Monash leads country in medical funding

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) today announced more than $640 million in medical research funding across 12 schemes.  

Monash led the country in successful project grants, attracting $68 million across 87 projects, and was ranked number one overall with a total of 142 projects, program, fellowships and equipment grants for 2017.

Monash Provost and Senior Vice-President, Professor Marc Parlange said the record breaking success at Monash in attracting grant funding was a testament to the talent and dedication of the University’s researchers and faculty leaders.

“It is the innovations of our researchers that result in major breakthroughs and better health outcomes that become part of our daily lives,” Professor Parlange said.

“Our researchers are at the very forefront addressing the major medical and health challenges of today and I thank the NHMRC for progressing these vital projects.”

Research into prostate cancer, colon cancer, gastric cancer, the brain, bariatric surgery, chronic pain and antibiotic resistance were among the projects recognised at Monash.  

Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute researcher, Associate Professor Mireille Lahoud, was awarded one of the highly-competitive NHMRC Project Grants, worth $1.38 million, for her research aimed at better understanding how the immune system works in order to treat or regulate inflammatory diseases, specifically gastrointestinal inflammation.

The grant will enable Associate Professor Lahoud to investigate how a key regulator on the surface of immune cells controls immune responses, in order to suppress unwanted inflammation.

“One of the most challenging aspects is determining how best to use our knowledge of immune function and regulatory proteins to shed light on the complexities of the immune system. Ultimately, we are aiming to develop new treatments for debilitating inflammatory conditions such as Crohn’s Disease and improve health outcomes,” Associate Professor Lahoud said.

A project led by Associate Professor Antonio Verdejo-Garcia, Monash Institute of Cognitive and Clinical Neurosciences (MICCN), was awarded a project grant to interpret how different brain processes contribute to the food choices that can lead to obesity.

Using neuroimaging research he has been the first to show that people with obesity have significant abnormalities in the brain processes that control high-calorie food choices. Up until now obesity treatments have not been informed by these brain mechanisms.

“Preliminary data from our team shows that, during choices between high and low calorie foods, people with obesity have abnormal brain activations and connections in regions mediating homeostatic control and reward valuation,” Associate Professor Verdejo-Garcia said.

“We have also seen that the pathways connecting these same regions prompt consumption of energy-rich foods and weight gain. We will now be testing if disrupted communication within this brain network causally explains the selection of unhealthy food choices in people with obesity.”

Further, Monash researchers were awarded 25 NHMRC fellowships across six schemes - research fellowships, practitioner fellowships, career development fellowships and early career fellowships.