Publish Date: 
Tuesday, December 18, 2018 - 16:15

Over $5.9 million in NHMRC funding awarded to TRI-based researchers for 2019

In the latest round of NHMRC funding announced this month, TRI-based researchers from UQ, QUT and Mater-UQ have secured almost $6 million in funding across 10 projects for 2019. 

Congratulations to these researchers and their teams on their grant success!

Prof David Evans (UQ) - Grant title: Identifying maternal and fetal genetic determinants of infant birthweight and their relationship to offspring cardiometabolic risk

Children who are born of low birthweight are at increased risk of diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure in later life. This project aims to perform the world’s largest genetic study of birthweight, determine whether the genes that affect birthweight arise from the influence of the mother’s or offspring genome, and then use this information to investigate the relationship between birthweight and future risk of diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure.

Prof Josephine Forbes (Mater-UQ) - Grant title: Preventing progression of diabetic kidney disease by targeting mitochondrial function

Kidney disease (DKD) affects about a third of individuals with diabetes. Kidneys rely on mitochondria, the cellular power stations, which are dysfunctional in DKD. This project will investigate the relationship between kidney disease and mitochondrial dysfunction as well as testing the ability of two medicines to improve mitochondrial function and prevent diabetic kidney disease.

Prof David Hume (Mater-UQ) - Grant title: CSF1R and the control of microglial function

Microglia are cells of the immune system that are abundant in the brain.  They appear early in development of the embryo and are believed to be essential for brain development and health ageing.  Human mutations that affect the function of microglia cause dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases.  This project is concerned with analysing the precise function of a  gene that controls the generation of microglia using novel animal models.

Dr Katharine Irvine (Mater-UQ) - Grant title: CSF1 Therapy for Chronic Liver Disease

Chronic liver disease (CLD) is a major health burden. The defining feature of CLD is scarring of the liver (fibrosis), which can lead to loss of liver function and death. Macrophages are cells of the immune system that play critical roles in both fibrosis progression and fibrosis resolution. We have identified a growth factor that may switch pro-fibrotic macrophages to anti-fibrotic macrophages. In this Project we will investigate the therapeutic potential of this growth factor in CLD.

Dr John Kemp (UQ) - Grant title: Using large scale genome-wide association studies to identify pharmacological targets for osteoporosis intervention

Osteoporosis is a debilitating genetic bone disease that involves bone loss and increases fracture risk. This project aims to lead the largest ever genetic study of osteoporosis in half a million individuals, and in doing so, combine statistical and molecular approaches to identify genes that could in future serve as osteoporosis drug targets that restore lost bone.

Dr Tony Kenna (QUT) - Grant title: Evaluation of a new therapeutic strategy for treatment of systemic sclerosis and systemic lupus erythematosus

Scleroderma and lupus are painful and disabling autoimmune diseases that severely impact patient quality of life and, in severe cases, reduce lifespan. There are currently no cures or good treatments for either disease. This project aims to develop a new and specific treatment for scleroderma and lupus by targeting a protein of the immune system that controls inflammation in both diseases.

A/Prof Kiarash Khosrotehrani (UQ) - Grant title: Targeting the pre-metastatic vascular niche in melanoma using a novel molecular strategy

To spread tumours need to create the blood vessels they will use at distant sites called metastatic niches. We have uncovered key molecular factors that allow tumours to develop these distant niches that will eventually be invaded and we will test new therapies for their inhibition to prevent metastatic spread of the disease.

A/Prof Raymond Steptoe (UQ) - Grant title: Engineering human dendritic cells for tolerogenic gene therapy of type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes (T1D) afflicts more than 100,000 Australians and results from autoimmune destruction of insulin producing beta-cells. Insulin injections are required for survival, but T1D leads to substantial illness and reduced life expectancy. This project will test a newly-developed immunotherapeutic approach in a humanized mouse model of disease. Successful completion would accelerate the translation of this approach as a potential cure for T1D.

Dr Timothy Wells (UQ) - Grant title: Paradoxical antibody: the role of antibody in exacerbating Pseudomonas lung infection

Antibody is a vital defence mechanism of the host immune system and protects against infection. Recently however, we identified a specific type of antibody that actually protects bacteria from immune killing. Presence of this ‘inhibitory antibody’ correlated with worse disease and two patients have been successfully treated by removal of antibody. Here we explore the mechanism behind the inhibition to guide new therapies to target removal or inactivation of this inhibitory antibody.

Dr Sherry Wu (Mater-UQ) - Grant title: Harnessing the immune system to battle ovarian cancer: A novel approach using naturally occurring exosomes

Ovarian cancer is the most deadly type of gynaecologic disease with more than 1500 new cases being diagnosed each year in Australia. The goal of this research is to enhance the activity of immune cells such that they can start recognising and attacking ovarian tumour cells. Using naturally occurring vesicles, we have developed an effective strategy to switch off genes that prevent immune cells from entering ovarian tumour. Ultimately, our findings could significantly enhance patient survival.

Summary: 
Congratulations to UQ, QUT and Mater-UQ researchers for their grant success