HMRI Awards Night 2018 Winners

Nov 15 2018

Dr Serene Yoong, Professor Lisa Wood and Professor Jennifer Martin

HMRI Award for Research Excellence

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 awarded is supported by Walkom Real Estate. 

Professor Jennifer Martin

Professor Jennifer Martin is a dual trained clinical pharmacologist and practising general physician. She has studied politics and health economics at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar and has used this experience to serve on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, the Economic Subcommittee of the PBAC and other Government and Statewide committees examining appropriate allocation, regulation, safety and efficacy in pharmaceuticals.

Her PhD (Monash) examined innate immunity in Type 2 diabetes and subsequent postdoctoral work at the Walter and Eliza Hall focussed on the function of macrophages with high fat diet. Her recent research is in the area of clinical development of both novel and old drugs for a variety of diseases and has developed a collaboration with Leiden University using clinical pharmacological methods generally to improve dosing, with EKUT (Germany) in the combined role of therapeutic drug monitoring (TDM) and pharmacogenetics to individualise choice and dose of chemotherapy, and with the National Institutes of Health in identifying and managing synthetic drugs of abuse.

Professor Martin’s current PhD students are researching cannabinoid therapies, targeted cancer therapies, dosing in neonates and therapeutic drug monitoring in clinical care including with antimicrobial therapies.

Professor Martin is currently a member of the RACP Policy and Advocacy Committee, the Council of the Australasian Society for Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Therapeutics, and a member of the Pharmacology and Therapeutics Advisory Committee of PHARMAC, the sole purchaser for pharmaceuticals in New Zealand.

HMRI Award for Mid-Career Research

While HMRI has a strong history of recognising the achievements of the region’s senior and early career researchers, outgoing 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 recognises and rewards the dedication and achievements of one of the Hunter’s most gifted mid-career researchers. 

This award is supported by HMRI Community Donors. 

Professor Lisa Wood

Professor Lisa Wood has a research focus on nutritional modulation of inflammatory airways diseases, such asthma. There is great consumer interest in dietary approaches to asthma management, however, there has been a paucity of good quality scientific evidence to formulate definitive advice. Professor Wood’s research addresses this need, and has identified a role for antioxidants, fatty acids, fibre and obesity in modifying inflammation in asthma.

A key example of her significant impact is demonstration that saturated fatty acids worsen airway inflammation and reduce bronchodilator effectiveness in asthma, which led to 2 publications in the highest impact clinical immunology journal. Further evidence of Professor Wood’s contribution to knowledge is the inclusion of five of her publications in the 2014 Australian Asthma Handbook.

While Professor Wood’s research is based on excellent and rigorous science, there is clear translational relevance and a focus on improving health outcomes for patients. The fresh perspectives she places on patient-focused research, together with her skills, energy and creativity has enabled Professor Wood to develop an Internationally respected reputation in the Respiratory community.

With over 130 peer-reviewed manuscripts, with 62 as first or last author, Professor Wood publishes in the highest quality journals related to her field. She has been awarded over $4.6 million in research funding, and is CI-A on over 80 percent of these grants. She holds both nationally-competitive grant income from the NHMRC and industry funding.

Professor Wood contributes to the HMRI activities by presenting to HMRI board, speakers groups, Open Days and community events. She also established the Nutrition Research Programme in the PRC for Asthma and Respiratory Diseases and VIVA programme HMRI, driving the national research effort in nutrition and respiratory disease.

HMRI Award for Early Career Research

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.

This awarded is supported by the HMRI Seaspray Cafe.

Dr Serene Yoong

Dr Yoong is a behavioural scientist and experienced dietitian with expertise in practice-based translational research. In her relatively short research career she has developed an outstanding research track record and has established a national and international reputation as an expert implementation scientist in the field of non-communicable disease prevention. The quality and impact of her work has been acknowledged via the receipt of a prestigious NSW Tall Poppy Award in 2018, a highly competitive ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) fellowship in 2017 and numerous grants from NHMRC.

