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15 Aug 2018

NHMRC Fellowships: recognition and support for Garvan researchers

Eight new NHMRC fellowships have this week been awarded to Garvan researchers, in recognition of their outstanding research into cancer and cancer epigenetics, antibody therapies, immunology, and neurodegenerative disease.

Simon Hardwick’s research is taking flight. Thanks to a CJ Martin Biomedical Early Career Fellowship, awarded this week by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), he’ll be spending two years at Weill Cornell Medical College (New York), building on his promising PhD research into developing new genomic technologies.

Simon’s deep understanding of long non-coding RNAs – ‘readouts’ from our DNA that do not make proteins but seem to be important in controlling what cells do – will be crucial in this new stage of his work. Focusing on the human brain, and conducting research both at Weill Cornell and at Garvan, he’ll be exploring how these mysterious molecules contribute to Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease and other aspects of brain function. This work could lead to new diagnostic markers or, ultimately, new targets for therapies.

Simon’s fellowship is one of eight awarded this week to Garvan researchers by the NHMRC. Totalling $4.7 million, the funding is part of a package of $192 million in NHMRC funding announced this week by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. The new funding includes Fellowships and other grants, but not yet the 2018 project grants, which will be announced at a later date.


Senior Principal Research Fellow: Professor Susan Clark FAA

Prof Clark (Head, Genomics and Epigenetics Division) has successfully renewed her Senior Principal Research Fellowship in recognition of her international leadership in the field of cancer epigenetics. Through her fellowship, Prof Clark will explore how cancer can be better understood, and its management improved, by a deeper understanding of the 3D cancer epigenome: the dynamic chemical changes that affect how cancer DNA functions, and how it is packaged in the cell.

Senior Research Fellow: Associate Professor Daniel Christ 

A/Prof Christ (Director, Centre for Targeted Therapy, Immunology Division) was awarded a Senior Research Fellowship for his research into immunotherapies. The fellowship will enable A/Prof Christ to develop next-generation antibody-based therapeutics. His research will explore antibody structure and function, and aims to advance the boundaries of antibody therapy in autoimmunity and cancer. 

Senior Research Fellow: Associate Professor Tri Phan

For A/Prof Phan (Immunology Division), the award of a Senior Research Fellowship will enable the study of new ways to build better vaccines, treat autoimmune disease and eradicate the cancer multiple myeloma from bone. A/Prof Phan’s work will focus on how B cells – crucial cells in our immune system that help protect us from infection – move through the body and change over time. A/Prof Phan will use his longstanding expertise in advanced 3D microscopy in living animals to investigate B cell dynamics.

Senior Research Fellow: Associate Professor Alex Swarbrick

Through the award of a Senior Research Fellowship, A/Prof Swarbrick (Cancer Division) will build on his research into the ‘ecosystem’ of breast cancer. A/Prof Swarbrick has a particular interest in how different cell types within breast tumours communicate. He will use cutting-edge single cell genomics approaches to explore the breast cancer ecosystem in ever greater depth, with the aim of developing new therapies for metastatic disease.

Career Development Fellow (Level 2): Dr Thomas Cox

For Dr Cox (Cancer Division), the award of a Career Development Fellowship will allow him to pursue his investigations of the extracellular matrix: the mesh or ‘glue’ that surrounds the cells in a tumour. Dr Cox seeks to develop new ways to study the matrix in the laboratory, to understand more deeply how the matrix can contribute to treatment failure in cancer – and ultimately to develop new combination therapies that target the ECM.

Career Development Fellow (Level 2): Dr Marina Pajic

Dr Pajic (Cancer Division) is an expert in the genomics of pancreatic cancer: the DNA changes that drive different pancreatic cancer types to grow and progress. Through the award of a Career Development Fellowship, Dr Pajic will build on this wealth of genomic information to develop new personalised approaches for the treatment of pancreatic cancer.

Career Development Fellow (Level 1): Dr Ozren Bogdanovic 

Dr Bogdanovic (Genomics and Epigenetics Division) has been awarded a Career Development Fellowship to explore how genes are switched on and off during embryonic development, and trace connections between this process and the development of various types of cancers, including melanoma.