellowship The success of the 2017 MHF Beanie for Brain Cancer campaign has funded a prestigious Fellowship honouring the late Matt Callander, a Nine Network NRL executive producer. The recipient is Dr Kelly McKelvey from the Sydney Neuro Oncology Group, working in collaboration with Hunter cancer researchers.
These awards support female researchers at any stage of their career that requires funding, not offered by any other scheme. The primary objective is to address retention and progression rates.
HMRI’s Exceptional Service Medal is rewarded to those who have provided supreme service and guidance to HMRI over many years. An Exceptional Service Medal is the highest honour we can bestow.
Tonight we recognise five new recipients:
Hilton served the maximum director’s term of 12 years from February 2006 to August 2015 and proved an invaluable ally during the funding and construction of the HMRI Building.
Glenn became Foundation Chair in 2006 then served as Board Chair from February 2013 until December 2016.
Neville served on the HMRI Board from November 2007 to October 2016, providing excellent corporate stewardship and links to local business community.
Brad’s involvement with HMRI began in 1999 when the ‘PULSE’ group was launched. From 2004-2015 he served as Chief Operating Officer and Associate Director Strategy and Engagement.
The Hon. Bob Baldwin
The former Federal Member for Paterson facilitated key introductions in Canberra over many years and strongly advocated for funding for the HMRI Building.
HMRI is fortunate to receive extraordinary support from some key individuals, trusts, foundations and businesses over many years and multiple projects. HMRI gratefully recognises the ongoing generosity of its Major Benefactors.
Gastronomic Lunch of the Year
Neil Slater, from Scratchleys on the Wharf, organises a major annual fundraising effort called the Gastronomic Lunch of the Year.
Greater Bank and Greater Charitable Foundation
Greater Bank was an inaugural donor and, along with the Greater Charitable Foundation, have maintained support for the Stroke Research Group.
Tony and Karen Haggarty supported the HMRI Building capital campaign in 2011 and have funded stillbirth research ever since.
Jennie Thomas AM
HMRI Life Governor Jennie Thomas AM invests in the career development of young people, helping to shape who they are and what they do
Kiriwina Investment Company
Kiriwina has supported HMRI since 2000, including a grant this year to A/Professor Estelle and Dr Jean-Marie Sontag for Alzheimer's disease.
Jointly funding a 10-year Fellowship dedicated to ovarian cancer research
The nib foundation first supported HMRI in 2010 and maintains its connection with Professor Clare Collins and her Nutrition Connect program. Port Waratah Coal Services PWCS has partnered with HMRI on two multi-year projects, the second of which is the Dads And Daughters Exercising and Empowered (DADEE) study.
Supporters of asthma and nutritional research since 2010.
Thyne Reid Foundation
Thyne Reid Foundation has continued to support work in Mothers and Babies led by Laureate Professor Roger Smith AM.
Community donors and organisations who have contributed more than $20,000 in a financial year are invited to sponsor a named project grant. HMRI Project Grants also comprise smaller donations made by the community, with donors who have contributed more than $6,000 acknowledged as project supporters.
HMRI Depression Research Project Grant
Sponsored by the Stroud Rodeo Association, a foundation supporter of HMRI. The long-running event attracts around 2500 people to Stroud Showground each year.
Awarded to: Associate Professor Kym Rae to explore whether women who undertake an ArtsHealth program derive greater happiness and an increase in social networking and support.
HMRI Multiple Sclerosis Research Project Grant
Supported by the MS Ball, organised by Honeysuckle Hotel.
Awarded to: Dr Vicki Maltby for her project titled ‘The effect of treatment on patients with Multiple Sclerosis’. It will investigate changes that occur in the immune system during the course of commonly used MS treatments.
Keith Tulloch Wines Project Grants
Keith and Amanda Tulloch, through their Keith Tulloch Vinum Cellarium Wine Dinners, have been an invaluable supporter of HMRI since 2006. Their funds have supported research in asthma, chronic stress, stroke, postnatal depression and prostate cancer. This year, two grants are targeting diabetes.
Awarded to: Dr Rachel Wong. Her project aims to show how poor vessel function in the brain is contributing to cognitive deficits in adults with Type-1 Diabetes.