She is committed to conducting research that can be rapidly translated to benefit the community. This requires significant investment in engaging international, national and local policy makers, practitioners and the community to develop programs that meet their needs and can be rapidly deployed to improve health. Internationally, she has served as a visiting fellow to the World Health Organisation (WHO), and produced evidence-syntheses that can be expected to have had an impact on human health globally. This has included leading the publication of an WHO evidence-brief outlining the detrimental impact of tobacco use on peri-surgical outcomes she completed as a WHO visiting Fellow, and the first WHO report internationally to identify an association between e-cigarette and tobacco use that Serene led as a WHO consultant.

Dr Yoong developed an online menu-planning program as part of her Heart Foundation fellowship to improve the provision of healthier foods in childcare centres. This program is the first of its kind internationally, and was designed to empower childcare cooks to provide healthier foods by removing the complexity of interpreting and applying nutrition guidelines. Evaluation of the program in a NHMRC-funded randomised controlled trial found it to be effective in improving child dietary intake. The commonwealth government subsequently funded this program for national roll-out. Since being made available in March 2018, over 1800 childcare services provided healthier food to over 200,000 children across Australia have accessed this program.

Equal Futures Awards

This award supports female researchers at any stage of their career that require funding, not offered by any other scheme. The primary objective is to address retention and progression rates.

Awarded to Associate Professor Suzanne Snodgrass.

Greaves Family Postgraduate Scholarships in Medical Research

Anne Greaves, herself a former scientist with Edgell, has long supported young researchers.

Awarded to Sonia Sanchez Bezanilla | Mitchell Cummins | Patrice Jones | Svenja Loering.

Project Grants

Keith Tulloch Wine Project Grant

Keith and Amanda Tulloch, through their Keith Tulloch Vinum Cellarium Wine Dinners, have been invaluable supporters of HMRI since 2006. Their funds have supported research in the areas of asthma, chronic stress, stroke, postnatal depression, prostate cancer and brain tumours. 

Awarded to Dr Matt Dun | Food for thought: developing treatment to treat brain stem cancers.

Albert Dumbrell Project Grant

Supported by Albert Dumbrell.

Awarded to Associate Professor Sarah Jeong | Pain assessment and management for older people with dementia in hospitals.

HMRI Children’s Cancer Project Grant

Supported by the Estate of the late James Scott Lawrie, Hunter District Hunting Club, Master Plumbers Association & Rotary Club of Newcastle Enterprise.

Awarded to Dr Andrew Ziolkowski | An A(r)Ray of hope for paediatric Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaema – improving risk stratification and outcome.

HMRI Stroke Project Grant

Supported by the many thousands of HMRI Donors.

Awarded to Dr Prajwal Gyawali | Does high blood viscosity affect blood flow to the brain after acute ischaemic stroke?

HMRI Brain Cancer Project Grant

This grant is supported by an Anonymous HMRI Donor, and incorporates a Brain Cancer Travel Grant in Memory of Kristen Keegan. Kristen was CEO of Hunter Business Chamber and her friends are supporting a young researcher in brain cancer.

Awarded to Dr Moira Graves | Finding new treatment options for brain tumours with DNA repair inhibitors.

HMRI Multiple Myeloma Project Grant

Supported by the Estate of the late Dorothy Ruth Frost.

Awarded to Dr Anoop Enjeti | Predicting toxicity for myeloma therapy.

HMRI Cancer Project Grant

Supported by the Estate of the late Betty Graham in memory of her late husband.

Awarded to Dr Chen Chen Jiang | Tumour stress drives nerve infiltration and cancer-related neuropathic pain.

HMRI Cardiovascular Project Grant

Supported by the Estate of the late Alan Edward Thompson.

Awarded to Dr Lucy Murtha | Mending the broken heart: understanding how scar tissue forms in heart muscles.

HMRI Ovarian Cancer Project Grant

Supported by HMRI Donors.

Awarded to Dr Pradeep Tanwar | Developing novel approaches to prevent ovarian cancer.

Bob & Terry Kennedy Infertility Project Grant

Bob Kennedy served as HMRI Chair from 2007 to 2013. He and his wife Terry have continued their close association with HMRI through this year’s project grant in Pregnancy & Reproduction.

