Dr Kara Vine-Perrow from the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences and IHMRI

UOW health and medical research receives multi-million dollar boost

UOW health and medical research receives multi-million dollar boost

Projects will explore cancer treatment, Motor Neurone disease, Alzheimer's disease and mental health

University of Wollongong (UOW) researchers are part of grants from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) awarded more than $4.5 million under the NHMRC Ideas Grant and International Collaboration Grant Schemes.

NHMRC Ideas Grants support innovative research across branches of health and medical research from discovery to implementation, with opportunities for early- and mid-career researchers. NHMRC International Collaboration Grants facilitate Australian researchers’ participation in projects with researchers around the world.

Associate Professor Susanna Guatelli will lead a team developing a new treatment planning system based on machine learning with replanning for adaptive radiotherapy in the treatment of head and neck cancers. Adaptive radiotherapy with replanning is state-of-the-art in radiotherapy, aimed to deliver a personalised cancer treatment. However its adoption in clinical practice is hampered by its complexity. This project, which will receive $708,000 over four years, aims to develop a flexible, highly portable and cost-effective dose calculation engine, called DoseART, by engaging machine-learning techniques.

Associate Professor Guatelli is based out of UOW’s School of Physics and is a member of the Centre for Medical Radiation Physics.

Associate Professor Kara Vine-Perrow will receive $904,000 to develop a system to boost the delivery of medicines to the brain using externally applied, non-invasive focused ultrasound.  Focused ultrasound is a safe technique that selectively disrupts the blood-brain barrier, increasing its permeability of the central nervous system to drugs. The outcomes of Associate Professor Vine-Perrow’s work have implications for the treatment of Motor Neurone Disease models and will guide further preclinical testing of the drug delivery system for the disease.

Associate Professor Shane Ellis is a co-Chief Investigator on a project with the University of Sydney, investigating new therapies for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease.  Their team will explore how the dominant genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease affects the regulating lipid membranes that control neurological function. This will inform clinical trials aimed at correcting brain lipid metabolism function to treat Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr Natalie Matosin and Associate Professor Ellis have received $1.1 million in funding through the NHMRC and Network of European Funding for Neuroscience Research (NEURON) to establish a consortium that will explore the impact of early life adversity on later mental health issues. Early life adversity is the strongest environmental risk factor for developing mental illness and is associated with increased disorder severity, comorbidity, chronicity and treatment resistance. The team will work with researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry (Germany), University of Zagreb (Croatia), and the Lieber Institute for Brain Development (United States), to uncover the persistent molecular and cellular changes that occur following exposure to early adversity in the human insula, a brain area highly relevant for psychiatric disorders.

Associate Professors Ellis, Vine-Perrow and Dr Matosin are based at the UOW School of Chemistry and Molecular Bioscience and the funded projects will be based out of Molecular Horizons.

Distinguished Professor David Adams, from UOW’s Faculty of Science, Medical and Health, has also received funding from the NHMRC Ideas Grants for a project in collaboration with RMIT University and Cornell University to investigate new mechanisms for the large conductance potassium channel in medicines, with implications for the treatments available for hypertension and epilepsy.

UOW Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President (Research and Sustainable Futures) Professor David Currow said, “The dedication of UOW researchers to advancing scientific knowledge and improving healthcare is commendable. The innovative work that takes place at the University holds the promise of transforming lives and shaping the future of medicine.

“UOW is proud to host these remarkable research endeavours and look forward to witnessing the impactful discoveries that will undoubtedly arise.”