New ideas win NHMRC funding

Six Ideas Grants have been awarded to La Trobe Researchers, totalling over $5 million in NHMRC funding.

The successful projects will improve early detection and treatment of gastric and colorectal cancer; investigate the effective treatment of vascular dementia and advanced kidney disease; develop new techniques in DNA/RNA sequencing and further our understanding of the body’s immune response to HIV.

Senior Deputy-Vice Chancellor Professor Susan Dodds was delighted to receive news of these successful outcomes.

‘This is a fantastic result for all the research teams involved. It shows the depth of expertise and innovation at La Trobe in biomedical and cancer research. This funding will result in real impact, ultimately providing patients with earlier diagnosis and better treatment outcomes,’ said Professor Dodds.

Successful Ideas Grants

Professor Garrie Valavan Arumugam - $1,229,540

(Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Microbiology, School of Agriculture Biomedicine and Environment)

Finding Biomarkers and Treatments for Vascular Dementia

Professor Arumugam and their team will investigate new therapeutic treatments for vascular dementia (VaD) and novel biomarkers to diagnosis the disease in humans. VaD occurs as a result of brain hypoperfusion and represents the second most common type of dementia after Alzheimer's disease. Currently, no specific treatments for VaD exist due to incomplete understanding of the underlying pathophysiology.

Professor Grant Drummond - $1,304,466

(Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Microbiology, School of Agriculture Biomedicine and Environment)

Targeting interleukin-18-mediated inflammation to treat advanced kidney disease

Professor Drummond and their team will use state-of-the-art technologies to characterise the role of a newly identified molecule (interleukin-18) that contributes to the pathological remodelling that precedes kidney failure. The therapeutic potential of interleukin-18 inhibition will also be tested. Kidney failure is a leading cause of death and morbidity worldwide and this research will define an entirely new mechanism of kidney disease and validate interleukin-18 as a target for new therapies.

Professor Stephanie Gras - $697,946.10

(La Trobe Institute of Molecular Sciences, School of Agriculture Biomedicine and Environment)

Defining the features of atypical T cell responses in Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) controllers

Professor Gras and their team will focus their work on understanding why the immune system of some rare individuals is able to control HIV infection. This will aid the design of novel treatments or potential vaccines against HIV. The disease attacks the human immune system, impairing it’s natural defences against infection and disease. HIV has infected ~76 million individuals worldwide, leading to a long-lasting pandemic with no vaccine or cure currently available.

Dr Michael Buchert - $1,365,646.00

(Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute – La Trobe School of Cancer Medicine)

Dissecting the role of group 2 innate lymphoid cells in gastric cancer

Dr Buchert and their team are seeking to better understand gastric cancer at the molecular and cellular level. They aim to identify and develop diagnostic markers of early-stage disease to assist with early diagnosis, as well as discover targeted therapeutic options for late-stage, metastatic disease to achieve better health outcomes. Gastric cancer (GC) remains a highly aggressive disease with a median survival of about 11 months and a 5-year survival below 25%.

Professor John Mariadason - $696,211.55

(Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute – La Trobe School of Cancer Medicine)

Novel therapy to enhance radiation response in gastrointestinal cancers

Cancers of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, including the oesophagus, stomach, pancreas, bile ducts and colorectum, claim the lives of 35 Australians every day. Professor Mariadason and their team will investigate how loss of novel target proteins can make GI cancers more sensitive to radiotherapy. This project will enable identification of patients most likely to benefit from radiotherapy and develop new ways to improve treatment outcomes.

Dr Yang Liao - $ 153,131.20

(Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute – La Trobe School of Cancer Medicine)

A novel algorithm for accurate and efficient alignment of long DNA and RNA sequencing reads

Dr Liao and their team will use novel concepts to develop a new tool for long-read mapping. This is a new development in DNA/RNA sequencing that helps to find mutations and other genomic features which were previously hard to find. The high efficiency and accuracy of long-read mapping compared to current tools means it will enhance the value of long-read sequencing in both research and clinical settings.