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Friday, December 8, 2023

Govt announces $239 million in funding for Australian health and medical researchers

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The Federal Government has declared that 248 innovative research projects will receive a share of $239 million ‘to help advance our understanding of a wide range of health and medical issues faced by Australians’.

Funded through the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Ideas Grant scheme, the research undertaken by the projects will deliver important discoveries to improve the health of Australians.

Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, said Australia continues to take a lead role in improving the lives of patients around the world through health and medical research.

“These projects demonstrate the outstanding innovation of the health and medical research sector in Australia and offer great promise for future advances in our understanding and management of health challenges,” he said.

“From research on brain function to a new understanding of the critical role of the gut, these projects give us insight into leading-edge Australian research.”

Projects include research by Dr Melissa Call at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI) who is leading a research project to manipulate human immune cells to develop new and improved CAR-T cell cancer treatments that train a patient’s own immune cells to kill tumours. The grant will support the development of these new treatments.

CAR-T cell therapies are approved and have been shown to be effective in B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) and adult diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL). Whilst there are no approved CAR-T cell therapies for solid tumours, this research aims to develop world leading CAR-T cell treatments for solid tumours for potential use in clinical trials.

Also at WEHI, Dr Melinda Hardy will receive funding for research to better understand what leads to the symptoms of gluten sensitivity and coeliac disease, in order to improve treatments and patient health outcomes.

Coeliac disease effects 1 in 70 Australians and occurs when the immune system reacts abnormally to gluten causing inflammation and small bowel damage. The only known treatment is a strict life-long gluten free diet.

NHMRC CEO, Professor Anne Kelso, said NHMRC’s Ideas Grant scheme supports innovative and creative research and builds on Australia’s strong skills and international reputation in advanced health and medical research.

“As always, the Ideas Grant scheme is highly competitive and delivers projects at the leading edge, many very early in the discovery process. We look forward to following the research funded today and seeing the outcomes from these important grants,” Kelso said.

Each Ideas Grant team will receive funding for up to five years, with funding commencing in 2022.

The Ideas Grant Scheme was introduced in 2019 and is designed to support outstanding medical research, providing greater opportunities for more breakthroughs, so that Australians of all ages have improved health.

This week’s announcement also includes funding for the following projects:

  • A study of the cause of endometriosis led by Professor Guiying Nie at RMIT University, to explore new diagnostic and therapeutic options for women with this disorder.
  • A study of intraneuronal immunotherapy to treat Alzheimer’s Disease led by Doctor Ole Tietz at Macquarie University, to halt and reverse the course of dementia.
  • An investigation of the uptake and transport of the SARS-CoV-2 virus led by Professor Frederic Meunier at The University of Queensland to understand the long-term consequences of potential virus interactions with brain cells and find ways to block infection.
  • Research to improve the reliability of cochlear implants led by Associate Professor Cecilia Prêle at the University of Western Australia, by determining if anti-fibrotic drugs can reduce the formation of scar tissue caused around the electrode.
  • Research at the University of South Australia led by Assoc Prof Yeesim Khew-Goodall to better understand the pathways to chemotherapy resistance in triple negative breast cancer and to develop new drugs to circumvent chemoresistance.
  • Research to examine male infertility led by Doctor Tatiana Soboleva at the Australian National University, who has discovered a new process that is critical for the production of viable sperm.
  • A project at the University of Tasmania led by Doctor Carlie Cullen to understand the role of myelin in neural circuit function and behaviour, and its role in mental health disorders.
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