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$118 million boost to health and medical research in Australia [NSW]

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Media Release Senator the Hon Kay Patterson Minister for Health and Ageing

22 August, 2002

$118 MILLION BOOST TO HEALTH AND MEDICAL RESEARCH IN AUSTRALIA The Federal Minister for Health and Ageing, Senator Kay Patterson, today announced that 16 teams of researchers throughout Australia would receive $118.175 million to undertake research dealing with many of Australia's major health concerns of cancer, heart disease, stroke and depression.

Senator Patterson said that in New South Wales, four teams of researchers would receive a total of $28.22 million over five years.

The funded research will include efforts to understand how 'good' lipoproteins (levels of lipoproteins are important in assessing the risk of heart disease) protect people from atherosclerosis.

Other teams are looking at factors influencing depression and the effectiveness of new treatments; patient preferences relating to participation in clinical trials and evaluation of health policy.

"The Australian community expects us to fund research that will lead to new preventive measures, new treatments and cures, an evidence-based health system, and growth of industries based on the knowledge gained from this research," Senator Patterson said.

"The NHMRC is continuing to lead the way in funding the work of internationally- recognised health and medical research teams for the benefit of all Australians. This research is helping to ensure Australia maintains its place at the cutting edge of international health and medical research.

"Program Grants enable highly productive teams to continue their research with flexible and stable funding support over five years - a measure that offers researchers the best opportunity to achieve community expectations."

The funding for health and medical research in Australia was doubled by the Commonwealth in the 1999-2000 Federal Budget, as a result of the Wills Review.

Details of all sixteen grants are attached.


1. How cell death is controlled, influences normal development and contributes to cancer and other diseases. Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Vic Prof Jerry Adams Prof Suzanne Cory Prof Peter Colman

Dr Andreas Strasser Dr David Vaux Dr David Huang Dr Alan Harris Dr Steve Gerondakis $13.675M over five years. To study the genetic alterations that give rise to cancer. In particular, exploring how too little death of cells can lead to a tumour. If too few cells in a tissue die, a tumour may develop there. The team is exploring how the cell death process is normally controlled. They plan to characterise the molecules inside cells that determine whether a cell lives or dies and hope that better understanding of those molecules will help to explain how tumours arise. It could also lead to new drugs that can kill tumour cells more effectively by directly triggering the normal death switch of the cell.

2. Advanced cardiac disease and heart failure Baker Medical Research Institute, Vic Prof Garry Jennings Prof Alex Bobik Prof Anthony M Dart Prof Murray D Esler A/Prof David M Kaye $8.875M over five years. Heart failure is mainly a result of coronary artery disease. It is a major cause of disability and mortality in Australia and is projected to increase markedly over the next two decades. This program brings together clinical and basic science expertise to address aspects of the prevention and control of coronary disease and heart failure. The outcomes that will arise will provide a better understanding of the mechanisms involved in the progression from stable heart disease to failure.

3. Control of white blood cell production and function Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Vic Prof Nicos Nicola Prof Donald Metcalf Dr Douglas Hilton Dr Warren Alexander Dr Lorraine Robb Dr Manuel Baca Dr Robyn Starr Dr Andrew Roberts Prof Raymond Roberts $13.95M over five years This established team of investigators will research into the molecular control of white blood cell formation and function, using a multidisciplinary, team approach to fundamental biological questions with a focus on potential clinical and commercial outcomes. The team will also attempt to identify new validated targets for therapeutic intervention by using both forward and reverse genetic approaches in mice coupled with complete phenotypic analyses of the blood cell system.

4. Hormonal regulation of reproduction in health and disease Prince Henry's Institute of Medical Research, Vic Prof Jock Findlay A/Prof Robert McLachlan A/Prof David Robertson A/Prof Lois Salamonsen Prof Evan Simpson $7.425M over five years Achieving the goal of reproductive health for all is a public health issue and is limited by factors including, problems of infertility, inadequacies of the fertility-regulating methods and the high incidence of reproductive

tract diseases, including cancers. The overall objective of this Program Grant is to discover, understand and apply new knowledge about reproductive processes in health and disease to alleviating infertility, improving contraceptive choice and efficacy and combating diseases in the reproductive organs.

