Smiling child and doctor

Four Murdoch Children’s Research Institute-led projects spanning food allergy, preterm respiratory diseases and mental health have been awarded medical research grants.

Professors Mimi Tang, David Tingay and the late George Patton’s team have secured National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Clinical Trials and Cohort Studies (CTCS) grants.

Their projects will aim to improve treatments for peanut allergies, understanding the long-term impacts of peanut allergy immunotherapy, re-evaluating the definition of lung disease in preterm babies and developing early prevention strategies for youth with mental health challenges.

Professor Mimi Tang, Director of the Allergy Translation Centre, will compare a promising peanut allergy treatment developed at Murdoch Children’s with an approved overseas approach.

The Murdoch Children’s treatment combines a probiotic with a high dose of oral immunotherapy. In previous studies, this treatment has induced remission of peanut allergy in up to three-quarters of participants.

“There is an urgent unmet need to find a remission treatment for peanut allergy, which would allow patients to stop treatment and eat peanuts freely throughout their life,” Professor Tang said.

"Currently, the only approved peanut allergy treatment offers temporary protection, meaning patients must stay on daily maintenance dosing and also maintain strict peanut avoidance, which we know can reduce quality of life for patients and families.”

Professor Tang has also secured support for a second peanut allergy study that will look at the long-term impacts of two novel oral immunotherapy approaches.

“We had a fantastic result from our recent study, which showed that a high dose of rapid escalation oral immunotherapy, when taken with or without added probiotic, is effective at inducing remission of peanut allergy,” she said.

“We will now examine the long-term impacts of these two treatments to confirm whether they offer greater benefit than current standard care, which involves avoiding peanut altogether.”

Professor Tingay has received funding for a longitudinal study that will re-evaluate how preterm respiratory disease is defined.

“We will gain a full picture of preterm lung disease by integrating lung injury and function and cardiorespiratory status, using data from 600 preterm infants,” he said.

Professor Tingay said he hoped to generate the first comprehensive definitions of early preterm lung disease and develop both early predictive models and prognostic markers that will help target more effective therapies for this vulnerable population.

Support has also been provided to continue the Child to Adult Transition Study (CATS), proposed by the late Professor Patton. This cohort has been studied annually since the age of eight, with a major focus on mental health. It is also one of few studies to explore the interface between health, education and employment, which has become more relevant post-COVID. His proposed research will be led by Professor Susan Sawyer.

“We don’t yet understand the natural history of mental health problems in adolescence and young adulthood,” Professor Sawyer said.  Continuing this important study for a further five years will enable us to understand the trajectories of mental disorders from earlier childhood and adolescence, which will help us to then consider meaningful, contemporary strategies.”

“In spite of recent investments in clinical services, mental health outcomes have not improved for young people. We need to better understand who is most at risk in order to prioritise prevention.”

The existing cohort of 1,200 participants from CATS will be extended, with annual health assessments to continue up until the age of 22.

*The content of this communication is the sole responsibility of Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and does not reflect the views of the NHMRC.  


These projects are supported by NHMRC CTCS Grants including Professor Tang's grant applications 2023961 and 2023962, Professor Tingay's grant application 2024039 and Professor Patton's grant application 2024177.