Bright future ahead for George Institute researchers after latest grants announcement

SYDNEY, MAY 20 – The George Institute today announced that six of its researchers have been awarded NHMRC grants commencing in January 2021 and extending for a five-year period.

With only 13 percent of the 1,780 applications received by NHMRC funded, the 20 percent hit rate at the Institute is a testament to the quality of submissions and the strength of the grant submissions team. Grant recipients and their project outlines are listed below.

Regulatory strategies to promote healthier Australian diets – Unhealthy diets are a leading cause of ill health. In contrast to our global leadership in tobacco control, Australia remains slow to use law as a tool to support healthy eating. This project, led by Dr Alexandra Jones, will generate new insights on features of effective food policies to target excess sugar consumption. Using an innovative fusion of law and science, its findings will inform and accelerate current proposals to improve food labelling and tax sugary drinks to promote healthier Australian diets.

Generating new evidence to better guide stroke management – Stroke is leading cause of death and disability worldwide, with rates increasing in line with population ageing and lifestyle changes. Dr Xia Wang will lead a study to help determine the optimal approach to blood pressure (BP) control that could improve outcomes after stroke in terms of the timing, degree, choice of agent and speed of BP control. Dr Wang will also use the grant for a novel study to determine if a lower intensity nurse monitoring strategy is at least as effective as standard high-intensity monitoring for patients after receiving a clot-busting drug for a blocked blood vessel in the brain.

Delineating the role of fludrocortisone and hydrocortisone in the management of patients with septic shock – Sepsis and septic shock are leading causes of morbidity and mortality globally. Steroids have been used to treat septic shock for decades and while hydrocortisone has been shown to improve mortality, the addition of fludrocortisone – not currently recommend in international guidelines – may reduce mortality further. Dr Naomi Hammond’s research program will investigate this evidence gap by providing critical evidence for the design and execution of a future definitive trial both in high and low/middle income country settings.

Understanding and improving outcomes due to Sepsis in at-risk and underserved populations – Kelly Thompson will lead a study to assess sepsis risk factors and incidence in ageing Australians and new mothers. Her study also aims to better understand the longer-term impact of sepsis on survivors and their families and investigate maternal sepsis cases to understand gaps in care with a view to future improvements in prevention. This work will focus on priority population subgroups including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, culturally and linguistically diverse peoples and those living in rural and remote settings.

Investigating novel therapies for heart failure with preserved ejection fraction – Dr Clare Arnott will lead a study to investigate potential treatments for patients with heart failure related to a ‘stiff heart’, known as heart failure with preserved ejection fraction. There are currently no established treatment options for these patients, who often have a poor quality of life, shortness of breath and require repeat admissions to hospital. Dr Arnott will analyse data from existing large trials to compare combination SGLT2 inhibition/GLP1-RA therapy with SGLT2 inhibitor therapy alone on cardiovascular health, cardiovascular and renal outcomes. She will also conduct a prospective randomised trial to compare the effects of combination dapagliflozin/exenatide versus dapagliflozin alone versus placebo over nine months follow up on heart failure outcomes.

Improving cardiovascular outcomes through better trials – Professor Bruce Neal will develop and test innovative solutions to the practicalities of conducting large-scale studies in diabetes and cardiovascular disease. This will include the development of a new Australian Research register designed to facilitate recruitment to trials across Australia and across disciplines.

The 2020 Investigator Grant round is the second round for this scheme with a total funding allocation of $367.5 million. The scheme supports outstanding investigators at all career stages and provides five-year funding security for high-performing researchers.

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