16 Aug 2018

Medical research at CCS boosted by major national grants

A/Prof Christoph Hagemeyer
Professor Ben Marsland
A/Prof Sandy Shultz
Professor Sam El-Osta
Dr Joseph Doyle
Dr Piero Perucca
Dr Pablo Casillas-Espinosa
Monash University Central Clinical School researchers have been awarded National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) grants worth more than $3.5 million in the latest funding round.

The research grants were among nationwide funds totalling $192 million announced yesterday by the Federal Health Minister, the Hon. Greg Hunt.

Head of the Central Clinical School, Professor Stephen Jane, congratulated the researchers for their success in securing the grants. "These are outstanding results for the School, recognition of very talented investigators in a intensely competitive environment. We appreciate that others with similar talents were unsuccessful and assure them of our support and encouragement for future rounds, where hopefully their turn will come."

Associate Professor Christoph Hagemeyer from the Australian Centre for Blood Diseases (ACBD) was awarded a Senior Research Fellow A (SFRA) ($724,175) to continue his groundbreaking work developing targeted nanoparticles for diagnosis and therapy. The project aims to make a major difference in the prevention and treatment of blood clotting, plaque build-up in vessels, inflammation, tissue scarring and diabetes.

Professor Ben Marsland from Immunology & Pathology was also granted a SRFB ($717,275) for a project probing how the microbiome – the bacteria, fungi and viruses that colonise even healthy bodies – can prevent and treat respiratory diseases. Respiratory diseases are one of the most significant burdens on human health, killing four million people annually.

Professor Sam El-Osta from the Department of Diabetes will use his Career Development Fellowship ($649,175) for a five-year project characterising a novel regulatory complex thought to play a central role in conferring ‘hyperglycemic memory’ at sites of diabetic complications. Professor El-Osta’s Fellowship project builds on previous exciting findings about epigenetic modifications – the inherited chemical changes that affect DNA – and the cardiovascular and renal complications associated with diabetes.

Dr Joseph Doyle from the Department of Infectious Diseases was also granted a Career Development Fellowship ($437,036). This will enable Dr Doyle to conduct a study as a basis on which a national scheme could be developed to improve the delivery of hepatitis C treatment and eliminate the disease as a health burden in Australia. This would have global implications as a model.

The new Department of Neuroscience attracted almost half of the CCS grants.

Associate Professor Sandy Shultz gained a Career Development Fellowship ($483,404) to conduct innovative translational studies into mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), which includes for example, the concussion experienced by sportspeople, and which can be associated with lasting neurological impairments and neurodegenerative disease. The project aims to identify means to improve diagnosis and ultimately clinical management of mTBI.

Dr Pablo Casillas-Espinosa was awarded an Early Career Fellowship ($327,192) to progress research into a novel therapy for temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE). TLE is the most common and most difficult-to-treat form of the disease. The seizures and the associated psychiatric disorders seriously affect the quality of life of patients. Dr Casillas-Espinosa is investigating sodium selenate as a way of reversing the disease.

Dr Piero Perucca’s Early Career Fellowship ($232,315) will go towards a project assessing the extent to which genetic factors account for focal epilepsies of unknown cause. Most cases of focal epilepsy have no identifiable cause. The study will evaluate how many of these people have a type of epilepsy which runs in families. Finding a genetic cause for a patient’s epilepsy may lead to the development of novel personalised therapies.

Dr Zhibin (Ben) Chen in Professor Patrick Kwan's group in the Department of Neuroscience was also awarded a NHMRC ECF. He will be coming over from the University of Melbourne to join Monash later this year.

Monash University attracted $28.5 million across the seven schemes announced by the Federal Government.

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