Early career researcher seeding grants announced

Wednesday 06 December 2017

Congratulations to the winners of the 2017 ECR seeding grants, Dr Linda Gallo (pictured, right), in the biomedical category, and Dr Mary Ghazawy (pictured, left), in the clinical category.  This year is the first time that the recipients were decided by a judging panel only involving donors and consumers.

Dr Linda Gallo is a biomedical researcher who is passionate about helping people live healthier lives and strives to translate her research into strategies that achieve this outcome. With a keen interest whole-body physiology, her research on Dual SGLT1/2 Inhibition in Type 2 Diabetes: Effects on the Heart and Kidneys gave her the opportunity to study metabolic, cardiovascular, and kidney health.

“Diabetes is a very complex disease which affects multiple organ systems and increases the risk of heart and kidney disease,” Dr Gallo explains.

“My research aims to test whether a new drug that is under clinical development for diabetes, called an SGLT1/2 inhibitor, protects the heart and kidneys in this context.

“If my research identifies that this drug is beneficial, then it may become a therapy of choice for diabetes, particularly in patients with underlying cardiovascular and/or kidney problems.  

“Receiving this grant will allow me to test the effects of this new anti-diabetic drug on heart and kidney function.

“If the heart and kidneys are protected, then my research will work on further unravelling the mechanisms by which this occurs to help make the drug more effective.

“I hope that the outcomes of my research will also lead to further research on heart disease in non-diabetic patients.”  

Dr Mary Ghazawy, a neonatal fellow passionate about the neurodevelopment of preterm infants, presented her research on The Effects of Neonatal Stressors on the Developing Preterm Brain which aims to improve the long term emotional development of premature infants.

“A child’s emotional wellbeing strikes a chord with me, I feel they have a right to enjoy their lives with as little added stress as possible,” Dr Ghazawy says.

“If we as neonatal specialists are going to continue to help these tiny babies born too soon to survive, we need to know what kind of an impact the treatment preterm infants receive has on their long term cognitive and emotional development."

With the significant increase in survival rates of extreme preterm infants in recent years, the focus on the long term development of preterm infants has never been more important.  While there is quite a lot of research into the long term physical effects of pain on premature infants, little research has been conducted around the effects which pain has on the emotional development of premature infants.

“The first part of my project will assess clinicians attitudes to pain management and the effects on the infant, what tools if any are used to assess pain and how it is treated within units throughout Australia, Dr Ghazawy explains. 

“This seeding grant will be the building block for the questionnaire and data collection. From there we will be able to progress to assessing the levels of stress felt by the infant during what is perceived to be the most painful procedures.

“Beyond the scope of this grant, but a continuing part of the research will be the assessment of anatomical brain changes using Magnetic Resonance Imaging, and the long term emotional outcomes of these infants.

Mater Research CEO Professor John Prins was extremely impressed by the high quality of the presentations given by the six finalists of the ECR seeding grants.

“We are very grateful to Mater Foundation for the excellent training in public media communication they have provided to our ECRs in order to present their research before the panel of donors and consumers at our recent Young Investigator Symposium and Excellence in Research Awards,” Professor Prins said. 

“I would also like to extend my gratitude to our enthusiastic panel of donors and consumers for their time and effort judging these grants.”