Awarded to Dr Jessie Sutherland | Improving the diagnosis of women at risk of premature menopause.

First National Newcastle Health & Medical Research Project Grant

Supported by George & Rose Rafty, First National Newcastle City

Awarded to Dr Narelle Eather | Improving the health and wellbeing of children through positive sporting experiences.

Breast Cancer Project Grant

In memory of Karen Brown. Supported by the Estate of the late Joy Heather Granger.

Awarded to Dr Brianna Morten | Does little brother delta40p53 play a big role in breast cancer stem cells?

Awarded to Dr Severine Roselli | A new approach for treating therapy-resistant breast cancer.

The following five projects are all supported by the Estate of the late Joy Heather Granger:

HMRI Stroke Project Grant

Awarded to Dr Jodie Marquez | Arm rehabilitation after stroke using a robotic glove, electrical stimulation and virtual reality.

HMRI Paediatric Kidney Disease Project Grant

Awarded to Associate Professor Kym Rae | Consequences of the in-utero environment on kidney function for infants in the Gomeroi gaaynggal cohort.

HMRI Leukaemia Project Grant

Awarded to Dr Danielle Bond | How does the bone marrow neighbourhood help leukaemia grow?

HMRI Melanoma Project Grant

Awarded to Associate Professor Nikola Bowden | Is a standard dose of immunotherapy the best way to treat metastatic melanoma?

HMRI Prostate Cancer Project Grant

Awarded to Dr Sam Faulkner | A novel neuronal biomarker for aggressive prostate cancer.

HTRF Transplant Project Grant

This grant is supported by all involved in the Hunter Transplant Research Foundation’s annual Glow Walk. 

Awarded to Dr Gerard Kaiko | Mini organs in a dish: a personalised test for cystic fibrosis treatment to reduce the need for lung transplantation.

HMRI Fatigue Project Grant

Supported by the Estate of the late Stephen James Fairfax.

Awarded to Dr Gemma Paech | Using light exposure as a novel therapeutic tool to treat excessive fatigue and improve daytime functioning.

HMRI Bowel Cancer Project Grant

This grant is supported by the annual Babes on the Balcony fundraising event run by Jade Tolar and Tanya Murphy, along with the Estate of the late Anthony John Eccleston.

Awarded to Dr Roger Liang | Development of novel targeted therapy for colorectal cancer.

The Cameron Family Health & Medical Research Project Grant

Long-term supporters of HMRI, the Cameron family continue to support many areas of medical research.

Awarded to Associate Professor Doan Ngo | Strategies to reduce cardiovascular burden in cancer survivors.

Lake Macquarie Garden Club Health & Medical Research Project Grant

Since 2017, the Open Gardens and Arts Trail has raised funds through opening gardens in Lake Macquarie to the public.

Awarded to Dr Hannah Palliser | Replenishing the building blocks in babies brains following stressful pregnancies.

Stroud Rodeo Health & Medical Research Travel Grant

The Stroud Rodeo Association has been supporting HMRI since 2000 with funds raised from their annual Rodeo and are passionate supporters of all areas of research.

Awarded to Dr Eliza Skelton | Assisting homeless individuals to quit smoking.

HMRI Multiple Sclerosis Project Grant

Supported by the Hunter Multiple Sclerosis Fundraising Branch who chose to direct a generous donation they received towards research at HMRI.

Awarded to Dr Vicki Maltby | Do MS patients age faster than non-MS patients?

MHF Brain Cancer Project Grant – Supported by the Sutton Family

Thanks to the generosity of Charlie Sutton.

Awarded to Dr Elizabeth Fradgley | COPING: A systemic screening and referral process for Glioma patients and their caregivers.

MHF Brain Cancer Project Grant – Supported by The Man Shake

Thanks to the generosity of Belinda and Adam MacDougall.

Awarded to Dr Kathryn Skelding | Combining forces: new treatment strategies for aggressive brain cancers.

MHF Brain Cancer Project Grant – In memory of Olivia Addison

Thanks to the generous support of Olivia’s family and friends.