Awarded to: Associate Professor Vivienne Chuter to test the effectiveness of non-invasive measures for predicting the development of diabetic foot ulcers and the risk of subsequent amputation.
Rotary District 9670 Bowelscan Cancer Grants
The Rotary District 9670 Bowelscan committee draws representatives from Belmont, Singleton, Raymond Terrace, Williamtown, Nelson Bay, Narromine and Dubbo, raising funds through the sale of Bowelscan kits.
Awarded to: Dr Peter Pockney, who is looking to develop a more accurate test to identify patients with bowel cancer. The project will help determine which
patients require a colonoscopy, in order to reduce a large number of unnecessary interventions.
Awarded to: Dr Chen Chen Jiang to help to define a particular molecule as a diagnostic and prognostic biomarker, and develop a strategy for targeting this to treat bowel and other cancers.
First National Newcastle City ‘Spring Fling’ Grant
First National Newcastle City principal George Rafty used a ‘Spring Fling’ auction event to help raise life-changing funds for medical research.
Awarded to: Professor Lisa Wood whose project will determine whether a soluble fibre intervention can improve childhood asthma management.
Bob and Terry Kennedy Infertility Research Project Grant
Bob Kennedy served as HMRI Chairman from 2007 to 2013. He and his wife Terry have continued their close association with HMRI, through this year’s project grant in Pregnancy and Reproduction.
Awarded to: Dr Elizabeth Bromfield for her project ‘Investigating new ways to prevent cellular stress in the male germline’.
Anthony Sweetman Project Grant
Supporting oesophageal cancer research, this grant is in memory of the late Anthony Sweetman.
Awarded to: Associate Professor Jennifer Schneider. Titled ‘A Helping Hand’, her project asks – “Will fingerprick and pre-dosing blood tests point the way to improved chemotherapy dosing in oesophageal cancer?”.
The Cameron Family Project Grant
Long-term supporters of HMRI, the Cameron Family like to be hands-on in selecting the research they support. The Cameron’s enthusiasm and passion for local health and medical research is greatly appreciated and truly inspiring.
Awarded to: Associate Professor Simon Keely to study the associations between the microbiota and gastrointestinal leaks following bowel surgery.
HTRF Renal Transplant Project Grant
The Hunter Transplant Research Foundation was established to address problems in transplant clinical practice. It runs fundraising events including the annual Glow Walk.
Awarded to: Conjoint Professor Josh Davis for the study “Using a common virus to help monitor immunosuppression in people with kidney transplants”.
MHF Grant for Children’s Brain Cancer
From Balls to Beanies, the Mark Hughes Foundation raises community funds to support dedicated research in Brain Cancer.
Awarded to: Laureate Professor Rodney Scott, who aims to obtain genetic knowledge about the causes of childhood brain cancer, and patterns of inheritance associated with the disease.
HMRI Multiple Myeloma Project
Supported by the estate of the late Dorothy Ruth Frost
Awarded to: Dr Anoop Enjeti to undertake a genome-wide approach to risk assess Multiple Myeloma and precursor plasma cell disorders.
HMRI Children’s Cancer Project Grant
Supported by the Hunter District Hunting Club
Awarded to: Dr Matt Dun, looking at the causes of leukaemia in children with Shwachman-Diamond Syndrome.
HMRI Migraine Research Grants
Two awards funded by the Estate of the late Joan Elizabeth Swanson
Awarded to: Professor Peter Howe for a pilot study in premenopausal women, that asks whether Resveratrol is a cause or a cure for migraine.
Awarded to: Professor Clare Collins to determine which of two dietary approaches is more effective in reducing migraine frequency, severity and duration.
HMRI Stroke Research Project Grant
Supported by the HMRI donors
Awarded to: Associate Professor Frini Karayanidis. Her INSIST-Cog-Net study will use MRI and EEG to identify people who can benefit from cognitive rehabilitation following a mini-stroke
Breast Cancer Project Grant in memory of Karen Brown
Much-loved HMRI Development Officer Karen Brown succumbed to breast cancer in 2013, leading to the establishment of an in-memorium fund.
