2020 NHMRC Ideas Grant: MIPS researchers awarded over $2 million to progress research into treatments for neurodegenerative disorders and breast cancer

Two scientists from the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (MIPS) have been awarded 2020 National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Ideas Grants, worth more than $2 million combined.

Dr Karen Gregory and Dr Michelle Halls – who both head up laboratories in the Drug Discovery Biology Theme at MIPS – will receive funding for their research through the Ideas Grant scheme, which was established to support innovative and creative research projects for researchers at all career stages.

Monash University received more than $44 million in funding for 49 research projects in the latest round - more than any other Australian university.

For Dr Gregory, the funding will support her research into improving drugs to treat neurodegenerative disorders, and Dr Halls’ grant will enable her to continue her work into identifying how to better target blocking drugs for the treatment of breast cancer.

Karen michelle

Dr Gregory said: “Neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease are among the leading causes of death and disease burden, with new drugs urgently needed. Thanks to this grant, the team and I will be able to progress our research into gaining a better understanding of how to best target glutamate receptors to improve memory loss symptoms and slow neurodegenerative disease progression.”

Dr Halls said: “In breast cancer, there’s a protein receptor called ‘β2-adrenoceptor’ that causes more aggressive tumour cells to metastasise faster in response to stress. With this grant we want to understand why this response occurs and, ultimately, use this understanding to design better drugs with fewer side effects.”

Director of MIPS, Professor Chris Porter, said: “On behalf of MIPS I would like to congratulate Dr Gregory and Dr Halls for their well deserved success in this round of the NHMRC Ideas Grant scheme. Both researchers are focused on improving treatments for pressing health issues and we wish them all the best as they continue to pursue their work with the support of these grants.”

Both Dr Gregory and Dr Halls have been part of the driving force behind Her Research Matters, a gender equity collective established at MIPS with the aim to promote, sponsor and foster an inclusive and equitable leadership environment to enable women in academia to reach their full potential.

MIPS NHMRC IDEAS GRANT RESEARCH SUMMARIES

Dr Karen Gregory, Drug Discovery Biology, Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences
Awarded $1,168,828.50

Finely tuned glutamate receptor inhibitors as novel therapeutics for neurodegenerative disorders: Neurodegenerative disorders are among the leading causes of death and disease burden. New drugs are needed to treat both symptoms and disease progression. This project aims to understand the properties of different drug-like compounds to inhibit proteins on the surface of brain cells (glutamate receptors) to impact disease progression and symptoms in preclinical disease models. The project will yield a better understanding of how best to target glutamate receptors for therapeutic effect.

Dr Michelle Halls, Drug Discovery Biology, Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences
Awarded $892.732.82

Probing changes in G protein-coupled receptor signalling networks during breast cancer progression: The β2-adrenoceptor is a protein receptor that enables cells to respond to hormones. In breast cancer, this receptor causes more aggressive tumour cells to metastasise faster in response to stress. This proposal aims to understand why this response occurs in only very aggressive cells, and to identify how we can better target blocking drugs to this receptor. This could allow us to design better drugs with fewer side effects.

Contact: Kate Carthew

Phone: 0438 674 814

Email: kate.carthew@monash.edu