Awarded to Dr Amanda Hudson | Teaching an old drug new tricks.

HMRI Major Benefactors

HMRI is fortunate to receive extraordinary support from several 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 and Donna Slater, from Scratchleys on the Wharf, organise a major annual fundraising effort - the Gastronomic Lunch of the Year.

Greater Charitable Foundation

Greater Bank is an inaugural donor and, along with the Greater Charitable Foundation, has provided support for Stroke Research.

Haggarty Foundation

Tony and Karen Haggarty supported the HMRI Building Capital Campaign in 2011 and have funded stillbirth research and fellowships.

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 Matt Dun for brain cancer research.

McGuigan Family

Jointly funding a 10-year Fellowship dedicated to ovarian cancer research.

nib foundation

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.

Rainbow Foundation

Enthusiastic supporters of asthma and nutritional research since 2010.

Thyne Reid Foundation

Since 2001, the Thyne Reid Foundation has continued to support work in Mothers and Babies led by Laureate Professor Roger Smith AM.

Mark Hughes Foundation (MHF)

Mark and Kirralee Hughes founded the Mark Hughes Foundation in 2014 to raise funds for brain cancer research, to create awareness and support brain cancer patients and their families.

Anonymous Family Bequest

A local Hunter family who wish to remain anonymous, selected HMRI as the recipient of their family member’s significant bequest. This endowed bequest provides a meaningful way to make a difference that will last forever.

Anonymous Donor

Supporting the education of paramedics to increase competency and confidence in rare and complex cases to provide high-quality care, especially in rural and regional settings.

Acknowledgement of HMRI Major Donors and Previously Awarded Funding

This year’s awards are only possible thanks to the generous support of around 11,000 individual gifts. From as little as $2 to over $2 million, this pool of funding helps our researchers make a difference.

Throughout the year HMRI receives community and government 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. Thank you.

Gastronomic Lunch of the Year                                              

Professor Ulrich Schall | Teaching autistic children to look people in the eyes

Lions Australia District 201N3 Centenary Project

Associate Professor Sally McFadden | Characterisation of the myopia sensing cells in the eye

Lions District 201N3 Diabetes Foundation

Associate Professor Vivienne Chuter | Does screening for ankle joint restriction have a role in preventing diabetic foot ulceration?

Associate Professor Bruce King | Improving glucose control and health outcomes for people with diabetes

SRI Corporation

Associate Professor Nikola Bowden | Development of a blood test to detect ovarian cancer

Oxford Ladies Lunch

Associate Professor Nikola Bowden | Investigation of DNA repair and the epigenome in chemo-resistant high-grade serious ovarian cancer

Valerie & John Ryan Legacy

Associate Professor Nikola Bowden | Repurposing traditional chemotherapy to prime advanced melanoma for immune therapy

Zebra Equities

Dr Matt Dun | Developing new treatments for resistance in acute myeloid leukaemia

Jennie Thomas

Dr Matt Dun | Targeting DNA repair for improved treatment of blood cancers

Kiriwina Investments Co Pty Ltd

Dr Matt Dun | Detection and monitoring of disease progression in high grade brain cancer

Associate Professor Estelle Sontag | Towards the development of new therapeutic interventions for Alzheimer’s disease

Dr Malcolm Starkey | Understanding immune and inflammatory mechanisms of disease in the urinary system

Nancy & Vic Allen Stroke Prevention Fund

Dr Heidi Janssen | Service change and supporting lifestyle and activity modification after TIA (S+SLAM-TIA)

Laureate Professor Roger & Anne Smith

Professor Deborah Loxton | World-wide wellness of mothers and babies

Kath & Mort Elliot

Professor Anthony Quail | The effects of midazolam on respiratory and cardiovascular control mechanisms during severe arterial hypoxia

Dr Suku Thambar | Cardiovascular research

Rainbow Foundation

Professor Philip Hansbro | Investigating the role of microbiomes in COPD

Professor Clare Collins | Nutrition and dietetics research

Estate of the late R T Hall

Professor Andrew Boyle | Fibulin-3 and cardiac fibrosis

Teachers Health Foundation

Professor Ron Plotnikoff | Teachers’ risk of Type 2 diabetes and exercise and physical behavioural change strategies

