NHMRC Fellowship success

Hudson Institute has had outstanding success in the recent National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Fellowship and Development Grant announcements. Our researchers have been awarded a total of $5,337,790 for four NHMRC Research Fellowships, four Career Development Fellowships, two Early Career Fellowships and a Development Grant.

NHMRC Research Fellowships

Professor Stuart Hooper
Senior Principal Research Fellowship: 2019 – 2023
Optimising neonatal resuscitation in the delivery room

The deaths of newborn infants account for 46 per cent of all deaths in children under five, with the majority (75 per cent) occurring within the first week of life and around 50 per cent of these dying within 24 hours of birth. Birth is a stage of considerable vulnerability, as the newborn’s physiology must undergo remarkable changes allowing it to transition its existence from an aqueous to a gaseous environment independent from its mother. This project is focused on providing a better understanding of the transition to newborn life. The knowledge gained will be used to develop more effective approaches for managing infants at birth. In particular, Prof Hooper’s team will develop a neonatal version of ‘precision medicine’, targeting care to the specific needs and requirements of the infants as they transition to newborn life.

Professor Vincent Harley
Senior Research Fellowship B: 2019 – 2023
Molecular genetics of human sexual differentiation

Disorders of sex development (intersex) and gender dysphoria (transsex) can be traumatic in children and adults and require ongoing endocrine, surgical and psychosocial care. Dr Harley is studying the genetics of these conditions to improve patient management. He has also uncovered completely unexpected roles for male sex determining gene SRY in the male brain and will test his novel SRY-based disease-modifying therapy in a first-in-human clinical trial on men with Parkinson’s disease.

Professor Brendan Jenkins
Senior Research Fellowship: 2019 – 2023
Targeting key regulators of innate immunity in inflammation-associated cancer

Dysregulated innate immunity provides the cornerstone for the pathogenesis of inflammation-associated cancers, which account for 25 per cent of all human cancers. Among these, gastric, pancreatic and lung cancer (which is linked to the debilitating chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD) constitute the most common and lethal cancers worldwide, and present an enormous global health and economic burden. Professor Jenkin’s research aims to address the global unmet clinical need to advance precision medicine in gastric, pancreatic and lung cancers, and in COPD, by identifying key regulators of innate immunity for translation as novel personalised molecular biomarkers (early diagnostic, prognostic, predictive) and targets for treatment strategies.

Associate Professor Ron Firestein
Senior Research Fellowship: 2019 – 2023
Therapeutic targeting of the colorectal epigenome

Colon cancer is one of the top three cancers in Australia in both incidence and mortality. One of the main challenges in colorectal cancer is the lack of targeted therapies. This is because the main genetic driver in this cancer, b-catenin, is a transcription factor which cannot be easily treated with drugs. Using a diverse set of tools that we’ve generated such as mouse genetic models, drug screens, whole genome CRISPR screens, and clinical patient material, Associate Professor Firestein is progressing promising therapeutic targets and biomarkers. This Research Fellowship will support scientific studies to identify the key genetic regulators of b-catenin and progress new therapeutic opportunities to the clinic.

NHMRC Career Development Fellowships

Dr Rebecca Lim
Career Development Fellowship (Industry Level 2): 2019 – 2022
Increasing accessibility of regenerative medicine through innovative solutions

Regenerative medicine has been heralded as the next wave of medical advancement. The realisation of this promise requires an integrated approach to operationalising manufacturing capabilities, commercialising and obtaining regulatory approval for market entry of regenerative medicine.  Dr Lim’s vision is to increase patient accessibility by addressing technological and manufacturing challenges to expedite regulatory approval and reduce costs of treatments.  She will be working with Australian biotech companies, Scinogy Pty Ltd and Cell Therapies Pty Ltd, to traverse the translational valleys.

Dr Jaclyn Pearson
Career Development Fellowship (RD Wright Biomedical Level 1): 2019 – 2022
Understanding immune disorders of the gut

The human intestinal tract is a complex environment that is inhabited by many different types of bacteria and immune cells which together work to maintain a healthy environment in the gut. Dr Pearson is investigating the role of specific immune signalling factors in the gut that control inflammation and naturally occurring cell death. She has shown that mutations in these pathways lead to severe pathology when people are infected with bacteria such as pathogenic E. coli and Salmonella. This suggests that when the bacterial balance in our guts becomes disrupted by infection or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), these immune factors are critical to maintaining order in the gut. The Fellowship will allow Dr Pearson to determine exactly how these factors help to keep a healthy balance in the gut during infection or in IBD patients.

Associate Professor Flora Wong
Career Development Fellowship funded by Medical Research Future Fund (Next Generation Clinical Researchers Program): 2019 – 2022
Reducing brain injury and improving the care of high-risk newborn infants

Brain injury and long-term neurodevelopmental disability in preterm babies remains high – more than 7000 preterm babies born each year in Australia require intensive care. Many clinical practices in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) have been adopted from adult or paediatric treatments and are not specific for preterm infants. Associate Professor Wong will interrogate the effects of clinical treatments used in the NICU on brain oxygen delivery and neuropathy in the preterm brain. The research will inform clinicians when choosing the appropriate interventions for protecting the vulnerable preterm brain.

Dr Sam Forster
Career Development Fellowship (RD Wright Biomedical Level 1): 2019 – 2022
Phenotypic, genomic and informatic characterisation of host-microbiota interactions to develop disease therapies

Dr Forster’s research group is focused on the role played by the complex microbial communities that exist throughout our bodies. The group aims to elucidate how these microbes contribute to our health and explore how they can cause or exacerbate numerous immune related diseases. Through this Fellowship, Dr Forster will work with his research group to apply this knowledge and develop methods to modify the microbial communities as a therapeutic option for disease prevention and cure.

NHMRC Early Career Fellowship

Dr Vanesa Stojanovska
Early Career Fellowship (Peter Doherty Biomedical Fellowship): 2019 – 2022
Improving breathing of preterm newborns exposed to inflammation during pregnancy

Preterm babies exposed to inflammation during pregnancy have a high incidence of breathing difficulties and brain injury, which often lead to cerebral palsy. Dr Stojanovska’s research aims to investigate whether inflammation injures the fetal brainstem – a life-sustaining brain region which controls our breathing, and whether anti-inflammatory treatments can protect against this injury. Outcomes of this work will guide clinical trials focused on reducing the burden of preterm brain injury.

NHMRC Development Grant

Dr Tracey Edgell
Development Grant: 2019 – 2020
Validation of a prognostic assay for embryo transfer outcome

This study will provide strong evidence of the usefulness of a simple blood test to predict the likelihood of a successful IVF embryo transfer.  Blood samples from IVF centres in Australia and Singapore will be collected and used to assess the reliability of  a previously developed serum signature in predicting the outcome of embryo transfer. This will aid clinical decision-making in the treatment of infertile women, improve IVF success rates and reduce both financial and emotional costs.

Research Groups leading this work