Research to tackle the big health problems attracts record funding

Monash University has secured $17 million in the latest round of medical research funding that will fast track projects in areas such as obesity, the ageing brain, hypertension and mental health issues amongst paramedics.

In the latest round of the National Health and Medical Research (NHMRC) funding Monash ranked the second highest institution. The competitive grants announced included the Career Development Fellowships, Centres of Research Excellence, Development Grants, Early Career Fellowships, International Collaborations, Partnerships, Practitioner Fellowships, and Research Fellowships.

Deputy Dean Research (Strategy), Professor Matthew Gillespie, in the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, congratulated the recipients of the NHMRC grants.

“Monash University’s strong showing in this funding round is evidence of the caliber of our clinicians and researchers as they are recognised amongst the best in the country,” Professor Gillespie said.

“Importantly for the community, the fruits of their research will actually have a tangible benefit to the nation’s health and wellbeing.”

Successful awardees included:

  • Professor Kate Denton was awarded a Principal Research Fellowship of more than $774,000 for her research studying hypertension - a major global health burden. It contributes to heart disease, stroke and kidney failure, and as such is a major cause of premature death worldwide. Advances in the treatment of hypertension has meant that more people are living with disabilities associated with cardiovascular disease. Professor Denton’s work focuses on identifying new treatments to prevent the devastating effects of hypertension on organ function to improve quality of life in men and women.
  • Associate Professor Roger Pocock was awarded a Senior Research Fellowship worth more than $640,000 for his research into obesity, a worldwide concern to human health. Research into how fat is regulated in the body may provide new therapeutic options. It is not well understood how signals from the brain control fat storage. Associate Professor Pocock has recently identified a gene that is important for the communication between the brain and the intestine in the control of fat levels. As such, his work will enable a better understanding of this phenomenon.
  • Dr Alexander Wolkow, from the Monash School of Psychological Sciences Department, was awarded an Early Career Fellowship worth more than $318,000 for his studies into the relationship between poor sleep and mental health issues amongst paramedics. His research will investigate paramedics across their early career, longitudinally examining the potential role of sleep in the development of trauma-related mental health symptoms. Specifically, Dr Wolkow will measure sleep, trauma exposure, and mental health symptoms in student paramedics prior to paramedic field experience, then conduct follow-up assessments.
  • Professor Velandai Srikanth, from the Peninsula Clinical School, Frankston Hospital, won a Practitioner Fellowship of more than $481,000 to study important diseases affecting the ageing brain, namely dementia and cerebrovascular disease. The main themes of the fellowship will focus on clarifying the link between poor metabolic health (type 2 diabetes mellitus, obesity) and dementia, and testing the efficacy of interventions to reduce the risk of dementia in T2D. Other themes include the study of a newly discovered marker of dementia – the Motoric Cognitive Risk syndrome, and the usefulness of markers of brain ageing in guiding secondary stroke prevention therapies in older people.