Monash tops Australia with over $44m in Ideas Grants research funding

Monash University has been awarded more than $44 million in funding for 49 research projects in the latest round of National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Ideas Grants - the most of any Australian university.

Federal Health Minister The Honorable Greg Hunt announced the funding on Tuesday 15 December 2020, for projects covering four faculties: Science, Engineering, Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences.

Monash University President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Margaret Gardner AC welcomed the ongoing funding by the Federal Government, which will support innovative research across multiple faculties.

“On behalf of Monash University, I thank the Federal Government and NHMRC for their support of Monash research. We are proud of the high quality of our research and the dedication of our researchers to making a positive impact on communities across the world.”

The Monash projects that received funding include:

Soft wearable patches for stillbirth prevention, $1M

Professor Wenlong Cheng from the Faculty of Engineering leads a project to develop next-generation soft wearable patches that use artificial intelligence (AI) to help prevent stillbirths.

The Australian stillbirth rate has not improved for over 20 years, with six occurring every day. In most cases, the stillbirth remains “unexplained” and current evidence suggests that up to 30 per cent of these remain preventable.

This project aims to directly tackle this unmet clinical challenge by revolutionising the way fetal movements are evaluated through the development of a compact, soft, inexpensive, smart patch, which can automatically detect and report fetal movements anytime anywhere taking advantage of the world-leading advanced electronic skin sensing technologies and AI.

“If successful, this will be world-first wearable technology enabling out-of-hospital screening with the penultimate goal of stillbirth prevention,” said Professor Cheng.

New therapeutics for neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, $1.1M

Dr Karen Gregory leads a project in the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences that aims to address neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's, which are among the leading causes of death and disease burden in Australia. This project aims to decipher the best way to inhibit glutamate receptors as a new therapeutic strategy to optimally treat symptoms as well as slow down brain degeneration.

It’s also a win for women in STEM. “This project brings together three international early and mid career women research leaders who apply cutting-edge approaches in neuroscience drug discovery with a focus on dementia and neurodegenerative disorders,” said Dr Gregory.

Developing new therapies for autoimmune disease, $1.3M

Dr Ruby Law from the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute will lead a project researching new immunotherapeutics.

The immune system deploys pore forming proteins to clear viral and bacterial infections and to eliminate cancerous cells. The unwanted activities of these molecules, however, results in chronic disease and in transplant rejection.

Dr Law and her team aim to understand how these pore forming immune weapons interact with the body’s own cells “with the goal of using this information to develop new approaches to treat immune driven disease and to improve the success of transplantation therapy,” she said.

A sutureless cannula for rapid implantation of mechanical heart pumps, $816,000

Dr Shaun Gregory will lead a team investigating ways to create better outcomes in cardiac surgery and the implantation of left ventricular assist devices. The team will use engineering software usually used for designing rockets to optimise blood flow as well as tissue engineering to better integrate the devices within patients.

“We anticipate the outcome of the project will be a surgical tool that will result in fewer blood clots, better quality of life and better survival outcomes for patients,” said Dr Gregory.