MRFF grants propel medical research

As part of this year’s federal Government budget announcement, Monash Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences has secured Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) research funding in areas relating to maternal health, rare cancer and diseases, silicosis, as well as nutrition and wellbeing in remote communities.

Congratulations to all of our MRFF grants winners:

Professor David Kaye

The Artificial Heart Frontiers Program: $999,570

Over 23 million people suffer from heart failure around the globe, yet only six thousand a year receive a donor heart. Many patients turn to artificial hearts: large, noisy devices that too frequently fail, or confine the patient to hospital. Other patients have no options at all. Now, the Artificial Heart Frontiers Program will bring a new generation of artificial hearts to market. Our innovative implants are small, patient-friendly and reliable - outlasting all existing alternatives. They are powerful enough for an adult, yet small enough for a child. They are quiet, portable, and respond to active lifestyles, allowing patients to return to their families and jobs. This technology will revolutionise the lives of patients with heart failure.

Associate Professor Heather Cleland

Third Degree Burn Wound Closure using Engineered Skin- Phase I Clinical Trial: $2,363,239

Over 40% of burns survivors live with pain and disability caused by scarring of skin grafts and their donor sites. Development of a reliable skin graft substitute to be tested in this study will save lives and improve the quality of life for survivors of severe burn injury by minimisation of the need to use patients’ own unburned skin to graft burns. The researchers will treat patients with severe burns with bioengineered skin developed in our laboratory and grown from small samples of their own skin.

Associate Professor Andrew Wei

INTERCEPT (Investigating Novel Therapy to target Early Relapse and Clonal Evolution as Pre-emptive Therapy in AML): a multi-arm, precision-based, recursive, platform trial: $4,735,398

Acute myeloid leukemia is a rare and lethal blood cancer with limitless potential to evolve resistance. New technologies allow early detection of molecular “fingerprints” of returning disease. The researchers propose an international research team to conduct a multi-arm, precision-based platform trial aimed at increasing and extending the duration of patient response and survival using novel combination options. INTERCEPT will suppress and eradicate relapse before the patient becomes clinically unwell.

Professor Erica Wood (CIA) from Monash Public Health and Preventive Medicine and Professor Orla Morrissey (CIB) from Monash Central Clinical School

Addressing unmet needs for patients with blood cancers: Immunoglobulin or antibiotics to prevent infection in the RATIONALISE clinical trial: $2,490,422

Patients with blood cancers, with immune deficiency from low antibody levels and disease or treatment factors, are at risk of life-threatening infection. Immunoglobulins (Ig) made from plasma can supplement antibody levels. Government criteria recommend stopping Ig therapy in stable patients, but with no evidence for when or how to do so. RATIONALISE will provide new evidence to improve patient outcomes, reduce infection risks and costs, and make better use of blood products for the community.

Professor Tom Snelling (CIA University of Sydney which is also administering the grant), Associate Professor Joseph Doyle (CIB, Central Clinical School), also includes Dr Alisa Pedrana (CIE, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine).

MOTIVATE C: The Methodical evaluation and Optimisation of Targeted IncentiVes for Accessing Treatment of Early stage hepatitis C: $2,126,776

Hepatitis C treatment is now well-tolerated and highly effective, yet uptake in Australia remains low. Australia is trying to eliminate hepatitis C, which means interventions are required to increase treatment uptake of those infected with the virus. Financial incentives offer a simple, yet potentially effective, solution. This study will evaluate the effect of random allocation of financial incentives to improve treatment uptake in patients with hepatitis C.

Dr Cheryce Harrison

Optimising the delivery of antenatal interventions in public healthcare: Improving equity, access and engagement for better maternal and neonatal health outcomes: $1,450,943

Increasing proportion of young women are commencing pregnancy overweight or obese. Research demonstrates that lifestyle interventions improve health during pregnancy and are cost effective, yet scale up into routine pregnancy care remains limited. Here the researchers address this critical gap, supported by stakeholder and community engagement, by developing and enhancing digital technology to increase accessibility, usability and engagement across two Australian healthcare settings.

Emeritus Professor Malcolm Sim AM

Emerging techniques for earlier diagnosis and assessment of severity and progression of artificial stone silicosis: $994,642

Stonemasons who have worked with engineered stone have been shown to develop a rapidly progressive and potentially fatal form of silicosis. This research will use data from affected workers from Victoria, Western Australia and Queensland. The research will comprise a suite of projects to investigate many uncertainties related to radiological screening methods, and investigate new methods to assess disease severity and identify indicators of progression to inform future practice.

Professor Susan Davis

Preventing bones loss and restoring sexual function in women with premature ovarian insufficiency: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial: $912,514

Women who have loss of function of their ovaries before the age of 40, or 'premature ovarian insufficiency' (POI), have estrogen and testosterone depletion. Despite treatment with estrogen, women with POI still lose bone mass and have sexual difficulties. The researchers will test if, compared with placebo, adding testosterone to standard estrogen therapy after POI prevents bone loss and improves sexual function. The findings will immediately inform the clinical care of women with POI.

Adjunct Associate Professor Michelle Tate

The NLRP3 inflammasome as a potential biomarker and therapeutic target for silicosis: $645,764

Inhalation of silica particles by artificial stone workers can lead to the development of silicosis disease and there are currently no available treatments. This project will identify new indications of disease risk, as well as anti-inflammatory drugs that can improve silicosis disease.

Associate Professor Julie Brimblecombe

Benchmarking for healthy stores in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities: $1,450,377

How food is promoted, priced and made available in food retail has considerable impact on consumer behaviour and subsequently population health. In partnership with government and Aboriginal health services, the remote retail sector and policy-makers, the researchers will co-design and test the feasibility and effectiveness of an innovative benchmarking approach to support healthy food stores in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and identify the pathway to set benchmarking into policy.

Associate Professor Michelle Giles

The protective effect of maternal immunisation on obstetric outcomes: characterising the underlying mechanisms and impact on newborn immune function: $1,146,489

Pre-term birth is a serious complication of pregnancy contributing to long term disability in children. Despite advances in maternity care there has been little reduction in the rate of pre-term birth in the last 20 years. Along with protecting against influenza or pertussis infection, vaccination in pregnancy has shown promise in protecting women and babies from preterm birth and may positively alter the immune system of the baby. This project aims to understand how vaccines may do this.