Dr Daniel Christ
24 October 2012
The Garvan Institute received $19.6 million in the latest round of National Health and Medical Research Council grants, announced last Friday by the federal Minister for Health, Tanya Plibersek, at the University of Sydney.
Garvan performed at least 50% above the national average, receiving 12.5% of funding awarded to NSW as a whole, and 3% of the national total.
Over 20 ground-breaking medical research projects were funded in cancer, diabetes, immunology and neuroscience, along with fellowships, equipment and infrastructure.
Congratulations to those scientists who were awarded fellowships, so vital to career stability: Associate Professor Stuart Tangye, Associate Professor Chris Ormandy, Dr Daniel Christ, Dr Alex Swarbrick, Dr Ling Liu and Dr Tyani Chan.
Dr Christ was awarded an NHMRC fellowship to support his work in developing monoclonal antibodies, highly targeted therapies against cancers and inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis. Monoclonal antibodies represent almost half of all drugs entering clinical studies, with more than $30 billion sales worldwide in 2010. Christ and colleagues recently overcame one of the most pressing problems in the pharmaceutical industry by creating biologically active yet stable antibodies. The lab drives translational research at Garvan and is developing new antibody-based drug candidates.
Congratulations also to all recipients of project grants – a great achievement in a very competitive environment. These projects represent research which has the potential to alter our understanding of disease and at the same time affect the lives of many people.
|Dr Marcel Batten||$457,771|
|Professor Trevor Biden||$551,222|
|Associate Professor Rob Brink||$438,431|
|Dr James Cantley||$500,502|
|Professor Susan Clark||$693,373|
|Professor Roger Daly||$569,737|
|Associate Professor Jenny Gunton||$642,316|
|Professor Herbert Herzog||$752,085|
|Professor David James||$606,767|
|Dr Greg Neely||$818,149|
|Dr Greg Neely||$675,999|
|Associate Professor Chris Ormandy||$423,806|
|Dr Umanthain Palendira||$416,961|
|Dr Ilse Rooman||$568,186|
|Dr Darren Saunders||$577,517|
|Dr Alex Swarbrick||$531,495|
|Dr Paul Timpson||$848,335|
|Dr Nigel Turner||$562,892|
|Dr Kylie Webster||$365,306|
|Dr Kylie Webster||$602,877|
|Dr Lei Zheng||$588,252|
To give an idea of the actual content of these projects, an expanded description of a few follows :
Dr Darren Saunders, Cancer
Dr Saunders received $577,517 to find new molecular targets for breast cancer therapy. In particular, he will focus on the Ubiquitin-Proteasome System, which cells use to tag proteins for destruction or recycling. Using proteomics and functional genomics to identify proteins tagged by the system, he will gain insight into key mechanisms underlying tumour development and progression. This knowledge will inform the development of novel therapeutic strategies.
Dr Alex Swarbrick, Cancer
Dr Swarbrick received $531,495 to explore recent findings further that could benefit many women with breast cancer, particularly those with an aggressive sub-type known as ‘basal breast cancer’, for which there is no treatment. Swarbrick will be looking at the cellular and molecular mechanisms behind the ‘crosstalk’ between breast cancer cells and the healthy cells around them – a process known to create the conditions for the cancer's survival. Ultimately, his research may lead to new ways of treating breast cancer by blocking that molecular conversation.
Dr James Cantley, Diabetes
Dr Cantley received $500,502 to study the mechanisms governing the function of the body’s insulin producing cells or ‘pancreatic beta cells’. In particular, he will be looking at how a novel hormone secreted from fat cells regulates insulin secretion. This is an important area of research, as beta cell failure is a hallmark of Type 2 diabetes.
Professor David James, Diabetes
Professor James received $606,767 to extend his examination of the complex biochemical changes that affect the glucose transporter protein (GLUT 4), which in response to insulin facilitates the entry of glucose into a cell. James takes a whole systems approach to studying cell biology and diabetes. GLUT 4 represents one aspect, albeit an important one, in the myriad of events that take place when insulin strikes the surface of a muscle or fat cell.
Dr Marcel Batten, Immunology
Dr Batten received $457,771 to further develop her studies on a key immune modulator known as interleukin 27. She has been able to demonstrate that this compound enhances anti-tumour responses and slows the growth of breast cancers. Her project aims to test how the compound promotes protective immune responses, and to develop it for targeted cancer therapy. She will be collaborating with cancer researchers and biotechnology experts at Garvan.
Dr Kylie Webster, Immunology
Dr Webster received a total of $968,193 for two separate sole investigator projects, both relating to immune ‘self tolerance’. In one study, she will be extending previously successful research where the immune systems of mice were adjusted for just long enough so that organ transplants could be accepted, without the subsequent need for toxic immunosuppressive drugs. In follow up work, she will look into the precise mechanisms involved. The second study will look at how the immune system allows the acceptance of the foetus during pregnancy, which is ‘semi-foreign’, being half comprised of the father's genes. Webster is particularly interested in examining whether or not obesity affects foetal tolerance (as it increases whole body inflammation) and consequently the propensity to miscarry.
Professor Herbert Herzog, Neuroscience
Professor Herzog received $725,085 to investigate new regulators of appetite control. This will be particularly relevant in researching ways of alleviating the appetites of people with Prader Willi Syndrome, a harrowing genetic disorder that causes insatiable appetite for life. Promising research undertaken on people with this syndrome last year, made possible then by philanthropic funding, can now be further explored in mouse models.
Dr Greg Neely, Neuroscience
Dr Neely received a total of $1,494,148 for two separate projects. In one project, he will pursue his investigation of genes that control chronic pain. Neely’s work is novel in that it maps pain genes in fruit flies and people to identify overlaps, and then tests to see if the genes are ‘functionally relevant’ in mice. So far, he has validated a number of such genes, and hopes to find more. In the second project, on which he is sole investigator, he will investigate epigenetic regulation of cardiac arrhythmia.
The minister announced a total of $652 million for 1141 grants such as these in medical research across Australia.