2022 LINC Grants drive new collaborations

Wednesday 30 March 2022

Important new transformative projects between Mater Researchers and Mater Health clinicians have been given the green light, thanks to the Translational Research Institute’s 2022 round of the Leading Innovation through New Collaborations (LINC) research funding scheme.

The scheme, that was launched last year, offers up to $50,000 in seed funding for new collaborative research projects. 

Funded by the Translational Research Institute (TRI), Mater Research and Metro South Health (MSH), the scheme aims to foster long-term collaborations between early-mid career academic and clinician researchers across a range of health fields to translate research from the bench to the bedside. 
Mater Gastroenterologist Dr Yoon-Kyo An and Mater Researcher Dr Kavita Bisht will use their grant to explore new methods to treat the anaemia associated with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Thirty per cent of IBD patients are anaemic, adding more than $2.7 billion per annum in health care costs. The current treatments such as iron and erythropoietin supplements only work for half of all anaemic IBD patients. Dr An and Dr Bisht aim to understand mechanisms of anaemia in bone marrow, test the effect of new and existing inflammatory drugs in preclinical models of IBD, and analyse markers of anaemia of inflammation (AI) in IBD patients with the view of running future clinical trials for the benefit of AI patients.

Clinical Research Fellow with Mater’s Maternal and Fetal Medicine Unit, Dr Jesrine Hong and Mater Research Developmental Molecular Genetics Group Leader, Dr Sandra Richardson will investigate the causes of foetal growth restriction (FGR). The condition results in infants failing to grow to their potential, often due to poor placental function. There are currently no reliable tests to predict FGR. Dr Hong and Dr Richardson will use cutting-edge techniques to investigate whether there are changes in circulating foetal DNA within the mother’s blood that may be used to predict foetal growth restriction, stillbirth, or other adverse outcomes during early-stage pregnancy.  

Mater consultant neurologist Dr Reuben Beer is partnering with Dr Marcus Grey from Metro South Health to advance the clinical assessment of patients with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Using advanced neuroimaging techniques, they aim to determine disease status and severity of symptoms in patients. They will also study the effects of highly active Disease Modifying Therapies (DMTs) on the signs and symptoms of MS. Dr Beer and Dr Grey hope better diagnostic methods will lead to more personalised treatments for MS patients that will reduce disease flare ups and hospital admissions which in turn will improve the long-term health outcomes and quality of life of patients while also reducing healthcare costs.

These projects will be co-funded by Mater Research, a founding partner of the Translational Research Institute. Another two projects will be hosted by the Metro South Hospital and Health Service (QLD Health). One of these projects, co-led by QLD Health clinician, Dr Sidharth Mantha, and Mater Research biomedical researcher, Dr Thomas Kryza, will establish a pipeline for rapid clinical translation of novel biomaterials for the treatment of metastatic brain cancer. The other collaborative project co-led by QLD Health clinician, Dr Timothy Edwards and Mater Researcher Dr Yuanhao Yang will investigate ways to improve the treatment of schizophrenia where existing therapies have proved to be less effective.  

Mater Research Executive Director, Professor Maher Gandhi said collaborations were vital for translating research into clinical outcomes. 

“We are absolutely delighted to be helping fund research collaborations between Mater clinicians and academic researchers based at TRI,” Professor Gandhi said.

“Mater Research already has strong clinical links with Mater Health, but these grants will help foster even more significant, new research collaborations.”

TRI CEO, Professor Scott Bell said they received 22 LINC applications, the majority of which were new collaborations.

“We were impressed by the quality and breadth of the projects, and congratulate the grant recipients,” he said.