Mater Researchers recognised in latest NHMRC grants

Thursday 30 September 2021

Five Mater Researchers have secured more than $15 million dollars in in the latest round of National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funding for their world-leading projects to improve the health of Australians.

This includes Professors David Hume, Vicki Flenady, Josephine Forbes and Sailesh Kumar who have been awarded highly contested NHMRC Investigator grants and Professor Sandie McCarthy who has received a Partnership Projects grant.

Professor Flenady has also secured $2.5 million dollars in NHMRC funding for the Centre of Research Excellence in Stillbirth (Stillbirth CRE) that she leads. The centre aims to rapidly translate new research into better maternity care, to reduce stillbirth rates.

Executive Director Mater Research, Professor Maher Gandhi said the five-year grants were a welcome recognition of the important work the researchers were leading.

“We’re proud to see so many of our researchers receive funding in such a highly competitive research environment for their important, life-changing research,” Professor Gandhi said.

“Their projects in neonatal health, chronic disease and cellular biology aim to find answers to a number of health issues affecting Australians from birth through adolescence and into later life. They are leaders in their fields and importantly are also mentoring the next generation of research leaders.”

Professor Flenady wants to reduce Australia’s stillbirth rates by 20 per cent and reconcile inequities in stillbirth rates by 2025. Her $3.37 million Investigator Grant and the $2.5 million for the Stillbirth CRE will enable her and her team to continue their outstanding work to reduce the devastating impact of stillbirth on women, families and communities across Australia and the world.

Mater Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist, Professor Kumar will use his $2.17 million grant to find new ways to prevent newborn death and disability from birth asphyxia. His team wants to identify at-risk babies and evaluate if the drug Sildenafil can reduce foetal distress and the need for caesarean births if given to mothers in the early stages of labour.

Macrophage Biology Research group leader, Professor Hume will use his $3.4 million grant to progress his research into how macrophages are made and controlled. He hopes to use the knowledge he gains about these immune system cells to develop new therapies in regenerative medicine.

The $2.37 million awarded to Professor Forbes will allow her Glycation and Diabetes Complications Research group to better understand the factors responsible for diabetes and kidney-disease. She also hopes to use the funding to progress therapies which may reduce the risk of these diseases, including among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People.

Living Well with Cancer Program leader, Professor McCarthy will utilise her Partnership Projects grant to advance the health of adolescents and young adults who survive cancer. The $1.25 million will help progress her BALANCE project which tests a lifestyle program to address the detrimental effects of the cancer experiences that young people go through, so they can have the same quality of life as their peers.

The more than $15 million in NHMRC funding awarded to the Mater Researchers and the Stillbirth CRE is part of $472 million announced by the Federal Government in the past month for health and medical research to help save lives and make Australians healthier.