$10 million in NHMRC funding for research including breast cancer, asthma and fetal hypoxia

Hudson Institute researchers have been awarded more than $10 million in funding by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

Protecting the brain against oxygen deprivation in the womb, identifying ways to halt breast tumour growth, and reducing the burden of asthma and chronic lung disease are among the projects at Hudson Institute to be funded.

The Federal Health Minister, The Hon. Sussan Ley, announced the grants in two announcements, on Saturday (December 3), and in late October.

Hudson Institute researchers were awarded a total of $10,156,392.

Professor Anne Kelso, CEO of the NHMRC, Australia’s foremost medical research funding body, said that the project grants, announced on Friday, would support an extraordinary breadth of research around Australia.

“They include 60 fellowships for our future research leaders, laboratory studies of the origins of disease and clinical trials of new therapies,” Professor Kelso said.

Hudson Institute of Medical Research Director, Professor Bryan Williams, congratulated all of the recipients, and thanked the NHMRC and the Health Minister for their support.

Creatine – could it protect the fetal brain?

Associate Professor David Walker

Associate Professor David Walker, Dr Matthew McKenzie, Professor Rodney Snow (Deakin University), Dr Hayley Dickinson, Dr Stacey J Ellery and Dr Kirstin Elgass (Monash Medical Imaging). “Mitochondrial damage following fetal hypoxia or birth asphyxia: Using creatine to preserve mitochondrial function” Project Grant 

There is a need for preventative therapy that can be given to a mother before she gives birth to protect her baby from ‘oxygen starvation’, or hypoxia, which can threaten the baby’s brain and vital organs.

A research project led by Associate Professor David Walker will examine whether creatine, a naturally occurring amino acid derivative, could protect the fetal brain from the damaging, and often life-long, effects of hypoxia.

“We’ll determine what effect oxygen starvation has on the structure and function of mitochondria in the brain, then look at whether creatine could offer protection against the loss of fetal brain function,” A/Prof Walker said.

EAR2 – a new target for breast cancer metastasis

Dr Kristy Brown

Associate Professor Colin Clyne and Dr Kristy Brown “EAR2: A novel driver of breast cancer proliferation” Project Grant 

Drugs such as Tamoxifin are used to block the action of hormones such as estrogen, which drive breast cancer growth. However, what happens when these drugs don’t work, or a patient invariably becomes resistant to the drug over time?

A new NHMRC funded research project, led by Associate Professor Colin Clyne, will focus on a protein called EAR2, which is highly elevated in breast cancer tissues, and whether it is implicated in cancer growth.

“If we are correct, this will validate EAR2 as a potential new target for treatment, which will ultimately benefit patients whose cancers do not respond to, or become resistant to, hormone therapies such as Tamoxifin,” A/Prof Clyne said.

Asthma and COPD – preventing debilitating respiratory infections

Professor Philip Bardin, Dr Michael Gantier, Professor Jack Elias (Brown University) and Professor Kate Loveland “Attenuating severe infections in chronic inflammatory diseases through modulation of transforming growth factor-β activity” Project Grant

Asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are two of the most prevalent respiratory diseases, and which leave sufferers vulnerable to viral and bacterial lung infections.

A team of Hudson Institute researchers will investigate whether blocking a protein called Transforming growth factor-β (TGFB), which drives scarring in the lungs of asthma and COPD patients, may also help to prevent bacterial and viral infections in the lungs.

“This research has the potential to significantly improve the quality of life of these patients, whilst reducing the burden of chronic lung diseases on the Australian Health Care system,” Dr Belinda Thomas, Research Fellow in Hudson’s Centre for Innate Immunity and Infectious Diseases, said.

Other highlights include:

  • Professor Paul Hertzog, Dr Julian Vivian and Dr Nicole de Weerd ‘Structure-function of type I interferon receptors: informing the basis for selective modulation of signal transduction and function’ Project Grant
  • Dr Miranda Davies-Tuck ‘A double randomised controlled trial of Melatonin in women undergoing induction of labour’ New Investigator Project Grant
  • Professor Ron Firestein, Professor Bryan Williams, Dr Suresh Mathivanan and Dr Jason Cain ‘Mediator Kinase as a therapeutic target for Wnt/ β-catenin pathway dependent malignancies’ Project Grant
  • Associate Professor Evdokia (Eva) Dimitriadis and Associate Professor Luk Rombauts “Facilitating endometrial receptivity to improve pregnancy outcomes” Project Grant
  • Associate Professor Mark Hedger, Professor Kate Loveland, Professor Andreas Meinhardt and Associate Professor Ashley Mansell ‘Regulation of immune responses in the adult testis and male reproductive health’ Project Grant
  • Dr Peter Stanton, Associate Professor Craig Harrison, Associate Professor Mark Hedger and Professor Robert McLachlan ‘The importance of the blood-testis barrier in human infertility’ Project Grant

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