The development of premature babies, unmet health needs of adolescents and a trio of chronic conditions will be targeted by five new SAHMRI-based research projects that have earned Investigator Grants from the National Health and Medical Research Council.
The projects, with total funding of more than $6.5 million, span all of SAHMRI’s four core research themes.
Preterm birth and neurodevelopment: Improving long-term outcomes ($650,740)
Administered by: The University of Adelaide
Dr Emily Shepherd, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow with SAHMRI Women and Kids and Affiliate Senior Lecturer with the University of Adelaide, says that while most preterm babies now survive, cerebral palsy and other developmental complications remain a risk for the more than 15 million babies who are born too soon each year.
“My program aims to improve the developmental outcomes of premature babies by assessing promising strategies that can be used around the time of birth as well as better implementing strategies that we already know can improve long-term preterm development,” she said.
Defining effective health actions for adolescents globally ($870,120)
Administered by: The Burnet Institute
Associate Professor Peter Azzopardi, co-head of SAHMRI’s Adolescent Health and Wellbeing Program and also co-head of Global Adolescent Health at the Burnet Institute, says his work to date has helped define the unmet health needs of the world’s 1.8 billion adolescents.
“The task now is to define how to best respond,” he said. “Working in partnership with adolescents across Indigenous communities, and with young people in Papua New Guinea and Myanmar, we will detail the actions required to improve adolescent health. We will bring a focus to a package of actions that can be implemented across the health and education sectors.”
A curative approach for chronic myeloid leukaemia ($2,241,612)
Administered by: The University of Adelaide
Professor Tim Hughes, the leader of SAHMRI’s Precision Medicine Theme and a Cancer Council of SA Beat Cancer Professor at the University of Adelaide, says his new project will target the majority of people with chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) who still need toxic treatment to control their disease.
“My program will focus on improving outcomes by determining the key genetic events driving drug resistance and disease progression,” he said.
“We will further develop the new, highly targeted drug asciminib, which promises to revolutionise CML therapy, and remove the current barriers to treatment free remission which is the ultimate goal of CML therapy today.”
Identifying the underlying causes and discovering novel therapeutic treatments for chronic visceral pain ($2,173, 555)
Administered by: Flinders University
Professor Stuart Brierley says chronic visceral pain (CVP) is a major but underappreciated clinical, social and economic challenge that affects more than 1.5 billion people across the world.
“Leading forms of CVP include irritable bowel syndrome, endometriosis and bladder pain syndrome but all lack effective treatments,” he said.
“Using scientific models, human biospecimens and translational science my program will identify the causes of these prevalent forms of chronic pain and develop novel treatments for these debilitating conditions.”
Achieving precision care in chronic lung disease ($650,740)
Administered by: SAHMRI
Dr Steven Taylor, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow from SAHMRI’s Microbiome and Host Health Program and lecturer with Flinders University, says up to 30% of people who have a chronic lung disease (CLD) respond poorly to available treatments.
“To improve this, we need to identify ways to better align patients with effective treatments,” he said.
“Using stored samples and data from thousands of CLD patients, I will meticulously measure markers of disease and identify patient characteristics that inform treatment response. This research will improve guidelines for the large number of patients with poor disease control.”
The Investigator Grants scheme is designed to give the researcher flexibility to pursue important new research directions as they arise and to form collaborations as needed, rather than being restricted to the scope of a specific research project.
Investigator Grants consolidate separate fellowship and research support into the one grant scheme that provides funding to the highest-preforming researchers at all career stages.