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21 May 2020

NHMRC Investigator Grants for Garvan researchers

Garvan researchers will receive a total of $4.8 million in Investigator Grant funding through the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), for projects beginning in 2021.

In recognition of their outstanding scientific track records, researchers from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research have been awarded three NHMRC Investigator Grants in the current round.

The NHMRC funding, which is provided through a competitive, peer-reviewed grant system, will commence in 2021. It gives Garvan researchers from the Healthy Ageing and Cancer Themes the opportunity to take their world-leading research in osteoporosis and cancer, underpinned by cutting-edge genomics technology and expertise, to new heights.

“We congratulate our outstanding researchers who have been successful in securing this NHMRC funding – a reflection of Garvan’s scientific excellence,” says Professor Chris Goodnow, Garvan’s Executive Director.

“Funding for medical research remains an ongoing challenge in Australia, and with more potential challenges ahead, we always strive to find new, alternative sources of funding for all of Garvan’s crucial and life-changing research.”

Prof David Thomas (Theme Leader, Cancer)

An estimated 150,000 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in Australia this year alone. Half of them will be rare and less common cancers, for which there are often limited treatment options. Professor David Thomas is leading research programs that use sophisticated genomic technologies to study patients with early onset cancers, rare and less common cancers. As cancer is a genetic disease, genomics has vast potential to transform public health outcomes in these individuals.

The NHMRC funding will support a sustainable, national, patient-centred, research-led Australian Genomic Cancer Medicine Program, focused on developing precision therapies that are personalised to the genetic profile of individual tumours. Professor Thomas and his colleagues will continue their world-leading research to understand the genetic causes of cancer, to develop better detection and prevention strategies, and to translate their research discoveries into real-word impacts.

Prof Tuan Nguyen (Laboratory Head – Genetic Epidemiology of Osteoporosis Lab)

Osteoporosis and fractures cost the public health system $3.8 billion annually in Australia alone and, more importantly, carry a higher risk of mortality for those affected. Professor Tuan Nguyen has been leading a research program aimed at precision risk assessment of fracture and its adverse consequences. Through his NHMRC funding, Professor Nguyen will pursue four research projects aimed at identifying individuals at risk of bone loss, a major risk factor for fragility fractures.

The research aims to identify genetic variants and non-genetic factors that are associated with bone loss, and to use this knowledge to develop and validate a polygeic risk model for assessing bone loss and for predicting fracture risk in individuals. This key research will enable tailored osteoporosis treatment and surveillance.

Professor Nguyen and his team will analyse the data of ~4000 men and women whose bone parameters have been serially measured over the past 30 years as part of the Dubbo Osteoporosis Epidemiology Study, to identify genetic variants that are associated with bone loss. The researchers then aim to develop a predictive model that includes genetic profiling and clinical risk factors, for personalised assessment of bone loss and fracture risk, and to develop web-based software for the prediction of fracture, re-fracture, survival, and treatment benefit.

Dr Kylie James 

Dr Kylie James, a postdoctoral researcher currently at the Wellcome Sanger Institute (UK), will join Garvan to commence research supported by a NHMRC Investigator Grant.

Dr James specialises in single-cell transcriptomics to investigate immune cells. In her current position, Dr James applies cutting-edge single-cell RNA sequencing technology to study the immune environment of the human gut and how it changes in relation to the neighbouring bacteria. Her work contributes to a large international collaboration - the Human Cell Atlas - that aims to create the first comprehensive map of all cells in the human body.