$24.6m boost for medical research

From diabetes, cancer and heart disease to chronic pain and major depression, 12 new research grants announced today cap off a big year for Flinders medical and health science researchers.

The latest Australian Government National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Project grants – which include $3 million for Indigenous health and $2.5 million for better heart attack interventions – bring to more than $24.6 million in NHMRC funding awarded to Flinders University this year to help solve problems affecting millions of people in Australia and around the world.

These awards add to the recently announced $9.46 million NHMRC Program grant to improve prevention and treatment of glaucoma, and the $2.49 million establishment of the National Centre for Sleep Health Services Research in 2018.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Colin Stirling says the funding represents a very substantial increase compared with recent years and is an important step towards realising the University’s strategic ambitions in research.

“Flinders University’s researchers have performed very strongly in NHMRC funding this year which, together with recent successes in ARC grant funding, helps to underscore the depth of research talent at the University and brings into sharp focus the importance of the work being done to find solutions to some of the important problems of the day,” Professor Stirling says.

“These latest projects further reinforce our commitment to research outcomes that deliver health and wellbeing solutions here and around the world.”

Along with the $9.46 million program grant, Flinders Professor of Ophthalmology Jamie Craig has been successful in gaining a related $844,965.60 NHMRC Project grant which will add hundreds of patients to a DNA bank investigating how genes and eye tests can be used to predict the risk of developing severe glaucoma, one of the leading causes of irreversible blindness.

Another vision science project will target ebola virus-related eye disease while others will examine mental health and gut health as well as obstructive sleep apnoea, a condition that affects an estimated 25% of Australian adults.

Chronic abdominal and pelvic pain are common debilitating clinical conditions experienced by millions of patients around the world.

Cross-organ sensitisation between the colon and bladder: from a new paper ‘Cross-organ sensitisation between the colon and bladder: To pee, or not to pee?’ by Dr Luke Grundy and Associate Professor Stuart Brierley (Flinders University / SAHMRI).

Flinders Associate Professor Stuart Brierley and researchers from the SA Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) are making inroads into finding relief for chronic pain, constipation, diarrhoea, lower urinary tract disorders and urinary urgency often connected to Irrritable Bowel Syndrome or Inflammatory Bowel Disease, a common condition in many countries.

Other recent NHMRC grants to Flinders involves a $770,517.80 Boosting Dementia Research Grant while Dr Ebony Liu and Dr Genevieve Oliver from the Eye and Vision Research group at Flinders were awarded $168,926 in NHMRC postgraduate grants.

As well, Flinders researcher Associate Professor Niranjan Bidargaddi (with SA Country Health and SALHN) was recently awarded a $179,118 Medical Research Future Fund  Translating Research into Practice (TRIP) Fellowship to investigate digital solutions in mental health.

A further seven projects involving Flinders researchers to be administered by other institutions have been successful. The latest successful projects announced by the NHMRC are:

$2,481,816 for Professor Derek Chew and team, to investigate a better approach to a common coronary condition, myocardial infarcation, which can lead to cardiac arrest and death. With collaborators at the University of NSW, Auckland Hospital, University of Toronto and Swinburne University of Technology.

$1,451,490.50 for Professor Fran Baum from the Southgate Institute for Health, Society and Equity at Flinders University to focus on improving primary health care delivery by involving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in health organisations. With collaborators from Queensland Health, University of British Columbia, Canada and University of Sydney.

$1,571,334.20 for Dr Tamara Mackean and colleagues at the Southgate Institute at Flinders to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers and liaison officers in quality acute care services. With Dr Annabelle Wilson, Dr Eileen Willis and Dr Kim O’Donnell (Flinders University) and collaborators from the University of Adelaide, SA Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) and George Institute for Global Health.

$720,585 and $696,808.50 respectively for Associate Professor Stuart Brierley and colleagues to investigate chronic abdominal pain associated with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or Inflammatory Bowel Disease (with SAHMRI, University of Queensland and University of Adelaide collaborators) as well as the causes of overactive bladder, often associated with IBS (with Flinders Professor Nick Spencer and collaborators from Sheffield University, England).

$844,965.60 to Professor Jamie Craig to create the world’s largest DNA database to further understand glaucoma blindness genes to improve clinical practice (with collaborators at the University of WA, University of Tasmania, Council of the Queensland Institute of Medical Research and Menzies Research Institute).

$814,468.20 for Professor Damien Keating ‘Targeting RCAN1 to treat type 2 diabetes and obesity’ (with collaborators at Lund University, Sweden and University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre).

$748,985.20 for Professor Justine Smith  ‘First-in-Field Study of Mechanisms Operating in Post-Ebola Eye Disease’ (with Dr Jill Carr (Flinders) and collaborators at CSIRO and Emory University, US).

$727,962.80 for Dr Andrew Vakulin ‘A new clinical tool to assess fitness-to-drive in obstructive sleep apnea’ (with Flinders Professor Doug McEvoy and Professor Peter Catcheside and collaborators at the University of Sydney and the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, NSW).

$610,005.00 for Dr Robyn Meech ‘UGT enzymes in chemotherapeutic drug metabolism: new avenues to improve drug response and overcome resistance’ (with Flinders Professor Ross McKinnon, Emeritus Professor Peter Mackenzie, Dr Don Gui Hu and Professor Christos Karapetis.

$529,428 for Professor Simon Brookes ‘How stimulant laxatives work’ (with Associate Professor Philip Dinning and Professor Marcello Costa).

$515,549.50 for Professor Ma-Li Wong ‘Validating novel biomarkers relevant to major depression’ (with  collaborators at Flinders and SAHMRI Mind and Brain Theme).

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Robert Saint says the funding is a boon to better future health outcomes.

“NHMRC funding enables our medical research leaders, who are experts in their respective fields, to make strong inroads into some of the largest disease challenges of the 21st century,” Professor Saint says.

The 2017 NHMRC Grant Application Round has resulted in more than $877 million in health and medical research funding, comprising 1,103 new grants, going to universities, medical research institutions and hospitals across Australia.

For more information https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/grants-funding/outcomes-funding-rounds


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