LIMS researchers have been awarded $2.28 million in National Health and Medical Research Council funding.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Keith Nugent said the strong results were a testament to the depth of research talent at La Trobe University.
“Research staff are focusing on some of the big challenges facing our community, better understanding disease at a molecular, cellular, individual and population level, and working with industry leaders to apply that knowledge and help make a difference,” he said.
NHMRC Development Grant
Emeritus Professor Nicholas Hoogenraad, AO received $626,680 to help support the commercial development of his research findings surrounding Cachexia and will be working with scientists at the School of Cancer Medicine (Olivia Newton John Cancer Research Institute).
Cachexia results in rapid weight loss and muscle wastage in people with cancer and this affects 80% of cancer patients and results in 25% of cancer deaths.
Emeritus Professor Hoogenraad worked with a team of scientists at La Trobe that discovered the molecule FN14, which triggers the debilitating disease. The team found that if they could block Fn14 from being switching on in cancer cells, they could prevent cachexia's onset. This research finding will significantly enhance the quality and length of life for cancer patients as they will be able to receive treatment for a longer period of time.
The development grant will allow Nick to focus on making fn14 antibodies ready for commercialisation and clinical evaluation at the conclusion of this 2 year grant.
NHMRC Career Development Fellowship
Dr Ivan Poon (above) was awarded $425,048 to better understand the role of dying cells in our body’s immune response to influenza A infection.
During cell death, cells disassemble in to smaller fragments, a process that could facilitate their removal, facilitate the spread of infection through the body as well as mediate communication with other healthy ‘defender’ cells.
NHMRC Project Grants
Dr Doug Fairlie, Dr Erinna Lee and their collaborators have been awarded $754,685 to work on a project entitled “Dual targeting of Myc and apoptosis pathways for improved Blood cancer treatment outcomes”.
Cancer cells frequently possess defects in genes called MYC and BCL-2 that control their growth and survival. Dr Fairlie and Dr Lee’s preliminary studies have shown that combining novel reagents that specifically target MYC plus BCL-2 leads to enhanced lymphoma cell killing.
In this study, the team will further develop these reagents and evaluate their ability to treat blood cancer. It is hoped that the approach will provide new avenues for treating cancer patients that respond poorly to current treatments.
Dr Belinda Parker brings together an experienced, multi-disciplinary team that aims to translate strong basic breast cancer research into the clinic. Dr Parker has been awarded $474,840 for her study “Characterising the tumour suppressive function of myoepithelial cell stefin A in ductal carcinoma in situ”.
Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is a pre-invasive stage of breast cancer, where tumour cells remain restrained by myoepithelial cells that surround breast ducts. Predicting which cases of DCIS will later develop invasive cancer is difficult, meaning that the majority of patients have treatment. Dr Parker’s group identified the protease inhibitor Stefin A as a myoepithelial cell protein that blocks cancer invasion and the team aims to test the function of this protein in DCIS and its potential as a prognostic marker of the condition.