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10 Dec 2019

NHMRC funding boost for Garvan researchers

Garvan researchers have received a total of $3.4 million in Ideas Grants from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

Researchers from the Cancer and Immunity & Inflammation Themes at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research have been awarded five NHMRC Ideas Grants in this funding round, for three or four years of funding. One researcher from our Healthy Ageing Theme has been awarded a NHMRC Postgraduate Scholarship.

The announced NHMRC funding provides the opportunity for Garvan researchers to continue their groundbreaking work to find new treatments in the fields of breast cancer, autoimmune disease and type 1 diabetes.

Professor Chris Goodnow, Garvan’s Executive Director says, “Congratulations to our researchers who have received funding from the NHMRC; it is a testament to the incredible efforts that our researchers are investing in their work and demonstrates the huge potential of the research Garvan is undertaking.

“Funding for medical research is an ongoing challenge in Australia and there are a number of outstanding projects from our researchers that were unsuccessful in this round. We will continue to work hard to find alternative sources of funding to support these projects to drive this important research forward.”

Immunity & Inflammation

A/Prof Shane Grey (Laboratory Head – Transplantation Immunology)

Autoimmune diseases affect one in eight people and have few therapeutic options, and the A20 gene is emerging as an important player in many human autoimmune diseases. A/Prof Grey and his team will study how variants of the A20 gene that are present in patients affect the immune system and how they may link to specific disease phenotypes. The researchers hope the findings will reveal new pathways for which medication may already exist, or reveal new targets, to benefit patients.

Dr Joanne Reed (Group Leader – Rheumatology and Autoimmunity)

One in eight people suffer from an autoimmune disease in which their own immune cells ‘go rogue’ and attack healthy parts of the body. There is no cure, and treatments are limited to drugs that non-specifically suppress all immune cells, causing adverse side effects. Dr Reed’s research will use groundbreaking new technology to isolate and study these ‘rogue’ immune cells in blood samples from patients. The team’s goal is to determine how these cells develop and survive, and identify their vulnerabilities that could be targeted for treatment.


Dr Christine Chaffer (Laboratory Head – Cancer Cell Plasticity)

Dr Chaffer’s team have identified androgen receptors as potential new drug targets for treating the aggressive cancer cells that drive metastasis and resistance to chemotherapy in triple negative breast cancer. By inhibiting androgen receptors, in combination with standard-of-care chemotherapy, the team hope to eliminate these aggressive cells, to prevent cancer spread and drug resistance. The researchers aim to generate the pre-clinical data required to translate their findings into a clinical trial.

Dr Max Nobis (Research Officer – Invasion and Metastasis)

A poor drug response can often limit how effective cancer therapies are at targeting solid tumour tissue. Using cutting-edge imaging technology and 3D models that mimic the disease, Dr Nobis and his colleagues can map areas of poor drug response and track zones of resistance within distinct regions of tumours. Through their project, the researchers hope to counteract the factors that drive drug resistance, to improve the effectiveness of Cdk4/6 inhibitors – an emerging treatment for breast cancer.

Prof Chris Ormandy (Laboratory Head – Cancer Biology)

Two thirds of breast cancers produce the estrogen receptor (otherwise known as ER+) and 70% of these cancers will prove to be fatal over 20 years, despite most responding initially to hormone therapy. Prof Ormandy’s team hypothesises that the cells that make an ER+ cancer can choose between different cell fates. The team has generated a new experimental model of ER+ cancer that allows them to track these cancer cell fates. The researchers will use their model to investigate how different types of cancer form and to understand how hormone resistance occurs.

Healthy Ageing

We congratulate Dr Jennifer Snaith who was awarded an NHMRC Postgraduate Scholarship. Jennifer is being supervised in her PhD by Professor Jerry Greenfield who heads the Clinical Diabetes, Appetite and Metabolism Laboratory. She will investigate whether metformin will benefit individuals with type 1 diabetes who have organ-specific insulin resistance in the liver and muscle.

The NHMRC provides funding for health and medical research through a competitive, peer-reviewed grant system.