Smiling pediatrician with happy baby

Two research centres based at the Murdoch Children’s Research Centre that aim to understand the underlying causes of speech disorders and how best to treat and manage allergies have been awarded a funding boost.

The Centre for Research Excellence (CRE) projects have each received $2.5 million in the latest grant round from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) announced today by Federal Assistant Health Minister Ged Kearney.

Angela MorganMurdoch Children’s Professor Angela Morgan said the Centre of Research Excellence – Translational Centre for Speech Disorders would transform speech pathology by harnessing biology to lead to better identification, management and outcomes for children and families affected by these disorders.

One in five children has a speech or language disorder at school entry, with lifelong psychosocial, academic and employment barriers.

 “Current speech pathology management is limited by focusing on symptoms and ignoring critical growing evidence on underlying genetic and nervous system causes,” Professor Morgan said.

 “This research centre is combining our expertise in gene discovery and brain imaging to understand the neurobiological basis of speech disorders. We will continue our landmark work in identifying new genes causing speech disorders and will also produce some of the first biologically driven therapy trials in the field. 

“Discovery of genes and brain networks underlying speech and language disorders aids detection, diagnosis, prognosis and genetic counselling to improve patient outcomes.”  

Professor Morgan said translation into clinical practice was a key focus with innovative approaches, including their world-first speech genomics clinic and new online resources for education and support for families and clinicians.

Associate Professor Kirsten PerrettKirsten Perrett said the Centre for Food & Allergy Research CRE aimed to reduce the number of children developing allergies, how best to treat and manage allergies and rapidly transfer research findings into public health policy and clinical practice changes.

Associate Professor Perrett said the latest round of centre funding would continue to keep Australia as a global leader in food allergy research. 

Australia has the world’s highest rate of food allergy, affecting one in 10 infants and at least one child in every primary and high school classroom.

“Our team has made significant progress understanding strategies to prevent food allergy and are testing these in large clinical trials, which has left us ideally placed to complete our vision to turn back the tide of food allergy through evidence-based prevention and treatment. We now aim to understand who will benefit from these strategies,” Associate Professor Perrett said. 

“This project will bring together fresh expertise and perspective, embrace interdisciplinary approaches and new methodologies to harness the power of our internationally unique collection of cohort and clinical trial data to answer key questions that single studies cannot address alone. We will also continue our successful approach at supporting and training the next generation of allergy researchers.”

Associate Professor Perrett said there was a strong sense that prevention and treatment strategies for food allergy would be dramatically improved by building on their internationally recognised collaborative model.

“We will focus on assessing and implementing cost-effective, evidence-based population-level prevention strategies, and identifying for whom, what, when and how to intervene with individual level precision early intervention strategies, treatments and targeted management approaches,” she said.