Hunter researchers awarded $5.6 million in funding

Oct 27 2016

University of Newcastle researchers have been awarded $5,641,494 million in the October 2016 round of National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funding. This funding will help Hunter researchers tackle a range of health-related issues that impact our communities.

Centre for Research Excellence

Professor Darryl Knight is part of a national group awarded $2.5 million by the NHMRC to support a Centre for Research Excellence on pulmonary fibrosis.

Pulmonary fibrosis is a group of diseases that are characterised by the build-up of scar tissue in the lungs, which severely reduces lung function and as a consequence negatively impacts on a patients’ wellbeing and normal day to day living. 

Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) is the most common and devastating of all the lung fibrosis disorders and has a median survival for newly diagnosed patients of only 2-5 years.

Professor Knight said “the Centre for Research Excellence in Pulmonary fibrosis brings together a team of world leading scientists and clinicians from across Australia and provides them with a unique opportunity to comprehensively map the prevalence of the disease in Australia, identify mechanisms and ways of targeting treatment earlier, as well as provide the much needed support for patients and the training of future research fellows”. 

Professor Darryl Knight is part of a national group awarded $2.5 million

Research Fellowships

A Research Fellowship has been awarded to Associate Professor Mark Baker who is highly recognised in the field of fertility research with a strong research focus on understanding and overcoming male infertility. Dr Baker is seeking to unlock the causes of this very common problem by studying the structure and function of sperm proteomes (the sets of proteins expressed by genomes).

Practitioner Fellowships

Professor Luke Wolfenden has been awarded a Practitioner Fellowship. Professor Wolfenden aims to generate new knowledge to address impediments to the translation of chronic disease prevention research. As a health promotion practitioner, Luke says that there’s a substantial failure of research to be translated into practice; so he wants to explore ways to successfully help schools and communities to adopt health programs.

Working in partnership with researchers and end-user organises, Luke’s rigorous research has the intention of being able to address immediate policy/practice needs. His research also aims to facilitate knowledge exchange and to be immediately available to support decision-making.

Early Career Fellowships

Hunter researchers were awarded five Early Career Fellowships to help early career researchers explore innovative new topics to benefit public health.

Dr Emma Beckett is a molecular nutritionist who aims to explore the complex interactions that exist between the way we taste food (phenotype), genetic variance in taste receptors (genotype) and the bacteria that live in our guts (the gastrointestional microbiome). She aims to determine how these interactions may promote or supress disease processes, such as oncogenic (causing development of cancerous tumours) processes in the gastrointestinal tract.

Dr Chantal Donovan is a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Pharmacology at Monash University who will be working with Professor Phil Hansbro at the Hunter Medical Research Institute. Lung diseases (emphysema, severe asthma and pulmonary fibrosis) are major burdens on the Australian community and economy. Patients experience severe breathlessness seriously impacting quality of life and frequently leading to death. The team will assess the potential of a new target (IL-33), & therapy (anti-IL-33) in suppressing remodelling in experimental models and human tissues. This may lead to a new treatment to reverse and/or prevent lung diseases.

Dr Andrew Gardner is a research clinician with a research focus on sports concussion. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is increasingly recognised as a risk factor for dementia, and represents one of the strongest environmental risk factors. Andrew aims to systematically evaluate the association between a single, and repetitive mild TBI and neurodegenerative disease in retired collision sports athletes by using advanced research methods to rigorously study the issue.

Mr Hopin Lee aims to translate evidence into practice to produce more efficient health services. He will be mentored by Professor Sallie Lamb -  co-director of Oxford Clinical Trials Research Unit at the University of Oxford and Professor John Wiggers, Director of the Hunter New England Population Health Unit and Senior Policy Advisor for the NSW Ministry of Health. The clinical focus of this research is in obesity, smoking and musculoskeletal pain – some of Australia’s key health priority areas. 

Dr Jessie Sutherland is extremely passionate about medical research and education with a particular focus in the field of reproductive biology and infertility. She believes that research transparency and public education is the most beneficial way towards achieving scientific discoveries that will directly impact the health and well-being of our community. The goal of her fellowship is to uncover and understand the crucial role of early ovary development in determining a woman’s future fertility.