Hunter Children’s Research Foundation research grant winners announced

Nov 25 2022

Hunter Children’s Research Foundation research grant winners announced

Hunter medical researchers were honoured last night for their lifesaving, life-changing research into children's terminal and debilitating illnesses.

Four John Hunter Children’s Hospital clinical researchers were honoured with the annual Community Award for Research Excellence (CARE), Associate Professor Matt Dun received a children’s brain cancer award and five competitive grant round winners received $30,000 each, to fund their research projects.

The winning Hunter Children’s Research Foundation (HCRF) research grants cover a range of vital research from childhood leukaemia to neurodevelopment and iron supplementation in pregnancy.

HCRF Chair Janelle Shakespeare OAM said the committee was proud of all the researchers who received awards.

“HCRF was started to improve the health of children in the Hunter region and this year's recipients of the HCRF grants are making a real difference,” said Mrs Shakespeare.

“On behalf of the whole committee I want to thank all the researchers for the work they do to help children in our community.”

 

Bronchiolitis

Does healthy immune development during pregnancy set babies up for healthy respiratory viral responses - $30,000 HCRF Project Grant

Dr Adam Collison from the HMRI Asthma and Breathing Research Program received a grant for his study into bronchiolitis, a severe viral infection that is the leading cause of babies under 12 months being admitted to the John Hunter Children’s Hospital. There are currently no treatments to cure this infection.

Dr Collison’s work aims to use precision medicine to identify susceptible infants and children and administer preventative treatment before they contract bronchiolitis.

 

Children’s Leukaemia

Taming free radicals to increase response to standard-of-care treatments for children with high-risk leukaemias - $30,000 HCRF Project Grant

Associate Professor Matt Dun from the HMRI Precision Medicine Research Program won for his work in taming free radicals to increase response to standard-of-care treatments for children with high-risk leukaemias that become treatment resistant.

With high-risk children’s leukaemia, cancer cells can ‘escape’ from treatment and hide in the bone marrow or spleen, only to return and re-establish an active disease.

Associate Professor Dun’s work aims to target the machinery that allows those cells to resist treatment.

 

Autism

Improving early detection of childhood neurodevelopmental differences using mid-pregnancy biomarkers and infant behaviours - $30,000 HCRF Project Grant

Associate Professor Vanessa Murphy from the HMRI Asthma and Breathing Research Program received a grant to fund her project focusing on better early detection of childhood neurodevelopmental differences using mid-pregnancy biomarkers and infant behaviours

Associate Professor Murphy’s study will explore two inflammatory genes in pregnancy that can predict infants at risk of developing neurodivergent traits including autism and ADHD.

The prevalence of autism is increasing and yet the screening methods are limited so this work aims to improve early detection so that support and therapies can be accessed sooner by parents for their children.

 

Asthma

Investigating the role of iron status and supplementation during pregnancy on respiratory disease in children - $30,000 HCRF Project Grant

Dr Henry Gomez from the Immune Health Research Program has won a grant to investigate the role of iron status and supplementation during pregnancy on respiratory disease in children.

Dr Gomez says, “In a world-first study, we will use an ongoing clinical study (NEW1000) to investigate the relationship between iron levels and supplementation during different stages of pregnancy on asthma and respiratory function in children. We will use this information to inform guidelines for optimal maternal iron level and supplementation practices that may be implemented to mitigate asthma risk in children.”

 

Mental Health

The IMPACT study: The Intergenerational effects of Maternal Physical Activity on Child Development - $30,000 HCRF Project Grant

Dr Sarah Valkenborghs from the HMRI Active Living Research Program has received a grant to fund her study in child neurodevelopment, investigating if physical activity while pregnant is beneficial for child neurodevelopment after birth. With one in seven children diagnosed with a mental health or neurodevelopmental disorder, Dr Valkenborghs is keen to understand the modifiable risk factors and potential metabolic and cardiovascular interventions available.

These grants were generously supported by HCRF’s supporters, including major donors the GWH Group and the AHA Newcastle Hunter.

 

About HCRF

The Hunter Children’s Research Foundation raises funds for important research into children’s terminal and debilitating illnesses. Formed in 1996, the Foundation remains closely affiliated with HNEkidshealth and is an auspice group for the Hunter Medical Research Institute. 

Money raised by HCRF stays in the Hunter to fund children’s research projects in areas like asthma, cancer, cystic fibrosis, diabetes and sleep disorders – illnesses that can affect any family at any time.

Via funding grants and equipment HCRF supports researchers as they strive towards finding cures for children’s diseases. It has also helped to attract leading clinicians to the region while contributing to the training of younger doctors and scientists.

Funding allocations are overseen by an independent scientific committee, the Children Young People & Families Research Executive, with further input by HMRI’s Director. This ensures the highest quality of research, with many of HCRF’s projects attracting further Federal funding, winning national awards and influencing clinical practice.