Preventing deaths from influenza, therapies for metabolic diseases like diabetes, dietary treatments for Crohn’s disease, and understanding meningococcal diseases are among projects funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) awarded to Monash University researchers.
Federal Health Minister, The Honourable Greg Hunt MP, today (Wednesday 20 May) announced more than $47 million in funding for Monash researchers across all areas of health and medical research, including biomedical, clinical, public health and health services. He made this announcement at the University’s Clayton Campus.
Monash received $45,945,982 across 28 projects as part of the NHMRC Investigator grants, and a further two projects attracted $1,215,410 through the NHMRC Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) Priority Round.
Thirty researchers from Monash received funding, with the majority from the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, as well as the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.
This announcement was part of a $400 million investment by the Federal Government in world-leading health and medical research projects to improve the lives of all Australians.
Professor Allen Cheng, Professor of Infectious Diseases at Monash University and Director of the Infection Prevention and Epidemiology Unit at the Alfred Hospital, received $1.7 million to optimise vaccine and treatment strategies to prevent illness and death from severe influenza in Australia.
Speaking at the announcement, Professor Cheng said: “My research will look at strengthening systems to assess how well the flu vaccine is working each year, including enhanced vaccines for older Australians.
“I hope to inform policies that will better protect Australians from severe respiratory infections, including COVID-19 and influenza. This will include systems that can assess any future vaccine against COVID-19.”
Monash University President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Margaret Gardner AC, welcomed the ongoing funding by the Federal Government into important research that can deliver significant long-term health outcomes for all Australians.
“Now, more than ever, the world depends on researchers and scientists to provide lasting public health, economic and social outcomes as we confront the biggest global emergency of our time,” Professor Gardner said.
“Monash is well-placed to tackle these challenges and make an impact locally, nationally and globally, through ground-breaking research at world-class facilities, in collaboration with our wide network of industry partners.”
Some of the NHMRC-funded projects include:
The role of a low emulsifier diet to treat Crohn’s disease
Dr Emma Halmos received funding to deliver new treatments for Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel condition. The only current dietary treatment for Crohn’s disease is removing food and replacing it with nutritional complete liquid. While it is highly effective for Crohn’s disease treatment, the dietary treatment is short-term and not always a patient-friendly option. More targeted diets are needed. There is strong evidence in animals that emulsifiers, commonly added to food to stabilise a product, induces inflammation in the bowel, but evidence is lacking in humans. Dr Halmos will explore the effects of emulsifiers on the intestines of humans through designing low and high emulsifier diets and analysing their effects on health in healthy and Crohn’s disease participants across three trials.
Development of novel therapies to treat obesity-related metabolic diseases
Professor Mark Febbraiofrom Monash’s Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (MIPS) is one of Australia’s leading metabolic disease researchers. Having dedicated 20 years to understanding this major global health issue, Professor Febbraio has become widely recognised as a trailblazer in uncovering pathways and developing drug candidates for the treatment of insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease, hepatocellular carcinoma and Alzheimer’s Disease.
Metabolic disease, which is a key therapeutic focus for MIPS, has been on the rise in Australia in recent years due the exponential increase of Australian adults defined as overweight or obese.
Developing novel antimicrobials for the deadly bacteria that cause meningococcal disease
Dr Rhys Grinter has received funding to investigate how the deadly bacteria that cause meningococcal disease obtain iron during infection. Iron is an essential nutrient for life. During infection, disease-causing bacteria need iron, and as a result, we carefully guard the iron in our bodies to prevent bacteria from obtaining it. To access iron, disease-causing bacteria have evolved specialised systems to steal the iron from our bodies. This work will allow us to understand how bacteria obtain iron during infection and will develop novel antibiotics that block their ability to get it.
NHMRC grants provide researchers with flexibility to pursue important new research directions as they arise and to form collaborations as needed, to create innovative and creative research solving pressing health and medical problems.