5. Dissecting the immune system: application to human disease Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute and Monash University, Vic A/Prof Joseph Trapani A/Prof Mark Smyth Dr Ricky Johnstone Dr Dale Godfrey $6.550M over five years The immune system plays an important role in protecting the host from viral and bacterial infections, and inhibits cancer onset and progression. Unfortunately the immune system can sometimes lose specificity and attack the host resulting in autoimmune diseases such as diabetes. This research team has played a vital role in characterising the specific activities of immune cells and the associated factors. By understanding these complex processes the team aims to harness the unique therapeutic properties of our own immune system and translate their findings into the clinic.

6. Translational research in stroke, National Stroke Research Institute, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Royal Perth Hospital WA and the University of Melbourne, Vic Prof Geoffrey Donnan Prof Stephen Davis A/Prof Graeme Hankey Dr David Howells $5.725M over five years. Many new therapies are being developed to treat stroke and prevent its recurrence. While a number of these have been successfully introduced, there is a puzzling gap between evidence of efficacy in animal models and humans. One of the main reasons may be lack of an integrated approach between the basic sciences and clinical researchers. By assembling a team with skills in both areas and a structure to maximise communication between groups this team plan to incrementally introduce new therapies into clinical practice.

7. Finding genes for human genetic disease Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research, Vic Prof Simon Foote Prof Terence Speed Dr Hamish Scott Dr Gordon Smyth $4.050M over five years The genome project has opened the path for the study of diseases using genetics. This approach is still quite recent in human and mammalian biology. It requires a large amount of input from statisticians and computer scientists as well as from the biologists and clinicians working on the disease. The team is looking for genes causing complex genetic diseases and use human populations and families as well as mouse models of human diseases. This includes modifiers of cancer development and response to infectious disease as well as deafness and autoimmune diseases.

8. Aiming at new drugs for treating brain diseases and improving recovery Monash Medical Centre and Monash University, Vic Prof Malcolm Horne Prof Philip Beart Prof Bevyn Jarrott Prof Phillip Nagley A/Prof John Drago A/Prof Surinda Cheema Dr Andrew Lawrence $8.250M over five years When nerve cells are damaged, destroyed or injured, through disease or trauma, common pathological processes

are set in train. Even though there are many factors that might trigger disease, these inevitably lead to common processes that end in cell death or initiate protective processes. One theme involves the factors that surround these responses to nerve injury and stress, and the consequent protective and regenerative responses that ensue. Another theme, closely integrates with the first, is to exploit basic biological mechanisms with the aim of identifying and developing therapeutic targets for the management of a wider range of neurological conditions.

9. Studying causes of the depressive disorders and factors predicting their response and resistance to treatment Euroa Centre, Prince of Wales Hospital, University of New South Wales, NSW Prof Gordon Parker Prof Philip Mitchell A/Prof Kay Wilhelm Mr Dusan Hadzi-Pavlovic Dr Marie-Paule Austin Dr Gin Mahli $7.7M over five years The depressive disorders, including bipolar disorder, are highly prevalent in the Australian community. These illnesses may be chronic or relapsing, may impair the capacity to work and can be resistant to treatment. The research team addresses this public health and clinical problem by undertaking a number of studies pursuing factors influencing predisposition and onset to disorder, clarifying the effectiveness of new treatments, and investigating factors predictive of treatment response and resistance.

10. Advances in clinical trials research and evidence-based decision making NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre, University of Sydney, NSW Prof R John Simes A/Prof Anthony Keech A/Prof Ian Marschner Dr Martin Stockler A/Prof Val Gebski $6.575M over five years The NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre at the University of Sydney aims to use clinical trials and methodological research in trials to improve health in Australia and internationally It is a member of many international collaborative trials groups, especially in heart disease and cancer. A particular area of interest is patient preferences and decision making, particularly in cancer. The Clinical Trial Centre is active in using data from its own and other clinical trials in combined analyses to arrive at better evidence.

