Burnet researchers share in NHMRC grants

Image: Burnet Institute Senior Research Fellow and NHMRC Investigator Grant recipient Dr Lindi Masson

Burnet Institute research into malaria, HIV, viral hepatitis, and the health of pre-term newborns will benefit from National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Investigator Grants for 2021 valued collectively at more than AUD$6 million.

Burnet Deputy Director, Professor Margaret Hellard AM, has been awarded AUD$2,114,215 for research into the elimination of viral hepatitis and ending HIV/AIDS as global health threats.

Using innovative surveillance systems, research methods, implementation science and mathematical modelling, Professor Hellard will study the transmission of blood borne viruses and develop interventions to reduce new infections and associated risk behaviours (drug and alcohol use and sexual risk).

She will also undertake research to increase the engagement of vulnerable communities in testing and treatment for these infections.

Burnet Director and CEO Professor Brendan Crabb AC attracted AUD$2 million in funding for his work to therapeutically target malaria pathogenesis.

NHMRC funding worth more than AUD$1.562 million will support Principal Research Fellow, Associate Professor Joshua Vogel’s projects to improve the health outcomes of pre-term newborns in low- and middle-income countries.

“We’ll be conducting clinical trials with women in Bangladesh, India, Kenya, Nigeria and Pakistan who are at risk of giving birth preterm, said Associate Professor Vogel.

“We’ll be trialling treatments like steroids, which are used to help develop a baby’s lungs, and tocolytics, which are drugs to slow down labour, to see how best to use those drugs.”

“The findings have the potential to dramatically improve survival for pre-term newborns, which is the number one killer of children under five, globally.”

This work is being conducted in partnership with the World Health Organization and collaborators in the five focus countries.

Burnet Senior Research Fellow, Dr Lindi Masson receives AUD $645,205 for her investigations into the risk factors for HIV acquisition in women in South Africa, where HIV incidence remains exceptionally high.

“The first part of this study will examine the activities and properties of the microbiome that drive inflammation in the female reproductive tract, which increases HIV risk three-fold,” Dr Masson said.

“The study will also investigate whether some types of commonly used long-acting contraceptives may influence the microbiome and inflammation, thereby increasing HIV risk.”

A total of 237 projects across Australia will receive NHMRC funding valued at almost AUD$400 million following a competitive process, with a further 30 grants to be funded through the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) Priority Round.

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