2016 Grants

NHMRC Grants Announcements December 2016

The Federal Minister for Health, The Hon Sussan Ley announced on Saturday 3 December 2016  that Monash University had topped the funding in this year’s project grants awarded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).  Monash is to receive a total of $78.7 million, including $62.7 million in project grants.  

The Monash Health Translation Precinct (MHTP) received 15 of the Faculty’s 64 grants, totalling $10.7 million in new funding for CIA researchers.

Standard Project Grant

Michael Hickey

Prof Michael Hickey $772,888

The glomerulus is the filtering component of the kidney. In many diseases, it can be the target of an inappropriate inflammatory response. As part of this response, white blood cells accumulate in the glomerulus where they cause damage. In this project, we make use of special microscopes to examine the glomerulus during an inflammatory response, with the aim of understanding the actions of white blood cells present in glomeruli and how they cause inflammation and damage the glomerulus.

William Sievert

Prof William Sievert $394,692

We propose a first-in-man clinical trial of human amnion epithelial cells (hAEC), a stem cell from the placenta, to assess safety in patients with stable liver cirrhosis.  Worldwide, cirrhosis is the 6th most common cause of death.  Liver transplantation remains the only chance for survival for some people with cirrhosis. In animal models, hAEC can substantially reduce liver scar tissue. Our goal is to develop hAEC as a therapy to reduce the need for liver transplantation.

Jake Shortt

A/Prof Jake Shortt $497,857

Thalidomide-like drugs (called IMiDs) are an essential treatment for multiple myeloma, a common incurable blood cancer. We have discovered that IMiDs destroy proteins that myeloma cells use to ‘read’ cancer-causing genes in their own DNA. We will therefore investigate how important the destruction of these ‘gene readers’ is in myeloma cells, including patient samples. This will set up future studies targeting ‘gene readers’ using IMiDs in combination with other targeted drugs in clinical trials.

Stephen Holdsworth

Prof Stephen Holdsworth $929,596

MPO-ANCA associated glomerulonephritis is a major cause of renal failure. Current treatments are toxic and poorly effective. Cytokines are immune proteins that direct disease. New biological anti-cytokine treatments are effective but not available for kidney diseases. This study will define the key cytokines driving this disease and provide proof of safety and efficacy in our animal model of this disease. This evidence will allow the introduction of anti-cytokine biologicals in clinical trials.

Paul Hertzog

Prof Paul Hertzog $1,316,153

Interferons (IFNs) are a family of proteins with critical roles in infectious and inflammatory diseases and cancers. Currently we do not understand why there are so many type I IFNs, their different functions and how they are achieved.  This project will determine at a fine molecular level how different IFNs interact with molecules on target cells and transmit particular signals. We will focus on a novel IFNe that we discovered. These studies will underpin the development of new therapies.

A/Prof Kevan Polkinghorne $1,076,284

Patients with kidney failure who require dialysis are at high risk for cardiovascular (CV) disease. Small studies suggest fish oil supplementation may protect dialysis patients against CV events such as heart attacks and strokes. We will study the impact of fish oil supplementation on reducing CV events in dialysis patients. If proven beneficial, it represents an easily accessible and inexpensive novel therapy to improve the lifespan of dialysis patients.

David Paterson

Prof David Nikolic-Paterson $683,739

Scarring of organs such as the kidney, lung or liver is a common mechanism leading to organ failure and death. We postulate that a type of white blood cell (the macrophage) can transition into the cell type (the fibroblast) responsible for making the excess collagen that leads to this scarring. If proven, this will be a major advance in our understanding of organ fibrosis and may identify new therapeutic approaches to currently intractable diseases.

Dr Colin Clyne $725,476

Drugs that block oestrogen are effective breast cancer treatments, but many patients are resistant to their effects. This research addresses a protein known as EAR2, that is elevated in breast cancer tissue compared to normal breast. We hypothesise that EAR2 drives breast cancer cell proliferation, and will test this using cell lines and mouse models. We will validate EAR2 as a new therapeutic target, benefitting patients underserved by current hormone therapies.