Garry & Winifred Warner

Dr Lucy Murtha | Characterising the role of fibulin-3 in health and disease

Port Waratah Coal Services

Professor Phil Morgan | Embedding the DADEE program in communities

McDonald Jones Charitable Foundation

Professor Vanessa McDonald | Patient reported outcome measure in severe asthma (PROMISe): measuring severe asthma’s impact on health status


Dr Myles Young | SHED-IT Recharge: Development and evaluation of a gender-tailored program designed to improve men’s physical and mental health

Greater Charitable Foundation

Dr Andrew Bivard | A new treatment to help recovery from stroke, including fatigue and quality of life

Bowel of the Ball

Associate Professor Simon Keely | Non-immunosuppressive strategies for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease

Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation (NPCF)

Dr Tracy Dudding-Byth | FaceMatch – using computer vision to match the faces of children with undiagnosed intellectual disability

Sara Halvedene Foundation

Dr Patrick Oakley | Helping to ‘Close The Gap’ in Indigenous health by determining the prevalence of iodine deficiency and related thyroid and goitre health problems

Glenn Moss

Associate Professor Brett Graham | Supporting optogenetic research to advance chronic back pain treatments

RP Medical Fund

Associate Professor Kelvin Kong | Reducing the incidence of deafness and health disadvantage in Indigenous and rural Australians through ENT Telehealth

Schwartz Foundation

Professor Chris Levi | Stroke Finder Helmet pilot study


Professor Christopher Levi | Stroke Finder Helmet saving time, saving brain!

Tour de Cure

HMRI Histology | Autostaining and robotic coverslipping advancing translational cancer research via the Hunter Cancer Biobank

Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC)

Associate Professor Kym Rae | Gomeroi gaaynggal – safety and wellbeing

Tracey MacPherson

Dr Andrew Gardner | Sports concussion research

Markey Insurance and Risk

Dr Lin Kooi Ong | Growth hormone as neurorestorative therapy after stroke

Estate of the late Joy Heather Granger

Dr Matt Dun | Chemotherapy resistant leukaemia cells

Mark Hughes Foundation (MHF)

Dr Kathryn Skelding | Investigating a new class of drugs for the treatment of brain cancer

Mark Hughes Foundation (MHF)

Ms Marina Kastelan | Neuro oncology networking meeting for nurses and allied health

MHF Brain Cancer GARD

Professor Rodney Scott | Mark Hughes Foundation brain cancer collaborative genomics pipeline for advancing research into biomarker discovery

MHF Brain Cancer PACT

Associate Professor Viive Howell | Mark Hughes Foundation collaborative brain cancer pre-clinical pipeline for advancing cancer therapeutics

Previous Awarded Fellowships

Brian and Fay McGuigan

Associate Professor Nikola Bowden | Vanessa McGuigan HMRI Research Fellowship in Ovarian Cancer supported by the McGuigan Family

Haggarty Foundation

Dr Kaushik Maiti | Haggarty Foundation HMRI Research Fellowship in Stillbirth

Dalara Foundation

Dr Kirsten Coupland | HMRI Early Career Research Fellowship in Stroke

Thyne Reid Foundation

Laureate Professor Roger Smith | Establishing a nanoparticle development facility at HMRI

Previously Awarded Scholarships and Travel Grants

MM Sawyer Estate

Ms Georgia Carroll | Mary Sawyer Post-Graduate Scholarship in Cancer Research

Felicity and Michael Thomson

Rutger de Zoete | PhD Scholarship Top-up

Jennie Thomas Postgraduate Medical Research Scholarships

Alexandra Denham | Sean Hardy | Vrushali Chimankar

Jennie Thomas Travel Grants

Joshua Atkins | Lauren Poppi | Sarah Kennedy | Kathryn Reilly | Sarah Hiles

MHF Travel Grant

Ms Catherine Hidson | 11th COGNO Scientific Meeting