Alliance Accelerator Fund
The Monash Warwick Alliance has developed a brand new funding scheme to support research groups who are working collaboratively on intermediate-sized projects which have the potential to achieve significant impact.
Congratulations to the following three projects which have been awarded funding in the latest round of accelerator funding:
This project will harness the world leading expertise of the University of Warwick and Monash University in materials science, chemistry, biology and pharmaceutical sciences to address a key challenge in the rapidly expanding field of nanomedicine.
Nanotechnology has many definitions but in general it is the use and application of materials with sizes in the nanometre range, a nanometre is one-millionth of a millimetre. There are many benefits to applying nanotechnology to the healthcare setting. Nanomedicines, and in particular delivery vectors, have already been proven to play an important role in ensuring enough of the drug enters the body, and that the drug that does enter stays in the body for long periods and is targeted specifically to the areas that need treatment.
A multitude of drug delivery vectors have been thoroughly studied in the past decades, including inorganic and organic carriers. However they come with several limitations, including their relatively poor clearance, and ultimate recognition by the mononuclear phagocytic system (MPS) translating to high accumulation in organs such as the spleen and the liver.
Among the active agents to be transported into cells, anticancer metallodrugs and nucleic acids are the most challenging candidates. Metallodrugs are by far the most used anticancer drugs.
This project is aiming to develop a new technology to enhance the transport of metallodrugs and nucleic acids such as DNA or RNA in the body and across biological membranes, and to facilitate their delivery into mammalian cells. It is expected to provide a new platform of smart materials for biomedical applications.
Drug Delivery, Disposition and Dynamics, Monash University
Chemistry, University of Warwick
Rapid depletion of fossil fuels and the consequent increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions has led to one of the greatest environmental challenges of our time; the greenhouse effect. Finding effective ways of minimizing CO2 emissions has become a major focus not only for researchers, but also for governments trying to meet their obligations from agreements such as the Paris climate talks and for industry managing their legal and social responsibilities.
To achieve this objective, an increasing number of technologies have been developed to convert energy from renewable sources, such as solar and wind, into electricity with much improved efficiency. This trend is expected to grow continuously in the foreseeable future to satisfy the ever-expanding human population and their desire to maintain a high quality of life. On the one hand, the extensive development of renewable energy technologies and widespread utilization of renewable energy could solve the above mentioned energy and environmental crisis in the long term, but on the other hand, has also started causing problems to the existing power distribution infrastructure due to its intermittent nature. In other words, due to a strong mismatch between the time and location of energy production with those of demand, integration of more than 20% renewable energy could endanger the stability of the power grid.
To overcome this drawback, efficient mechanisms for energy storage need to be developed. Among all technologies developed or currently under development, production of solar fuels through electrocatalysis to produce hydrogen from water splitting and/or value added carbonaceous species from CO2 is a particularly attractive route due to its scalability for commercial applications.
A major obstacle in the development of commercially feasible electrocatalytic processes for energy conversion and storage is the immature understanding of the mechanisms and activity associated with the complex catalytic reactions.
This project will bring together the research excellence of world-class academic leaders from Monash Science and Engineering and Warwick Chemistry and Warwick Manufacturing Group needed to achieve high global impact on electrocatalysis. Once cost-effective, highly active, selective and stable catalysts are developed and identified as a result of the joint efforts of the Monash and Warwick team, the feasibility for commercial applications in the development of next generation electrocatalytic processes will be explored via collaboration with research funders and industry in Australia and Europe.
School of Chemistry, Monash University
University of Warwick
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a disorder which impacts how a person interacts with others. The condition is characterised by impairment in intimacy (conflicted relationships, difficulty trusting others, abandonment fears, patterns of over involvement/withdrawal as well as idealisation/devaluation of relationships) and/or empathy (limited ability to recognise others’ needs and feelings, and sensitivity to real or imagined criticism) (Sanislow et al., 2002).
