Researchers awarded over $23m in NHMRC innovative project grants

25 UNSW academics receive Ideas Grants for research in medicine and health, science and engineering.
Belinda Henwood | UNSW Newsroom

UNSW Sydney researchers have secured more than $23 million in the latest round of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Ideas Grant scheme funding. The safety and effectiveness of quit smoking medicines during pregnancy, Salmonella strain typing and tracking, and new approaches for cancer strategies are just a few of the innovative UNSW research projects to receive grants.

The Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, today announced $239 million for 248 projects funded through the NHMRC Ideas Grant scheme. The scheme supports innovative research projects addressing a specific question and it provides opportunities for early and mid-career researchers in particular.

UNSW Sydney Pro Vice-Chancellor Research Professor Sven Rogge congratulated UNSW’s researchers and their teams on their success.

“In the three years of the Ideas Grant scheme, this is UNSW’s strongest result with more than $23 million in funding and 25 academics leading these NHMRC projects.

“These research projects, such as innovative lung cancer treatment and a patient-centred AI clinical triage system, will help address a wide range of health and medical issues faced by Australians.”

Read more: UNSW researchers receive more than $17m in NHMRC funding

Dr Alys Havard at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC), the Centre for Big Data Research in Health and UNSW Medicine & Health has received $904,422. Her project is: ‘Are nicotine replacement therapy and varenicline safe and effective for women trying to quit smoking during pregnancy?’ The project will measure the safety and effectiveness of two quit smoking medicines during pregnancy. It will use routinely collected data from Australia, New Zealand and the Nordic countries for more than 400,000 women who smoked during pregnancy. Women who used nicotine replacement therapy or varenicline during pregnancy will be compared to women who smoked but did not use these medicines in relation to quitting, and adverse birth outcomes and neurodevelopmental problems among their children.

Professor Ruiting Lan at UNSW Science has received $865,336 for ‘Transforming genomic surveillance of foodborne Salmonella infections with SalmonellaTracker: a standardised, high resolution and scalable platform’. Salmonella infections are a major health burden, with more than 50,000 cases each year in Australia. Control of the disease requires rapid and accurate strain typing and tracking. This project will develop tools for national and international Salmonella genomic surveillance. These tools will facilitate the tracking, control and characterisation of Salmonella in both the human population and the food production chain, reducing their global health burden.

Dr Susann Beier at UNSW Engineering has been awarded $459,117 for ‘Opening the pathway to large data-driven patient-specific diagnostics using novel coronary angiogram analysis’. This research will reform the medical practice of risk assessment for coronary artery disease and acute coronary artery syndrome by delivering the next generation of rapid, patient-specific and high accuracy medical image-based risk assessment. Using innovative state-of-the-art engineering methods, including machine learning, large-scale computational modelling and image analysis, the team will reveal new markers of cardiovascular risk in individuals for improved standard clinical care.

The full list of UNSW recipients:

Scientia Professor Gary Housley at UNSW Medicine & Health had received $1,941,007 for ‘Bionic-array directed gene electrotransfer for treating focal brain disorders’.

Professor Kerry-Anne Rye at UNSW Medicine & Health has been awarded $1,566,077 for ‘A novel, dual-targeted therapeutic approach for reducing diabetes-accelerated atherosclerosis’.

Professor John Pimanda at UNSW Medicine & Health has received $1,200,569 for ‘The single cell basis for the emergence of drug resistance during Azacitidine therapy in myelodysplastic syndromes and acute myeloid leukemia’.

Dr Therese Becker at South Western Sydney Clinical School at UNSW Medicine & Health has received $1,356,197 for ‘Revolutionising immunotherapy response prediction in non-small cell lung cancer via longitudinal single-cell proteomic analysis of liquid biopsy derived cancer and immune cells’.

Professor Boris Martinac at the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute and UNSW Medicine & Health was awarded $1,207,705 for ‘The role of Piezo1 and TRPM4 ion channels in pathophysiology of cardiac mechano-electric coupling’.

Professor Gavan McNally at UNSW Science has received $1,104,880 for ‘Novel pathways to abstinence from alcohol seeking’.

Associate Professor David Laybutt at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and UNSW Medicine & Health has received $1,000,959 for ‘Type 2 diabetes relief by UPR-mediated beta cell protection’.

Dr Cynthia Munier at the Kirby Institute and UNSW Medicine & Health has received $982,670 for ‘Dissecting the healthy and immunosuppressed, primary and secondary immune responses within human lymph nodes following COVID-19 vaccination’.

Dr David Jacques at UNSW Medicine & Health has been awarded $958,152 for ‘Understanding how viruses overcome the nuclear pore complex, the gatekeeper of genomic access’.

Associate Professor Shane Grey at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and UNSW Medicine & Health has been awarded $924,922 for ‘Harnessing a novel immune check point for cancer killing’.

Associate Professor Kyle Hoehn at UNSW Science has received $858,203 for ‘Targeting metabolism to improve healthy ageing’. Associate Professor Hoehn has also been awarded $586,751 for ‘Targeting caloric efficiency to treat obesity-related diabetes’.

Professor Susan Clark at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and UNSW Medicine & Health has been awarded $838,167 for ‘3D nuclear re-organisation potentiates genomic structural variations in prostate cancer’.

Dr Andrew Philp at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and UNSW Medicine & Health has been awarded $799,706 for ‘Enhancing mitochondrial energetics to prevent age-associated muscle weakness’.

Associate Professor Ozren Bogdanovic at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and UNSW Medicine & Health has received $791,930 for ‘The rogue germline: deciphering mechanisms of cancer testis antigen reactivation in cancer’.

Associate Professor Jack Chen at South Western Sydney Clinical School at UNSW Medicine & Health has received $768,889 for ‘Developing a real-time machine learning rapid response and risk stratification system for in hospital patients’.

Dr Vittorio Orazio at UNSW Centre for Childhood Cancer Research (CCR) and UNSW Medicine & Health has received $721,983 for ‘Pioneering novel therapeutic strategies to enhance an anti-tumour immune response in Neuroblastoma’.

Associate Professor Tri Phan at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and UNSW Medicine & Health has been awarded $684,360 for ‘Location! Location! Location! Geospatial control of memory B cell reactivation in vaccine-induced immunity’.

Dr David Croucher at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and UNSW Medicine & Health has received $674,218 for ‘Targeting metastatic triple-negative breast cancer with a selective oncogenic JNK inhibitor’.

Professor Louisa Jorm at the Centre for Big Data Research in Health and UNSW Medicine & Health has received $655,935 for ‘Hospital trajectories for 15 million Australians’.

Dr David Herrmann at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and UNSW Medicine & Health has been awarded $599,808 for ‘Single-cell intravital imaging guides anti-fibrotic therapy to improve standard-of-care treatment in triple negative breast cancer’.

Associate Professor Thomas Cox at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and UNSW Medicine & Health has received $798,196 for ‘SPARC as a key regulator of breast cancer metastasis and resistance to therapy’.

Associate Professor Nadeem Kaakoush at UNSW Medicine & Health has been awarded $647,333 for ‘Immunoglobulin A degradation by the gut microbiome’.