La Trobe awarded $6m in NHMRC grants

La Trobe University researchers investigating cancer treatment and mechanisms of cell death have been awarded $6 million in funding in the inaugural round of the National Health and Medical Research Council’s (NHMRC) Investigator Grant scheme, announced by Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt.

La Trobe’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Industry Engagement) Professor Susan Dodds said the funding would pave the way for real benefits for patients.

“These significant grants will allow La Trobe researchers to pursue high-calibre investigations that will not only advance scientific knowledge in their field but, importantly, contribute to improved treatments for patients with cancer and other diseases,” Professor Dodds said.

“This year La Trobe researchers have already received $11 million for health and medical research from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) and NHMRC, including $2.6 million aimed at reducing hospital admissions, and $870,000 to research Prader-Willi Syndrome.

“We are proud of this achievement and the recognition it brings for the researchers, our research partners and the University,” Professor Dodds said.

Investigator Grants

Professor Andrew Scott - $2,640,000

Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute, La Trobe School of Cancer Medicine

Professor Scott’s research focuses on developing improved ways to detect cancer cells in the body through sophisticated imaging techniques, and creating new strategies for treating cancer with targeted therapies. This grant will fund work to discover and develop novel antibodies for treating cancer and extend these discoveries into clinical trials, and support the development of innovative imaging probes that will improve cancer patient management and therapeutics development.

Doctor Ivan Poon - $1,396,000

La Trobe Institute for Molecular Sciences, School of Molecular Sciences

In humans, billions of cells will die daily in various organs as part of normal turnover and disease progression. During cell death, dying cells can disassemble into smaller fragments, a process that could facilitate their removal, as well as mediate communication with other healthy cells. Dr Poon aims to understand the molecular machinery that controls how dying cells can disassemble into smaller pieces and their function in viral infection and inflammatory conditions.

Professor Matthias Ernst - $2,049,000

Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute, La Trobe School of Cancer Medicine

Recent progress in cancer treatment is based on the insight that cancer cells are not only surrounded by normal cells, but that these normal cells are corrupted and exploited by cancer cells for their own survival and protection from the immune system. The five-year grant will allow Professor Ernst and his team to better understand the molecular mechanism by which cancer cells coerce normal cells and ultimately to identify molecular targets for the development of novel anti-cancer therapies.

Media Contact: Kathryn Powley | 0456 764 371 |