Professor Jacob Hohwy and Dr John Michael will develop and test a novel theoretical approach to understanding, and potentially treating, the disturbances in interpersonal functioning that are characteristic of BPD. By uniting their complementary skill sets the team can use MWA Accelerator funding to conduct a large-scale collaborative project with a high potential to generate social benefit and critically impact interdisciplinary research at the crossroads of philosophy, psychology and psychiatry.
The core of this theoretical approach is the hypothesis that those characteristic symptoms may be traced back to a disruption of the sense of commitment to joint actions and to relationships. The study will investigate whether individuals with BPD have difficulties gauging the level of commitment that others consider appropriate or reasonable, leading them to form unrealistic expectations which frequently become disappointed and/or which others perceive as burdensome. To test and refine the hypothesis, the project will implement lab-based experiments and utilise social network analysis to map the network structures of the symptoms of BPD and the properties of the social networks that these individuals form. This will make it possible to probe and refine the ecological validity (the degree to which the behaviours observed and recorded in a study reflect the behaviours that actually occur in natural settings) of the theoretical model, develop tools for measuring the structure and stability of social networks among individuals with BPD and gain valuable insights into the philosophical and ethical implications of the disorder.
Looking to the future, the research team plan to use this project as springboard to unite the expertise of our two institutions and develop further projects into BPD, with a particular view to provide unique educational opportunities for students who are motivated to develop an interdisciplinary skill set and international network. Working together the team are aiming to develop new insights and ecologically valid tools for diagnosing and treating BPD, and for assessing treatment techniques.
Skodol, A. E., Gunderson, J. G., McGlashan, T. H., Dyck, I. R., Stout, R. L., Bender, D. S., ... & Sanislow, C. A. (2002). Functional impairment in patients with schizotypal, borderline, avoidant, or obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. American Journal of Psychiatry, 159(2), 276-283.
School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies, Monash University
Department of Philosophy, University of Warwick
With cardiovascular disease being the number one cause of death across the world, enormous progress has been made in recent years to address the development of engineered cardiovascular systems. Despite these advances there are still a number of clinical challenges that have so far remained unexplored.
Professor Adrian Neild from the Faculty of Engineering at Monash University and Dr Jerome Charmet from the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Medicine at the University of Warwick will come together to explore the engineering of cardiovascular systems to address issues within the following cardiovascular systems:
- Cardiovascular stents,
- Ex-vivo cardiovascular models, and
Through a combination of 3D printing and microfluidic, Professor Neild, Dr Charmet and a team of experts will address key cardiovascular system issues throughout the project and generate measurable outputs and opportunities that have the potential to involve commercial partners.
Professor, Faculty of Engineering, Monash University
Assistant Professor, Faculty of Science, Engineering and Medicine, University of Warwick
In the immediate aftermath of conflict, much of the labour to support households is carried out by women and girls, and as infrastructure deteriorates because of a lack of investment, the pressures on women’s health and well-being increase and their participation in public life decreases.
The state provisioning of social infrastructure at this time, via macroeconomic and social reform policies, often does not reflect the gender specific impacts of these policies. This leads to what has been called ‘depletion through social reproduction’, which occurs when the gap between the outflows —domestic, affective and reproductive labour — and the inflows — medical care, income earned and leisure time — falls below a threshold of biological, financial and affective sustainability.
Professor True, Monash University and Professor Rai, University of Warwick will lead a team from both institutions to pilot research which will explore the impact of social reproductive costs in the absence of a well-developed social infrastructure supporting women within households in the face of conflict and displacement. The pilot will clarify concepts, develop research networks on the ground, and help us ask better questions towards further research. It will also inform analysis of the challenges and the opportunities in times of transition from conflict for gender sensitive economic reform, taking seriously women’s agency and potential.
This project has the potential to transform models of post-conflict recovery and reform, shaping new policies and interventions for governments and international agencies that will contribute to lasting peace and inclusive economic prosperity.
Professor, School of Social Science, Monash University
Professor, Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Warwick