Awarded to: Dr Heather Lee, who will explore the inner workings of circulating tumour cells in metastasis, to identify likely predictors of when and where breast cancers will spread
HMRI Pancreatic Cancer Research Project Grant
Supported by the HMRI donors
Awarded to: Professor Hubert Hondermarck. His project is focused on targeting nerve outgrowth to develop a therapy against pancreatic cancer, along with the associated pain that comes with the disease.
HMRI Cystic Fibrosis Research Project Grant
Supported by the HMRI donors
Awarded to: Dr Gerard Kaiko for the development of a personalised test to target individual Cystic Fibrosis mutations to new therapies in the clinic.
Throughout the year HMRI receives community funding through applications to trusts and foundations as well as donors, both individual and corporate. This funding is in addition to that distributed through the annual grants round.
HMRI acknowledges and thanks all those who contributed to HMRI research in 2017, including those with continued funding across multiple years.
CFMEU Mining and Energy Division
Dr Judith Weidenhofer |Tetraspanin CD9 - A novel biomarker to target for prostate cancer
A/Professor Phillip Dickson & Emeritus Professor Peter Dunkley | Role of Infection in the development of Parkinson's Disease
Dr Suku Thambar | Injection of Autologous bone marrow cells for enhancement of Neovascularization in Patients with Ischaemic Heart Failure
Professor Clare Collins | E-health personalised nutrition support for mums and bubs for their first 1000 days to improve health and wellbeing
Professor Phil Hansbro | Investigating the role of microbiomes in COPD
Richard and Paula Anicich
A/Professor Glenn Reeves & Dr Marline Squance | Discovering genetic predictors of inflammatory activity in a group of female Australian lupus patients
A/ Professor Brett Graham | Light-based approaches to study chronic pain
Felicity and Michael Thomson
Rutger De Zoete | PhD Scholarship Top-Up
Estate of the Late RT Hall
Professor Andrew Boyle | Fibulin-3 and Cardiac Fibrosis
Coal Services Health and Safety Trust
Dr Chris Williams | Reducing the impact of back pain in miners
Dr Nikola Bowden | Ovarian Cancer Research A/ Professor Doug Smith| Cholesterol metabolism in the ageing brain
Greater Charitable Foundation
Dr Andrew Bivard | MIDAS II anti-fatigue trial for stroke
Professor Clare Collins | Nutrition Connect online platform linking rural families to professional dietary advice
Schwartz Foundation and Jurox
Professor Chris Levi | Evaluation of Strokefinder portable microwave helmet
Master Plumbers Association
Funding in perpetuity for children’s research projects
Port Waratah Coal Services
Professor Phil Morgan | Embedding the DADEE program in communities
ASX Thomson Reuters Charity Foundation Ltd
Funding HMRI's cross-disciplinary research projects
Joan and the late Sid Stephens
Dr Suku Thambar | Cardiovascular research
Dr Garry & Winifred Warner
Dr Lucy Murtha | Characterising the role of Fibulin-3 in health and disease
Dr Myles Young | SHED-IT Recharge: Development and evaluation of a gendertailored program for men’s physical and mental health
Thyne Reid Foundation
Equipment grant to purchase of nanotechnology (NanoAssemblr) device
Lake Macquarie Garden Club
Seed funding for cross-disciplinary HMRI research
Jennie Thomas Travel Grants
Li Kheng Chai | Yazmin Brown | David Skerrett-Byrne | Jenna Hollis | Patrick Cooper
Gastronomic Lunch of the Year
A/Professor Alison Lane | Do sensory symptoms impact outcomes of the Alert Program for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder?
A/Professor Estelle Sontag and Dr Jean-Marie Sontag | Developing new therapeutic interventions for Alzheimer's disease
Lions District 201N3 Diabetes Foundation
A/Professor Bruce King | Improving glucose control and health outcomes for people with diabetes
Greaves Family Postgraduate Scholarships in Medical Research
Anne Greaves is passionate about providing opportunities to early career researchers through education. She has supported HMRI medical researchers for many years through early career support grants and scholarships across many research areas.
Awarded to: Tesfaye Regassa Feyissa, Jessica Ferguson and Jacklyn Jackson
MM Sawyer Estate PhD Scholarship
The Sawyer family has long supported research here at HMRI. Neville Sawyer served on the HMRI Board for 10 years, as well as supporting young researchers through grants and scholarships.
Awarded to: Dr Georgia Carroll