Mater Research secures sought after Ideas Grants

Thursday 04 November 2021

Novel research that aims to minimise the risks of bone marrow transplant, understand the genetic basis of Parkinson’s disease and develop potential therapies to treat obesity-related conditions has helped three Mater Researchers secure almost $2.5 million in federal funding.

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Ideas Grant scheme is designed to support innovative and creative health and medical research in any area from discovery to implementation and provides opportunities for talented researchers at all career stages to contribute to the improvement of human health. 

The Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt announced the successful grants today, with funding commencing in 2022.

Professor Allison Pettit has been awarded $935,616 to discover new treatment targets to help alleviate bone marrow transplantation risk by improving understanding of the mechanisms driving recovery of the recipient's bone marrow tissues.

Bone marrow transplantation has the potential to cure some types of blood cancers and is used to enable high dose therapy in treatment resistant cancers, but it also carries high risks and has high mortality.

Professor Pettit and her team hope to enhance understanding of bone marrow macrophage resilience and regeneration mechanisms to improve the efficiency of donor stem cell engraftment and accelerate the reconstitution of blood and immune cells.

Dr Jake Gratten’s $837,064 Ideas Grant will be used to shed light on the mechanisms underlying Parkinson’s disease, a devastating neurodegenerative condition affecting one in every 100 Australians aged 60 years and over.

A major barrier to identifying new treatments for Parkinson’s is that we do not yet know the identity of many of the genes involved, nor the specific cell types in which they act.

Dr Gratten will apply cutting edge methods to measure gene activity in single cells to identify specific genes and cell types involved in the onset and progression of Parkinson’s disease.

Dr Kate Irvine’s idea to test the macrophage growth factor, Colony Stimulating Factor 1 (CSF1), as a potential therapy for obesity-related health complications has seen her awarded $656,972 in the latest Ideas Grant round.

Macrophages are cells of the immune system that are abundant in every organ.

Dr Irvine’s team has previously discovered that treating animals with CSF1 reduces body fat mass and increases lean mass – indicating that macrophages responding to CSF1 influence the crosstalk between metabolic tissues that control energy metabolism and body composition.

Her Idea’s Grant project will allow her team to investigate how this occurs and test CSF1 as a therapy for obesity-related complications.

NHMRC CEO, Professor Anne Kelso said the Ideas Grant scheme builds on Australia’s strong skills and international reputation in advanced health and medical research. 

“As always, the Ideas Grant scheme is highly competitive and delivers projects at the leading edge, many very early in the discovery process. We look forward to following the research funded today and seeing the outcomes from these important grants,” Professor Kelso said.