Dr Gulliver and Dr Marshall awarded the C. Andrew Ramsden ECR Collaborative Award for 2020

Congratulations to Dr Emily Gulliver from the Centre for Innate Immunity and Infectious Diseases and Dr Sarah Marshall from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology who have been awarded this year’s C. Andrew Ramsden ECR Collaborative Award.

Ramsden 2020 winners
L-R: Dr Emily Gulliver (left) and Dr Sarah Marshall

Congratulations to Dr Emily Gulliver from the Centre for Innate Immunity and Infectious Diseases (CIIID), Hudson Institute of Medical Research and Dr Sarah Marshall from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, School of Clinical Sciences at Monash Health who have been awarded this year’s C. Andrew Ramsden Monash Health Translation Precinct (MHTP) Early Career Researcher (ECR) Collaborative Award.

Dr Gulliver and Dr Marshall have received $10,000 for their collaborative project to investigate if sulforaphane can modify the gut microbiota to improve health outcomes in women with preeclampsia. They formed their inter-disciplinary collaboration at the annual MHTP ECR speed networking event, now in its fourth successful year, held in November 2020 over Zoom. Their seed funding application was ranked the highest by an external review panel at the University of Melbourne and will enable them to collect vital pilot data over the next 12 months in the hope of helping to secure further external funds for this exciting project.

The pair recently demonstrated that sulforaphane, a naturally occurring bioactive compound found in broccoli, reduces the placental release of the proteins that underlie the vascular dysfunction of preeclampsia and prevents the development of vascular dysfunction in blood vessels. However, when sulforaphane is consumed as a nutritional supplement, there may be a potential impact on the maternal gut microbiome. Therefore, they will use this preliminary collaborative project to assess the effect of sulforaphane on common gut bacteria and plan to perform a larger future investigation to see if it can affect pregnancy-specific microbiota, including that of the placenta and the vagina.

Dr Emily Gulliver is a postdoctoral scientist in the Microbiota and Systems Biology Laboratory within the CiiiD at the Hudson Institute. Dr Gulliver completed her PhD in 2019 at Monash University, where she studied small RNA regulation in bacterial pathogens, and has since been developing microbiological, genomic and sequencing methods to screen the microbiota for the movement of antimicrobial resistance genes and their ability to produce novel antimicrobials and metabolise nutritional compounds. She is an expert in culturing and sequencing gut bacteria and one of her other collaborative projects recently resulted in a publication in Nature Immunology. Dr Gulliver is also co-chair of the MHTP ECR committee and sits on the Monash University ECR committee.

Dr Marshall completed her PhD in 2017 at the School of Biosciences, University of Melbourne. The primary focus of her research was on the role of the hormone relaxin in pregnancy-induced vascular adaptations, and how this hormone could be a future therapeutic for the pregnancy disorder preeclampsia. In 2017, Dr Marshall was recruited to Prof Euan Wallace’s group at The Ritchie Centre to establish a unique ex vivo vascular function model as part of his preeclampsia research program and was awarded an NHMRC Peter Doherty ECR Fellowship. Dr Marshall’s research has since expanded to include the assessment of sulforaphane for its potential as a treatment for preeclampsia and, since joining Monash, she has been awarded > $1.3 M in external funding, including a recent NHMRC Ideas Grant with a collaborator from the University of Adelaide.

Dr Marshall said of the accolade, “This award is the perfect opportunity for Emily and I to join forces and explore whether sulforaphane can be of benefit to the gut microbiome. This has been an important question for us and I’m excited to see what this collaboration will achieve.” Dr Gulliver chimed in with, “I’m very excited to begin this new collaboration and see where it takes us!”

Well done to both on this fantastic achievement.