Around the universities

Cate Swannell
Med J Aust || doi: 10.5694/mja16.0118C4
Published online: 18 January 2016

University of Melbourne immunologist Associate Professor Katherine Kedzierska, from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, has won the Australian Academy of Science’s 2016 Jacques Miller Medal for Experimental Biomedicine. “Associate Professor Kedzierska researches immune responses to virus outbreaks, including influenza, with a particular focus on how best to protect vulnerable and high-risk groups. Her cutting-edge work could lead to the development of a one-shot flu jab for life.” Professor Fabienne Mackay, Head of the School of Biomedical Sciences, said this is only the second time the Jacques Miller Medal has been awarded. The award will be formally presented at the Academy’s annual 3-day celebration of Australian science, Science at the Shine Dome in Canberra in May 2016.

James Cook University has appointed tropical and public health specialist, Professor Maxine Whittaker as Dean of the College of Public Health, Medical and Veterinary Sciences. Professor Whittaker is currently Professor of International Health at the University of Queensland and was formerly the Director of the Australian Centre for International and Tropical Health at UQ. Professor Whittaker will oversee teaching and research in public health, tropical medicine, biomedical sciences, veterinary science, and molecular and cell biology. She joins Professor Lee Stewart and Professor Richard Murray as the Deans of the three Colleges in the Division of Tropical Health and Medicine. Professor Whittaker takes up the position in Townsville in late February, 2016.

Bond University medical researcher Professor Paul Glasziou and a team of eight investigators from Bond, University of Sydney and the University of Laval in Canada have been awarded a $2.4 million grant from the NHMRC to study ways to improve the uptake of new research findings by GPs. Professor Glasziou, who is Director of the University’s Centre for Research in Evidence-Based Practice (CREBP) — and a former GP himself — said there was currently no reliable system for ensuing GPs received information about new and emerging research findings. The grant will see a new Centre of Research Excellence established as part of CREBP, with a focus on translating evidence into best practice in primary care. Working alongside Professor Glasziou as chief investigators will be A/Professor Tammy Hoffmann, Professor Chris Del Mar and Professor Jenny Doust from Bond; Professor Lyndal Trevena, Professor Kirsten McCaffery and Professor Glenn Salkeld from University of Sydney; and Professor France Légaré from University of Laval, Canada.

Scientist Dr Ali Zaid has joined Griffith University’s Institute for Glycomics to lead a project on Ross River Fever. “Dr Zaid is one of only a handful of scientists who have the skills and knowledge to capture real-time images of viruses and observe the life and the immune response deep within living tissue.” He will lead a world-first 3-year research project that uses intravital multiphoton microscopy to track the mosquito-borne virus that affects thousands of people each year. Dr Zaid moved from the University of Melbourne’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology. The project is funded by a $491,503 research grant from the NHMRC.

Professor Louis Schofield, director of the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine (AITHM) at James Cook University in North Queensland has received a $2.8 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to pursue the pre-clinical development of a vaccine aimed at the goal of malaria eradication. The research will be conducted in collaboration with researchers from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne, and other colleagues and institutions in the US. The basic research was previously supported by a $1.3 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The new funding will expand the pre-clinical development to improve the potency and efficacy of this experimental vaccine.$2.8m-grant-to-develop-malaria-vaccine

Five of Monash University’s researchers, four from the newly established Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute and one from the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, have been announced as winners of the 2016 Diabetes Australia Research Program (DARP) funding pool. The DARP $3.9 million fund provides money for basic, clinical, psycho-social and translational research into all types of diabetes. The Monash researchers awarded DARP funding are Professor John Bertram (pictured), Dr Garron Dodd, Associate Professor Ian Smyth and Dr Bo Wang from the Monash BDI, and Professor Raymond Norton from MIPS.

A research partnership between The University of Melbourne and Monash University has won the $80,000 GSK Award for Research Excellence to help continue groundbreaking work on how the immune system identifies and fights disease. The research could assist the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease, peptic ulcers and tuberculosis, and lead to better vaccines. The successful team, led by Professors James McCluskey (pictured) and Jamie Rossjohn, has uncovered insights into how the immune system recognises pathogens such as salmonella and tuberculosis.

Dementia, bowel cancer and glaucoma-induced blindness are among the diseases to be addressed by medical researchers at Flinders University who have received National Health and Medical Research Council funding of nearly $5.1 million. The recipients include Dr Kate Laver of the School of Health Sciences, whose work focuses on the development of a telehealth intervention program aimed at delaying functional decline in people with dementia living in the community. She has received a $476,398 Dementia Research Development Fellowship, jointly funded by the NHMRC and the Australian Research Council.

Flinders University researcher Melanie Fuller’s work in improving the efficiency of gene therapy in the treatment of cystic fibrosis through nanotechnology has been recognised with a place in the finals of this year’s ‘Winnovation Awards’. Ms Fuller, a Nanotechnology Honours student at Flinders, was one of three finalists in the Science section of the South Australian program, which showcases and celebrates the success of game-changing female innovators in South Australia.

A passion for Japanese health policy and how it can be used to develop under-resourced areas of the Australian health care system in rural and remote regions is the focus for Griffith University medical student Grace Yeung, recipient of one of this year’s prestigious New Colombo Plan scholarships. Launched in 2013, The New Colombo Plan is an Australian Government initiative, which aims to lift knowledge of the Indo-Pacific in Australia by supporting Australian undergraduates to study and undertake internships in the region. The New Colombo Plan is a scholarships program which funds selected students for periods of study of up to one year. This is the first time that a medical student has been awarded the scholarship. Ms Yeung says she plans to use her scholarship to complete a 2-month health policy research project at Meio University in Okinawa, Japan.

Dr Karen Mather has been awarded the Dean’s Rising Star Award for “significant contributions to research” at the University of NSW Medicine Dean’s Awards. Dr Mather is the leader of the Genetics & Genomics group at the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA) and her Rising Star award follows a highly successful period in which she has received funding from the NHMRC, Yulgilbar Foundation and Sachdev Foundation. Dr Mather was also awarded funding from the Mason Foundation for research using an integrated ‘omics’ approach to better understand the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

  • Cate Swannell



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