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Record total for HCRF awards

Oct 28 2011

A record total of $92,000 in grants and prizes was announced at the Hunter Children’s Research Foundation (HCRF) annual awards  last night – more than double last year’s amount.

It comes as HCRF’s overall fundraising passed the $1 million milestone some 15 years after the Foundation’s formation. The Hunter Medical Research Institute also contributed additional funds to one of the grants.

HCRF chairperson Janelle Shakespeare said the grants and awards would once again support research into a wide variety of medical conditions.
“This year we have asthma, cancer, diabetes and premmie babies programs that are so vital to children’s health,” she said.

“HCRF’s profile is increasing, and with it has come a noticeable rise in donations from businesses and individuals in the Hunter, to whom we owe our thanks.”

Professor Joerg Mattes, who holds the Chair of Paediatrics & Child Health in the Faculty of Health at theUniversity of Newcastle and is Chair of the Hunter Children’s Research Executive, said it was a tribute to the excellence of paediatric research being conducted in the Hunter.

“This funding will lead to better management and treatment of diseases relevant to babies, children and adolescents in our region,” he said.

“By raising the profile we hope to continue attracting the best paediatricians and also contribute to the training of younger doctors and scientists.”
The awards were presented at the Memories Function Centre in Wallsend tonight. The 2011 HMRI Awards Night is scheduled for November 2 at Newcastle City Hall.


Prof Joerg Mattes, Prof Peter Gibson, Prof Michael Hensley, A/Prof Bruce Whitehead and Dr Vanessa Murphy ($25,000)

The Growing Into Asthma study: Wheezing prevalence and markers of airways inflammation in preschoolers born to mothers with asthma exacerbations in pregnancy

This study has established a birth cohort of more than 200 children born to mothers with and without asthma to determine the impact of asthma attacks during pregnancy on respiratory health in early life. Current data from this project suggests that a subtype of wheeze (termed multi-trigger wheeze) may be more frequent in infants born to mothers who suffered from severe asthma exacerbations during pregnancy. The researchers now aim to investigate whether a multi-trigger wheeze is more persistent and associated with an inflammation of the airways, by following up all participating children at three years of age.

Dr Jay Horvat, Prof Phil Hansbro and Prof Paul Foster ($15,000)

lucidating the mechanisms of steroid-resistant asthma

The current mainstay therapies for asthma, corticosteroids and bronchodialators,   treat the symptoms but not the underlying causes and are ineffective for sufferers with steroid-resistant asthma. This research program has developed a number of unique models of infection-induced steroid-resistant asthma. The study proposes to use these models to find the mechanisms that drive steroid resistance in order to develop more targeted therapies.

Dr Rick Thorne and Dr Charles de Bock ($20,000)

Establishment of Fat1 cadherin as biomarker and unique target for anti-cancer therapy in paediatric acute lymphoblastic leukaemia
Researchers have identified a unique marker labelled Fat1 that indicates relapse in children with the most common type of leukaemia (pre B-ALL). While Fat1 is highly expressed in leukaemia it is not expressed by normal blood cells. This project will explore these findings and aim to produce translatable outcomes for addressing disease relapse.

Juvenile Diabetes Research Project Grant ($50,000)
Supported by HMRI through Tomago Aluminium ($26,000) and HCRF ($24,000):

Dr Donald Anderson, Dr Bruce King, A/Prof Patricia Crock, Michelle Neylan, Carmel Smart and Helen Phelan

A double blind cross over trial in young insulin pump users comparing their glucose control when their insulin pump settings have been set from continuous glucose sensing data interpreted by a new computer program (PumpTune), to when a doctor reviews the same data and uses clinical judgement.

Insulin infusion pumps are increasingly being used as an alternative to injections in the treatment of Type 1 diabetes. This research group has developed a computer program called PumpTune that interprets sensor information and recommends changes to a person’s insulin pump. This study aims to compare a doctor using PumpTune to one using conventional sensor information and graphical software.
HCRF Education Prizes

Megan Jensen ($4,000)

Megan Jensen is a member of the HMRI VIVA Program. Her research is focused on the relationship between obesity and childhood asthma in children and adolescents. She will assess the effect of diet-induced weight loss in children with asthma; investigate the nature of sleep disruption in asthmatic children; and assess changes in metabolic, dietary and physical activity markers as risk factors for the development of obesity in childhood asthma. The HCRF Education Prize will enable Megan to attend the American Thoracic Society International Conference in San Francisco, USA in 2012.

Rebecca Dyson ($4,000)

Rebecca Dyson is a member of the HMRI Pregnancy and Reproduction Program. Her research is focused on understanding cardiovascular function in very preterm newborns. She is particularly interested in the role of novel molecules that affect blood flow, and their regulation of microvascular behaviour in the stages immediately around birth (microvascular dysfunction has been linked to illness severity in preterm infants). Rebecca will attend the joint meeting between the British Microcirculation Society and the American Microcirculation Society, to be held in the UK, as well as the Annual Meeting of the Fetal & Neonatal Physiological Society (FNPS) in the Netherlands.

HCRF works in association with the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) and is affiliated withKaleidoscope – the Hunter Children’s Health Network.