Centre for aphasia gets green light

The National Health and Medical Research Council has awarded $5.2 million to La Trobe University - including $2.5 million for a new Centre of Research Excellence (CRE).

The Centre will focus on aphasia - a devastating communication disability that affects one third of people after stroke, as well as many living with brain injury, brain tumour and dementia.

Professor Miranda Rose, a speech pathologist and internationally recognised aphasia expert from La Trobe, is the lead chief investigator and will become the Centre's director.

Professor Rose will led a team of nine chief investigators from La Trobe, University of Sydney, University of Queensland, University of Technology Sydney, Edith Cowan University, Monash University and the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health.

They will collaborate with Australian and international experts, including those within the Stroke Foundation and the Australian Aphasia Association.

"To reduce the disease burden of aphasia, we need new evidence-based approaches, a deeper understanding of recovery, and effective implementation of proven treatments,” Professor Rose said.

"This centre will allow us to bring together a multidisciplinary team of experts and consumers to conduct targeted and innovative research that will transform aphasia practice in Australia and lead to better outcomes for people with aphasia and their families.”

La Trobe Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice President (Research) Professor Keith Nugent said the University was proud to be receiving its first NHMRC CRE grant.

"This is a significant grant that recognises La Trobe's world-class research," Professor Nugent said.

"We congratulate Professor Miranda Rose for her outstanding leadership and commitment to making a difference to the lives of thousands of Australians.”

In addition to the CRE grant, six other La Trobe researchers will receive a total of more than $2.7 million in funding from the NHMRC.

Associate Professor Natasha Lannin from the School of Allied Health and Dr Catherine Chamberlain from the Judith Lumley Research Centre (School of Nursing and Midwifery) have both been successful in their application for Career Development Fellowships (CDF).

Associate Professor Lannin is the first La Trobe researcher to receive a level 2 CDF under the new Medical Research Future Fund Next Generation Clinical Researchers program, while Dr Chamberlain is the first La Trobe researcher to be awarded a CDF under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Fellowship category of funding.

MRFF Next Generation Clinical Research Fellow

Associate Professor Natasha Lannin (School of Allied Health) - $483,404

A rehabilitation researcher, Associate Professor Lannin will continue to develop and implement evidence-based stroke rehabilitation. Her aim is to improve the translation of rehabilitation research into practice and policy. This funding will allow her to build on her national achievements and continue to make an international impact on stroke rehabilitation outcomes.

NHMRC Career Development Fellowship

Dr Catherine Chamberlain (Judith Lumley Centre, School of Nursing and Midwifery) - $437,036

During this four-year Fellowship, Dr Chamberlain will lead a team of researchers to develop effective strategies for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families to improve health equity during pregnancy and up to two years after the birth of children. This includes a project titled Healing the past by nurturing the future, which aims to co-design perinatal assessment and support strategies for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents who have experienced complex childhood trauma. The Fellowship also includes a program of work around evidence synthesis and reviews to address priority areas for improve health equity during the perinatal period.

NHMRC Early Career Fellowships

Dr Andrea Mosler (La Trobe Sport and Exercise Medicine Research Centre, School of Allied Health) - $261,753.60

This research is part of the Femoroacetabular impingement and hip OsteoaRthritis Cohort (FORCe) study, which is the world’s largest cohort of young, active people with hip pain being followed prospectively. Dr Mosler will conduct follow up assessments on 200 existing participants and identify factors associated with quality of life burden. Her research will guide best practice intervention and prevention strategies aimed to improve the lives of young people living with hip pain, and reduce the societal burden of this common condition.

Dr Cassandra Wright (Centre for Policy Alcohol Research, School of Psychology and Public Health) - $327,192

The aim of this project is to reduce risky alcohol consumption by understanding and intervening during drinking events. Dr Wright will investigate a range of interventions - including the potential of using a smart-phone based program that she developed during her PhD. She will also analyse real-time behavioural, sensor and biometric data collected from young people during risky drinking events using smartphones and transdermal alcohol monitors.

Dr Ashleigh Poh (Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute, School of Cancer Medicine) - $327,192

This research will investigate the role of a protein known as Haematopoietic Cell Kinase (HCK) in pancreatic cancer. HCK is found in a type of immune cell known as a macrophage, which are major components of pancreatic tumours. The more HCK activity a macrophage has, the more it is able to promote tumour growth. By targeting HCK, the research believe they can reduce pancreatic cancer progressive by impairing the “tumour-promoting” ability of macrophages.

Also today, the NHMRC announced La Trobe’s Professor Rachel Huxley will play a key role in another Centre of Research Excellence to be led by the University of Queensland. The Centre will investigate the prevention and detection of communicable disease in women.

Women’s health funding

The NHMRC earlier this month announced $18 million of funding for medical research to improve women’s health.

Cancer researcher, Professor Andrew Scott from the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute, School Cancer Medicine was among the 29 grants recipients.

NHMRC Development Grant

Professor Andrew Scott (Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute, School of Cancer Medicine) - $985,528.34

Professor Scott leads an international team, including colleagues from La Trobe University and the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute, to develop a novel monoclonal antibody that specifically targets advanced and metastatic breast cancer. Their research will enable delivery of potent drugs into cancer cells and inhibit abnormal tumour cell growth.

The NHMRC also announced funding for a new Centre for Research Excellence in women’s health and reproductive health. Professor Angela Taft from the Judith Lumley Centre in La Trobe’s School of Nursing and Midwifery is one of the chief investigators of the new CRE. Professor Taft will play a leading role in abortion prevention. Professor Jayne Lucke from La Trobe’s Australian Centre in Sex, Health and Society is also a chief investigator of the centre.

Media Contact Anastasia Salamastrakis 0428 195 464

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