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11 Dec 2018

NHMRC funding announced for Garvan researchers

Announced today, Garvan researchers have received a total of $6.6 million in Project Grants from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

Researchers from the Cancer, Diabetes and Metabolism, Genomics and Epigenetics, and Neuroscience Research Divisions at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research have been awarded eight NHMRC Project Grants in this funding round, for three or four years of funding.

The grants provide the opportunity for Garvan researchers to continue their groundbreaking work to find new treatments in the fields of prostate, pancreatic and breast cancer, as well as obesity, diet and type 2 diabetes.


Professor Mark Febbraio, Dr Marina Pajic, Dr Nikki Lee, Professor Herbert Herzog and Dr David Croucher



Associate Professor Paul Timpson, Professor Vanessa Hayes and Dr Yan Shi


Professor Chris Goodnow, Garvan’s Executive Director says, “I’m thrilled for our researchers who have received funding from the NHMRC. To receive a Project Grant is testament to the many years and huge amounts of effort that our researchers have invested in their work.

“Funding for medical research continues to be a challenge and, inevitably, there are outstanding projects from our researchers that were unsuccessful in this funding round. These projects are very important and we will keep working hard to find alternative sources of funding to support the researchers driving them.”

The successful projects all involve investigating potential treatment options for cancer and obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Breast cancer: Dr David Croucher will lead an investigation into a number of common breast cancer mutations with the goal of designing a test that will predict which patients with luminal B type breast cancer will respond to treatment with chemotherapy.

Pancreatic cancer: Only 8% of patients with pancreatic cancer survive the disease, and current therapies have limited success. Dr Marina Pajic and her team will investigate the effectiveness of a novel combination of therapies, tailored to specific groups of patients that they identify as being more likely to respond to the therapy.

Pancreatic cancer: Associate Professor Paul Timpson and his team use cutting-edge imaging technology and 3D models to map how tumours respond to drugs. In this study, they will analyse factors that could improve the effectiveness of a new drug combination on pancreatic cancer.

Prostate cancer: Professor Vanessa Hayes aims to establish a genomic signature (identifiable with a DNA test) for high-risk prostate cancer. This has the potential to facilitate diagnosis, help predict patient outcomes and inform treatment strategies.

Type 2 diabetes: Professor Mark Febbraio and his team will investigate the effectiveness of a new drug they have designed to treat type 2 diabetes. Initial findings show that the drug both aids in fat reduction and increases insulin sensitivity – making it an exciting new treatment possibility for obesity-induced insulin resistance.

Obesity: Obesity is caused by an imbalance of food intake to energy usage. Energy usage is normally increased in the body when food is in oversupply – but this process does not always function. Professor Herbert Herzog and his team aim to identify why this is and test whether the process could be targeted as a potential treatment of obesity.

Obesity: In seeking to combat the major health challenge of obesity, Dr Yanchuan Shi will target a system that influences how the body burns fat. By understanding how this function is regulated, the team hope to  identify treatments that will allow people to burn fat more readily.

Obesity: Dr Nicola Lee will build on work that revealed there is potential to change the way the body stores fat. Focusing on hormones in the brain, she will investigate a novel treatment approach that encourages the body to divert energy toward maintaining the skeleton – with potential to treat both obesity and osteoporosis.

Annually, the NHMRC provides funding for research through a grant system, with a transparent peer-review process to determine how funding is allocated. Gaining funding through NHMRC demonstrates the huge potential benefits of the research projects Garvan is undertaking.