Medicine

Research funding success

La Trobe University researchers will receive more than $3.8 million in grants from Australia’s health and medical research funding body.

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) will support eight La Trobe researchers through either the Early Career Fellowship, Senior Research Fellowship or Partnership Projects schemes.

La Trobe Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research) Professor Keith Nugent said five La Trobe researchers would receive a total of more than $1.5 million in Early Career Fellowship grants.

“La Trobe has had a 50 per cent success rate in applications for Early Career Fellowship in 2017 – our best result in five years,” Professor Nugent said.

“The Fellowships are highly sought after and only a limited number are awarded each year. Our success is a reflection of the quality of our research at this level.”

Early Career Fellowship Scheme

Dr Amy Baxter (Molecular Sciences) – $318,768

Every day billions of cells in the human body go through a process called apoptosis or programmed cell death. The rapid removal of these apoptotic cells is essential for tissue function. Previous research has linked impairment in this process to inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Dr Amy Baxter will research the molecular events that underpin apoptosis. Better understanding apoptosis could lead to new therapeutic approaches to treat diseases associated with deficiency in apoptotic cell clearance.

Dr Eliza Hawkes (Cancer Medicine) – $189,384

Lymphoma is the sixth most common cancer. Most patients who are diagnosed with lymphoma are aged over 50 and between 30 and 50 per cent will die from the disease. Immunotherapy has emerged as a possible new treatment for lymphoma. Based at the world-renowned Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute, Dr Eliza Hawkes will conduct a series of trials to evaluate the use of immunotherapy in lymphoma and develop better use of immunotherapy strategies for treating three key lymphoma subtypes.

Dr Ebonie Rio (Allied Health) – $286,891.20

Knee pain affects more than 20 per cent of the general population. Exercise is the most effective treatment for knee pain, but can be painful and uninteresting. Current rehabilitation also fails to address the complex changes in the way the brain controls muscles. Dr Ebonie Rio will investigate exercise combined with neuroscience techniques, using virtual reality glasses. Her pilot testing has shown that manipulation of vision using virtual reality during exercise can reduce knee pain and allow people to exercise. Further research could radically change rehabilitation practices, not just for knees but other musculoskeletal conditions too.

Dr Maria Jelinic (Life Sciences) – $318,768

Hypertension or high blood pressure is a primary risk factor for cardiovascular disease and affects approximately 4.6 million Australians. The cause is unknown in more than 90 per cent of cases and current treatments are unsuccessful in more than half of patients. Therapeutic approaches similar to those for autoimmune disorders might be effective for the treatment of hypertension. Dr Maria Jelinic’s research will determine how hypertension-specific antibodies promote vascular and renal inflammation and remodelling.

Dr Miles Andrews (Cancer Medicine) – $438,768

Many cancer treatment outcomes have improved in recent years with the development of effective anti-cancer immunotherapy. However, an overwhelming majority of patients are yet to benefit from this form of treatment. A better understanding of the reasons why not all cancer patients respond to immunotherapy is needed in order to extend the benefits to a greater number of patients. Dr Miles Andrews will investigate several distinct aspects of anti-tumour immunity to identify new biomarkers and ways to improve therapeutic options involving these anti-cancer agents.

The NHMRC has also awarded a Senior Research Fellowship to Professor Hylton Menz.

“Professor Menz has been in continuous receipt of funding from the NHMRC’s fellowship scheme throughout his career,” Professor Nugent said.

“This five year fellowship supports leading health and medical researchers foster an intellectual environment to support and build the capacity of Australian research for the future.”

Senior Research Fellowship Scheme

Professor Hylton Menz (Allied Health) – $782,370

At least one in four Australians aged over 65 have foot pain, which leads to difficulty in walking, loss of independence and quality of life. Professor Menz will add to his previous work to build a program of research to improve health outcomes for older people with musculoskeletal foot disorders. His research will vastly expand understanding of the natural history of foot disorders, apply state-of-the-art techniques to develop new inventions and evaluate the effectiveness of these interventions through several world-first trials.

Two La Trobe researchers sought funding under the NHMRC’s Partnerships Projects Scheme and both have been successful.

“La Trobe continues to enjoy strong ties with industry and these grants demonstrate our reputation as an excellent and engaging research partner,” Professor Nugent said.

Partnership Projects Scheme

Professor Angela Taft (Judith Lumley Centre) – $595,289

Professor Taft will work with an outstanding team of government, multicultural service partners and national and international investigators to provide a ‘whole of service’ primary care approach to improve general practice response to victims of domestic violence. The HARMONY project aims to increase identification and referral of women experiencing domestic violence to specialist services, especially among migrant and refugee populations.

Professor Leeanne Carey (Allied Health) – $955,910

Professor Carey will bring together clinicians, health providers, consumers, researchers and academics to increase access to best-practice stroke rehabilitation of the arm, in order to achieve better outcomes for people who experience a stroke. With an additional $1.4 million of funding from her partners, this project aims to deliver best-practice rehabilitation, a knowledge translation hub, specialist delivery clinics and a community of up-skilled therapists embedded in a range of health care settings.

Source: La Trobe University

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