Researchers at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) have received $9.7 million from the Federal Government for projects ranging from the early prevention of cardiovascular and kidney disease to enhancing care for those with cerebral palsy.
MCRI was successful in receiving seven grants out of a total of 298 grants Australia-wide, through the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and announced today by Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt.
Professor David Burgner received $2,582,538 for his research program that will determine the early origins of inflammation and cardiometabolic disease risk using world-class cohorts and state-of-the-art molecular approaches, leading to novel, earlier prevention.
“The changes that lead to cardiovascular disease and obesity (cardiometabolic disease) begin in early life, but this is a largely over-looked opportunity to intervene,” he says. “Chronic low-level inflammation is key and there is now a drug target in adults, but little is known about childhood.”
Dr Boris Novakovic was allocated $1,331,457 for his study into innate immune memory during pregnancy.
“In any biology textbook, we read that the human immune system has two arms – the adaptive system that can form memory (such as to vaccines) and the innate immune system that has no capacity for memory,” he says
“However, in the past decade a large body of work has shown that innate immune cells can in fact form non-specific memory that has consequences for many chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and allergy, as well as infection.”
Dr Belinda Phipson will use her $587,783 grant to develop novel bioinformatics methods for single cell data and discover new biology about kidney development and disease.
“Through technological advances, we now have the ability to understand the characteristics of a single cell, giving us unprecedented insight into development and disease,” she says. “While we can generate these datasets in a relatively straightforward manner, the ability to effectively analyse this data and extract biologically meaningful results is lagging behind the technology.”
Two MCRI led projects received a total of $4,960,499 under the Centre for Research Excellence (CRE) grants program.
Professor Franz Babl ($2,498,970) will lead the CRE for Paediatric Emergency Medicine.
“This CRE will address research in three streams identified by Australasian emergency department staff as priorities: trauma (cervical spine and head injuries), convulsive status epilepticus and respiratory emergencies (bronchiolitis and asthma). All of these conditions can cause death and disability,” he says.
“The CRE will create new knowledge for their management, but more importantly ensure that research findings are applied when children attend hospital with these common and important conditions.”
Professor Dinah Reddihough ($2,461,529) will lead the Australian Centre for Health, Independence, Economic Participation and Value Enhanced Care for adolescents and young adults with cerebral palsy.
“Our aims are to determine and address the health care and service needs of this group where there is currently very little research,” she says.
“Our vision is to ensure that adolescents and young adults with cerebral palsy receive the best health care throughout this critical period of development, to enable them to contribute to, and participate in, all aspects of life.”
Sixth Year Research Fellowship extensions were granted to Professor Ed Stanley ($131,783) for his work into reconstructing human autoimmunity in vitro and Prof Stuart Kinner ($146,783) for his work around youth justice in Australia and globally.