Researchers from the University of Newcastle (UON) will establish Australia’s first Centre of Research Excellence (CRE) for venom and antivenom with $2.5 million funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), just announced.
Attracting a total of $18.5 million in the latest NHMRC funding round, UON will undertake 21 research projects and eight research fellowships aimed at solving some of Australia’s most crucial health challenges.
Led by renowned toxicologist Professor Geoffrey Isbister from Calvary Mater Newcastle, the CRE for venom and antivenom represents a major advancement for venom research in Australia, which is home to all of the world’s top ten most venomous snakes.
Professor Isbister said strong collaboration internationally within the CRE would also improve global health outcomes and provide research capacity in parts of Asia.
“Snake envenoming is now a neglected tropical disease and envenoming syndromes worldwide result in significant mortality and morbidity, and are also a psychological and economic burden.
“The CRE brings together leading venom scientists from around the globe to conduct clinical trials, improve understanding of antivenom dosage and investigate envenoming in high risk countries such as Sri Lanka. Importantly, the CRE is a way to translate evidence in a clinical speciality previously driven by anecdote and expert opinion,” said Professor Isbister.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Innovation), Professor Kevin Hall, said the CRE was a significant win for UON: “This is tremendous recognition for Professor Isbister and his team, demonstrating their global leadership in venom research.”
Professor Hall added that the continued strong funding performance reflected the calibre of research in the Hunter through the partnership with Hunter New England Health and HMRI.
“The NHMRC’s strong support for our researchers reflects our world-class research reputation, acknowledging our strengths in research delivery across health fields such as fertility, stroke, nutrition, asthma and cancer.”
In other funding announcements, respiratory researchers from the UON and HNE Health were awarded a combined $3.95 million. Among them, Professor Darryl Knight, Head of the UON’s School of Biomedical Sciences and Pharmacy, received $845,000 to investigate pulmonary fibrosis (lung tissue scarring).
The Hunter New England Population Health research team received $3.6 million, including $1.6 million for two dietary projects by Dr Luke Wolfenden and $1 million awarded to Dr Chris Williams for an early career fellowship and an intervention program for chronic low back pain.