Mark Hedger

A/Prof Mark Hedger $637,857

This project investigates the main inflammatory cell, the macrophage, in male fertility and reproductive health. These studies investigate the macrophages found in the testes and the regulation of their functions required to protect and support the developing sperm. Understanding these processes will lead to new methods for treating male infertility, chronic pain and reproductive tract infections, as well as broader understanding of inflammatory disease, transplantation and autoimmunity.

Peter Stanton

Dr Peter Stanton $560,953

The blood-testis barrier (BTB) shields developing sperm from the circulation and immune system, which would see them as ‘foreign’. Loss of BTB function leads directly to infertility. Curiously, how the BTB ‘opens’ and ‘closes’ to allow entry without causing a ‘leak’ is unknown. We believe that activin A is the main gatekeeper, but this growth factor is also important in inflammation. Our goals are to show how activin A allows sperm cells entry, and how inflammatory diseases impact the BTB.

David Walker

Prof David Walker $838,726

There is a need for a therapy that can be given before a mother gives birth to protect the baby should ‘oxygen starvation’ threaten the baby’s brain and other organs such as the heart, kidney, lungs, and the ability to breathe properly. We are suggesting that an increased intake of creatine is a very effective treatment against this threat, and its proven safety and ease of use recommends it for wide application, particularly in countries where the access to medical resources is poor.

Prof Philip Bardin $611,793

Asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are characterised by enhanced TGFß expression, which is accompanied by susceptibility to recurrent viral and bacterial infections. Such infections exacerbate lung inflammation in these patients, generally requiring emergency department treatment. This project proposes to clarify the therapeutic potential of TGFß inhibitors to reduce the impact of viral infections in patients with COPD and asthma.

A/Prof Ron Firestein $949,907

Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer mortality in Australia and globally. The Wnt/ß-catenin signalling pathway is a well established driver of colon cancer growth in >90% of cases.  Using sophisticated genetic screens, we identified CDK8/19 as a colon cancer oncogene and critical regulator of Wnt/ß-catenin activity. In this proposal, we will use innovative cancer models in mice and human cancer tissues to investigate newly developed CDK8/19 inhibitors for colon cancer therapy.

Eva Dimitriadis

A/Prof Eva Dimitriadis $734,252

The womb prepares itself in each menstrual cycle for pregnancy and the implantation of an embryo. In some women, the endometrium may not prepare itself adequately and this can lead to infertility. We have identified small RNA that may be useful in predicting which women are not adequately prepared for implantation and may be used to develop treatments for infertile women, for which there are currently no treatments.

RD Wright Biomedical CDF

David Scott

Dr David Scott $425,048

Australia’s obese older population is growing, and a large number of fractures now occur in obese older adults. This research program aims to reduce falls and fracture risk in obese older adults through innovative exercise programs which target improvements in bone and muscle health, and a wearable device that enables measurement of this type of exercise. The findings will contribute to exercise guidelines which are urgently needed to reduce the costly impact of falls and fracture in Australia.

Michelle Tate

Dr Michelle Tate $425,048

In humans, highly pathogenic influenza A virus (IAV) infections can be fatal, as the disease is untreatable with available vaccine or anti-viral drugs. My fellowship aims to advance our knowledge of the mechanisms by which the immune system induces and regulates inflammation during IAV infection, which can be both helpful and detrimental in fighting the infection. This is critical for identifying and developing new therapies for severe IAV infections in the future.

Public Health (Australia) ECF

Michelle Blumbfield

Dr Michelle Blumfield $318,768

The project aims to reduce obesity in future generations by understanding the link between sleep in pregnancy and weight-related health outcomes (diet, weight gain, body composition, glucose tolerance). Results will enable the development of sleep guidelines for pregnancy and an intervention to optimise health. This will inform pregnant women, health professionals and future obesity prevention policies on the effects of poor sleep on diet, metabolism and adiposity during pregnancy and beyond.

