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Outstanding Medical Research Showcased

Summary media release information
Date: 
18 August 2012
Type: 
Ministerial Media Release
Contact for further information: 
Simon Crittle in Minister Plibersek’s office on 0466 773 531

THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
Minister for Health

Minister for Health, Tanya Plibersek, today launched Ten of the Best Research Projects 2012, a publication that showcases the work of some of the finest medical researchers in the country.

“From new and  innovative approaches to helping bridge the gap between the health of older Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their non-Indigenous counterparts or new ways of better caring for premature babies, Australian researchers are involved in groundbreaking  research that is improving  the health of our community,” Ms Plibersek said.

“Ten of the Best Research Projects 2012 features NHMRC-funded researchers who are leading the way in finding innovative solutions to some of our nation’s greatest health challenges.

The ten projects range from Professor Glenn Marshall and his team’s work on new treatments for childhood cancers, including the deadly neuroblastoma, to the extensive contributions made by Professor Keryn Williams and her team in the area of corneal grafts – effectively, giving the gift of sight.

“These projects were picked for Ten of the Best on the basis of the strength of the science and significance of outcomes,” NHMRC CEO Professor Anderson said.

“Four of the ten research teams have had their work translated into new health policy and practice that is improving the lives of Australians and people around the world.”

Professor Richard Osborne and his team at Deakin University developed a new model of care that better prioritises people with hip and knee osteoarthritis on public hospital waiting lists for a joint replacement. This project has already made a difference to thousands of Victorians on joint and hip replacement waiting lists.

Two other research teams are conducting clinical trials and are on their way to becoming new treatments for cancer and diabetes.

“This is a fantastic example of how health and medical research is being used to inform public health reform,” Ms Plibersek said.

Research to help bridge the gap has also been recognised in this year’s Ten of the Best. Dr Dina LoGiudice and her team have developed a culturally appropriate tool to assess dementia in older Indigenous Australians.

“This tool, the Kimberley Indigenous Cognitive Assessment (KICA), is the first of its kind and was developed in collaboration with local Indigenous Australian community members,” Ms Plibersek said.

“Dr LoGiudice and her team are now developing models of care which will also take a ‘by the community, for the community’ approach.”

Outstanding research like Dr LoGiudice’s and others highlighted in Ten of the Best Research Projects 2012 demonstrate improvements in treatment and practice – and then to better health outcomes for all Australians.

'I congratulate these ten researchers and their teams for their important, life-changing work,” Ms Plibersek said.

“Their commitment and innovative approach to problem-solving is helping to keep Australia on the cutting edge of health and medical research.”

For media inquiries, contact Simon Crittle in Minister Plibersek’s office on 0466 773 531

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NHMRC Ten of the Best (2012) Research Summaries

Research Institution:
Murdoch Childrens Research Institute
Researcher:
Professor Katrina Allen
Grant type:
NHMRC Career Development Fellowship
Funding amount:
$274,961 (2006 – 2010)

The research conducted by Professor Allen and her team has broken new ground on more accurate ways of identifying food allergies in children. In applying these new methods, the true prevalence of child food allergies has been revealed.

 

Research Institution:
University of Melbourne
Researcher:
Professor Lorena Brown
Grant type:
NHMRC Project Grant
Funding amount:
$513,717 (2008 – 2010)

Professor Brown and her team’s research into the H5N1 influenza virus uncovered a flu inhibitor in saliva that prevents the virus from travelling to the lungs and having potentially fatal effects. This research, conducted in animal models, will now be tested in humans.

 

Research Institution:
Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute
Researcher:
Professor Mark Febbraio
Grant type:
NHMRC Project Grant
Funding amount:
$467,720 (2008 – 2010)

This research is showing promising applications in the form of a new treatment for Type 2 diabetes and another for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. The answer, which Professor Febbraio and his team are exploring, appears to lie in the activation of a particular heat stress protein in muscle tissue.

 

Research Institution:
Monash University
Researcher:
Professor Richard Harding
Grant type:
NHMRC Program Grant
Funding amount:
$8,381,821 (2006 – 2010)

Professor Harding and his team are working to improve the health outcomes of preterm babies. In particular, they are interested in how best to support the function of preterm babies’ lungs. The team have already found that lowering levels of oxygen administered enables gas pressure to be maintained in the lungs while reducing unwanted side effects associated with higher levels.

 

Research Institution:
University of Melbourne
Researcher:
Professor Marshall Lightowlers
Grant type:
NHMRC Research Fellowship
Funding amount:
$739,574 (2006 – 2010)
 
Professor Lightowlers and his team have produced vaccines for two potentially fatal parasitic diseases: neurocysticercosis and hydatid. The team are now working to improve one of the vaccines so it can be delivered in one dose instead of two – an important goal given these diseases affects some of the poorest countries in the world.

 

Research Institution:
Royal Melbourne Hospital, Royal Park Campus
Western Australian Centre for Health and Ageing
Researcher:
Dr Dina LoGiudice
Grant type:
NHMRC Strategic Award
Funding amount:
$1,081,062 (2007 – 2010)

This research has produced a culturally appropriate tool for assessing dementia in older Indigenous Australians. The next steps for Dr LoGiudice and her team include developing appropriate models of care for this cohort, living in remote Indigenous communities, and ways of preventing the disease.

 

Research Institution:
Children's Cancer Institute Australia
Sydney Children's Hospital
Researcher:
Professor Glenn Marshall
Grant type:
NHMRC Program Grant
Funding amount:
$5,029,092 (2006 – 2010)

Professor Marshall and his team have been working together for 20 years on improving treatments for childhood cancer. Focusing specifically on a deadly embryonal cancer, neuroblastoma, they have already identified a number of different strategies that are now undergoing clinical trials.

 

Research Institution:
Deakin University
Researcher:
Professor Richard Osborne
Grant type:
NHMRC Career Development Fellowship
Funding amount:
$462,290 (2006 – 2010)

Addressing inequalities in the health care system is what drives Professor Osborne and his team. They developed a new model that better prioritises those on waiting lists for hip and joint replacements which has been implemented in all Victorian public hospitals – with the rest of Australia to come.

 

Research Institution:
Institute for Molecular Bioscience
Researcher:
Professor Brandon Wainwright
Grant type:
NHMRC Project Grant
Funding amount:
$521,961 (2008 – 2010)

Research by Professor Wainwright and his team indicates that by manipulating a genetic pathway that is behind skin cancer, skin cells can either be replenished or become cancerous. Next steps include proving that the cells generated through this manipulation are true stem cells and can repair and regenerate skin.

 

Research Institution:
Flinders University
Researcher:
Professor Keryn Williams
Grant type:
NHMRC Research Fellowship
Funding amount:
$739,574 (2006 – 2010)

For nearly 30 years, Professor Williams and her team have been helping to give the gift of sight to thousands of Australians. The team discovered that immunological rejection was the most common cause of corneal graft failure. Separately, their work has led to a dramatic cut in waiting times for a corneal graft.

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Ten of the Best Research Projects 2012 is available to download here

Visit the Workshops and Events webpage for photos from the launch of Ten of the Best 2012.

Page reviewed: 22 August, 2012