Vital Monash medical research attracts $105 million in federal funding

Monash University has been awarded almost $76 million in the latest round of National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funding.

Federal Health Minister, the Hon. Greg Hunt, today announced over $500 million across 682 health and medical research grants through the NHMRC and the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF).

Monash attracted the most funding nationally bringing this year’s total to almost $105 million in federal grants for medical and health research projects.

Monash attracted funding across six of the eight schemes announced today – Project Grants (74), Postgraduate Scholarships (11), TRIP Fellowships (6), Partnership Project Grants (1), Equipment Grant (1) and International Collaboration (1).

The funding will support a diverse range of projects from targeted therapies for chemo-resistant leukaemia and exploring a new therapy for diabetic kidney disease, to identifying brain signatures of compulsivity in methamphetamine addiction.

Professor Sophia Zoungas received a $5.8 million Project Grant to continue the ground-breaking Statins in Reducing Events in the Elderly (STAREE) study. Starting in 2015 the STAREE trial is the world's largest study in those aged 70  and over to look at whether statins - used to lower cholesterol - can keep people living longer, healthier lives.

Associate Professor Maxine Bonham was awarded a $1.43 million Project Grant to study a novel weight loss intervention in shift workers. It will be the world’s first study to examine the “5:2” diet in shift workers as a way to reduce their increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Minister Hunt toured Monash University as part of today's announcement, including the lab of Associate Professor Ana Traven, who received funding for two projects.

Associate Professor Traven’s research focuses on the deadly fungus Candida albicans. Fungal infections cause an estimated 1.5 million deaths annually. Current antifungal drugs are insufficient, and the mortality from fungal infections are very high, and comparable or higher to the mortality from bacterial infections. More than half of intensive care patients in Australia infected with C. albicans die within seven days of the infection taking hold, due lack of appropriate diagnostics and treatment options.

Associate Professor Traven’s projects will focus on what makes C. albicans virulent and deadly – building on her earlier research which detailed how this human pathogen destroys immune cells by starving them of nutrients, and how it shape-shifts into a deadly version which can break through human tissues into the bloodstream.

This research will pave the way for new treatment options, for instance treating fungal infections through nutritional approaches as a complementary strategy to identify credible new drug targets. The outcomes have the potential to be relevant to the design of improved therapies against a broad ranges of infectious diseases.

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

“This funding is vital in our quest to improve the health of our communities worldwide. It recognises Monash as global leader in medical research and the world class projects being pursued by our talented scientists," Professor Parlange said.

“I thank the NHMRC for their continuing support in recognising the importance of progressing these projects, and for sharing our desire to make a difference.”