New Investigator Grant

Miranda Davies-Tuck

Dr Miranda Davies-Tuck $384,566

Induction of labour, a common obstetric intervention fails in almost 40% of first time mothers. There is evidence to suggest that the endogenous hormone melatonin has important roles in the progress of labour. We will undertake a double-blind randomised placebo controlled trial of melatonin supplementation to improve the success of induction of labour in first time mothers. We will also assess the economic impact of melatonin supplementation at induction of labour.

Population Health CDF

Jacqueline Boyle

Dr Jacqueline Boyle $340,038

My women's reproductive health implementation research program addresses gaps in evidence based health care, builds the evidence for implementation and scale-up of effective interventions into policy and practice and drives health care improvement to deliver better health outcomes. The program focuses on  i) specific groups who experience disadvantage through location or socio-economic disadvantage or health condition and ii) women at critical life stages (pre-conception and pregnancy).

Partnership Project for Better Health

Helena Teede

Prof Helena Teede $390,074

Early menopause (EM) (menopause before age 45 yrs), occurring spontaneously or secondary to medical treatments, affects more than 10% of women. EM is associated with negative impacts on psychological/physical health, both short and long term. This project aims to clarify EM health issues and address gaps in consumer/health professional understanding/ treatment of EM, with development of resources including a comprehensive EM website for consumers/health professionals to improve health outcomes.

Preventing Obesity in 18-24 Year Olds

Kate Lombard

A/Prof Catherine Lombard $950,060

In order to impact on health, young people need to be engaged and retained in health interventions. The application of social media to engage, retain and promote health behaviour change in this target group has enormous potential but is poorly researched. This project will engage young people of all incomes and education from across Australia and assess their attitudes and behaviours and determine most effective social media content and delivery to optimise engagement and retention.

Peter Doherty Biomedical ECF

Amy Winship

Miss Amy Winship $318,768

As women age, the quality of their eggs decline and their chance of having a healthy baby plummets. The accumulation of DNA damage within the egg, and the reduced ability to repair this damage, may be one cause of compromised reproductive success in older women. This project will investigate the ability of eggs to repair DNA damage during maternal aging and will explore the importance of DNA repair to fertility and the transmission of high quality genetic material to their offspring.

Dr Stacey Ellery $318,768

Through pregnancy, the placenta transfers oxygen and nutrients from the mother to the baby. When a placenta doesn’t function properly a baby’s health is compromised. This can lead to morbidity or death. Creatine is the “back-up generator” of all cells and could help the failing placenta increase nutrient and oxygen delivery to the baby. This study will develop creatine as a potential new therapeutic, to improve the survival of babies of complicated pregnancies.

Health Professional Research ECF

Michelle Tate

Dr Stuart Marshall $189,384

Almost every member of clinical staff in hospitals now carries a smartphone or tablet. These devices can improve staff performance when life-saving information such as reminders of complex procedures during medical emergencies are delivered in a clear way. This fellowship applies design processes used in other high-risk industries such as in military and nuclear power settings to devise ‘e-aids’ for clinicians to improve outcomes in health emergencies.

Research Fellowship

Eva Dimitriadis

A/Prof Eva Dimitriadis $631,370

The womb is essential for a health pregnancy. This research aims to determine how the womb interacts with embryos to ensure a healthy pregnancy forms. Cells in the womb can also grow abnormally and result in endometrial cancer. New treatments for endometrial cancer will also be tested in this research.

Prof Terrance Johns $763,845

Each year, over 1,500 Australians will develop brain cancer. Unlike many cancers, it cannot be prevented by lifestyle changes. Adults with brain cancer usually die within 2 years. The overall aims of this funding are to extend patients' lives and build brain cancer research in Australia so that we have the best chance of curing this disease. The expected outcome is clinical trial of drug candidates for the most common and most deadly brain cancer, high-grade glioma.

Paul Hertzog

Prof Paul Hertzog $938,910

I am an international expert on the body’s first-line defense system, the innate immune response. My Fellowship focuses on studying and manipulating innate immune molecules called interferons. My research will lead to improved management of female reproductive disease, autoimmune disorders, infections and cancer through new diagnostics and therapies targeting the interferon system. The basic knowledge I generate on regulating the immune response will be applicable to a range of medical fields.