11. Evaluating health policy by understanding consumer and provider decisions about health care: a new approach Centre for Health Economics Research and Evaluation, University of Technology, Sydney, NSW Prof Jane Hall Prof Denzil Fiebig Prof Jordan Louviere Prof Patricia Apps Ms Rosalie Viney $6.825M over five years This proposed program of research will contribute to the development of economics and health economics internationally. It provides an exciting opportunity to bring together scholars across economics at the forefront of the discipline internationally, and who are researchers with extensive experience in the practical application of research results in shaping policy directions.

12. Atherosclerosis Centre for Thrombosis and Vascular Research, University of New South Wales, Department of Cardiology, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and the Hanson Institute SA Prof Roland Stocker Prof Philip Barter Prof David Celermajer

A/Prof Wendy Jessup A/Prof Dr Kerry Rye $7.125M over five years The team comprises internationally recognised experts in basic, clinical and public health applied research in cardiovascular disease, particularly atherosclerosis that is the commonest cause of death in Australia and other developed countries. Over the last decade, improvement in cardiovascular health has been primarily the result of a better understanding on how to control 'bad' (or LDL) cholesterol. The significance of the proposed studies is that, on the one hand, they will provide new information on how 'good' lipoproteins protect us from atherosclerosis. This information can then be used to regulate 'good' cholesterol in a meaningful manner. On the other hand, the proposed studies will provide fundamental insights into how a range of lifestyle factors, physiological processes and pathological conditions relate to both the function of blood vessel-lining cells and susceptibility of individuals to atherosclerosis.

13. Reproductive health for women: from egg to embryo Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Adelaide, SA Prof Robert Norman A/Prof Raymond Rodgers Prof. David Armstrong Dr Jeremy Thompson Dr Sarah Robertson $8.3M over five years. Infertility affects one in six couples and is an extremely distressing, expensive and frustrating experience for those that it afflicts. Through gaining a better understanding of the molecular and cellular processes governing ovulation and early embryo development, this team will devise new therapeutic strategies to improve the reproductive health of Australian women.

14. Plasma membrane structure and function University of Queensland Medical School, Qld Prof John Hancock Prof Robert Parton $4M over five years The planned research program relates to novel hypotheses regarding the role of cell surface domains in organising signalling pathways at the cell surface. The proposal will involve identifying the domains and molecules involved in specific signalling pathways and dissecting the formation and function of surface structures called caveolae. The findings will have huge importance for therapeutic strategies aimed at combating the cellular changes associated with cell transformation in cancer and other human diseases.

15. Towards the understanding of the genetic basis of breast and ovarian cancer Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute VIC, Centre for Genetic Epidemiology VIC Dr Georgia Chenevix-Trench Dr Kum Kum Khanna Prof Joseph Sambrook Prof John Hopper $4.275M over five years To understand the genetic basis of two of the most important cancers in women, breast and ovarian cancer. The team has already identified one gene that confers a very high risk of breast cancer and may account for a large proportion of 'familial' breast cancer. Their aim is to identify additional predisposition genes and to determine their normal function in the cell, as well as the way in which they contribute to the development of cancer

16. Regulation of allergy and inflammation John Curtin School of Medical Research, Australian National University, ACT and Sir Charles Gardiner, WA Dr Paul Foster Dr Simon Hogan Dr Klaus Matthaei Prof Ian Young

A/Prof Phillip Thompson $4.875M over five years To understand the fundamental cellular and molecular processes that underpin the development of allergic disorders, viral infections of the respiratory tract and chronic inflammatory diseases of the lung. There is particular interest in the role of immune cells, such T cells and granulocytes in these disorders, and in the processes that control their function. Understanding these processes will provide new insights into the immune system's role in health and disease, and help develop better therapies to treat inflammatory disorders.

Media Contact: Marnie Gaffney, Senator Patterson's office, (02) 6277 7220 Lorraine Tomlins, (NHMRC), (02) 6289 9537

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Published on Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing web site 26 August 2002 Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing URL: