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ISSUE SIX 02 A Message From The CEO 03 Major New UK Charity Focuses On Mental Health

04 New Plans For Rare Diseases Research

05 Cure For Life-Funded Researchers Discover More About The Role Of The Kynurenine Pathway In Brain Tumours

06 Australian First Fertility Trial At Mater Mother’s Hospital

08 New Medical Science Precinct World Class

09 It’s In The Blood 10 Prime Minister Opens Flagship

Health And Medical Research Centre

11 The Power Of Microparticles 13 Lifetime Achievement Award For Professor Len Harrison

14 World First Dementia Risk

Reduction App – Brainyapp

15 CP Check-Up 16 The Future Of Genomic Medicine Has Arrived In Australia

17 Taking The Lead In Motor

Neurone Disease Research

18 Strong Collaborations Result In Promising Heart Attack Prevention Drug

19 Children Of Older Dads More

Likely To Suffer Mental Illness

20 Unearthing A Mystery 22 Research Grant Offers Hope Of Better Pain Management For Australians With Dementia


 ’mon Australia, Wear Your Sneakers C To Work And Get On Your Feet

24 Osteoporosis Australia Launches New Burden Of Disease Study

25 “Battle” Of The Stroke ClotBusting Drugs



26 Hand Washing Research To Underpin New Australian Standard

28 Ingham Institute’s Inaugural Awards Night


Editor’s Corner


Autumn 2014

A Message From The CEO Hard to believe that Summer is over already, and we are well into 2014. We have begun the year with a detailed pre-budget submission to the Federal Government, and we hope to see some provisioning for the implementation of the McKeon review in the May Budget. We are currently negotiating with the Press Club to have Simon McKeon speak on the Government’s progress so far on implementing the major strategic health and medical research review. The first anniversary of the Review’s completion and publication is upon us, so watch this space, your support in attending such a luncheon is vital! Australia’s only remaining Minister for Medical Research, Jillian Skinner, is also Chair of the Standing Council on Health (SCoH). She has indicated she will raise the possibility of including health and medical research on a future SCoH agenda with her Ministerial colleagues. We commend her keen interest and support!

We are already planning this year’s Research Australia Awards, which will be held on November 5, at the Pier 1 Sydney Harbour Hotel! We are talking with sponsors, and as always, will call for nominations for the awards in April! In December/January, we sent a survey to all our members. Many thanks to all those who completed the survey. The winner of the case of Rochford wine was Andrew Gilbert from BioPlatforms Australia! As always, we have a keen interest in developing philanthropic giving for Health and Medical Research. We are working closely with Philanthropy Australia to educate people with Private Ancillary Funds on how

rewarding (and simple) it can be to invest in health and medical research. A group established by Research Australia and Philanthropy Australia, called the Committee for the Advancement of Health and Medical Research is hosting a function in Melbourne in March, with money man Paul Clithero as host, and Professor Doug Hilton as key note speaker, we hope to encourage more philanthropists to become involved in the sector. Based on member feedback, the Philanthropy Conference will be a one day conference this year, in Melbourne, with the date in August yet to be finalized. In the coming weeks we are planning to release some interesting consumer research on philanthropic giving. We hope you will find it useful. Of course, we are continuing with grassROOTS, which continues to expand its audience. Many thanks to all the people who have sent in articles for this edition. I am sure you will find it an interesting read. Elizabeth Foley  CEO & Managing Director Research Australia  lizabeth Foley, CEO & Managing E Director Research Australia; Prof Christine Bennett, Chair Research Australia; Mary Woolley, President & CEO Research America; The Hon. Jillian Skinner MP, Minister for Health & Minister for Medical Research; Peter Wills, Deputy Chair Research Australia.


Research Australia grassROOTS AUTUMN 2014

Autumn 2014

Major New UK Charity Focuses On Mental Health MQ: Transforming Mental Health opened in the UK in January 2013, with the backing of the Wellcome Trust and the Institute of Social Psychiatry. It is driven by a belief that mental health research and treatment should be a higher global priority. MQ is focused on identifying and funding research that is key to solving global issues in mental health, with an emphasis on three specific areas: • Research that will improve the quality of currently available treatments, both psychological and medical; • Research that will illuminate the mechanisms of disease and lead to better strategies for diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental illness; and • Supporting the best and most innovative researchers who will be the thought leaders of the future.

Research Program MQ is currently still putting the finishing touches to what it will be funding. Feedback on recent developments across the sciences, outstanding research questions and other prioritisation considerations will be fed into the final determination of our Programme goals and activities While it has not yet finalised its research program, it is not restricting its activities to the UK, and has already provided funding for three fellowships. One of the recipients is Dr Bronwyn Graham, a lecturer in Clinical Psychology at the University of NSW. “The MQ Fellowship provides a fantastic opportunity for early career researchers to establish independent investigations into the most important issues surrounding mental health. My research will determine whether we can substantially improve the benefit of current treatments for anxiety disorders in women by making a few simple modifications to the timing of treatment administration based on hormonal levels.

on public outreach, will help to disseminate my results into the scientific and wider community, which is a critical step in the translation of science into practice and policy change.” Information about the 2014 MQ Fellowships Programme will be posted on the MQ website soon.

Having the support of the MQ Foundation, being an international initiative with a focus

Research Australia grassROOTS AUTUMN 2014


Autumn 2014

New Plans For Rare Diseases Research Some 400,000 children in Australia are affected by a rare disease, many with complex health, physical and social needs. Researchers from the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network are tackling more of these diseases in an effort to help bring hope to families of children with chronic conditions that are difficult to diagnose and often with few treatments. Director of Research, Professor Chris Cowell, has overseen the Network’s Research Strategic Plan with a commitment to discovering new insights into how diseases work, diagnostic methods and treatments. With the aim to be world leaders in gene therapy the Network has a focus on understanding the biology of genetic disorders and researching rare diseases such as neuromuscular, craniofacial, congenital heart diseases, genetic eye and lung diseases, skeletal dysplasia and metabolic conditions. The Network’s research is conducted at Sydney Children’s Hospital and the Kids Research Institute (KRI) at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, through affiliations with tertiary institutions and partnerships with the Children’s Medical Research Institute, Westmead Millennium Institute, Children’s Cancer Institute Australia, Garvan Institute of Medical Research and Randwick’s Genomics Centre.  “The researchers across the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network are leading the way in identifying, understanding and treating rare diseases,” Professor Cowell said. “These diseases account for at least 30% of inpatient admissions to tertiary health services with many of the children and young people coming to our hospitals suffering from one of the 8,000 known rare diseases.” Some of these rare diseases are so rare that the patients seen by the Network’s clinicians may in fact be amongst the only patients in the world with the condition. The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, for example, has treated the brothers Thomas, 16, and Bradley, 17, for many years. They were born profoundly deaf and their progressive muscle weakness means they have never walked and both are gradually losing their sight. It took some time before an accurate diagnosis could be made and it was discovered they had Arts Syndrome, a very rare genetic disorder and the brothers are believed to be the only children in Australia with the syndrome. The Network’s genetic researchers, led by Professor John Christodoulou, worked


 rothers Thomas and Bradley have a B new quality of life thanks to research into their rare disease.

to identify the gene responsible for Arts Syndrome. This world-first discovery led to improved therapy for the brothers and ultimately improved their quality of life. Professor Christodoulou’s research focuses on genetic disorders which affect brain development and function. His work provides the opportunity for better diagnosis and prognosis. It also has potential for improved understanding of the biology of these often complex disorders and enables more accurate genetic counselling to families. Many other research projects across the Network are helping to transform children’s lives today and into the future including: • Professor Adam Jaffe has established the first Australian Registry Network for Orphan Lung Diseases. The Registry collects national data on incidence and prevalence of rare lung diseases to support research leading to improved care and new medications.

dystrophy and identifying further genes behind congenital myopathies. • Professor Ian Alexander leads a team that focuses on repairing genetic defects in tissues, particularly in the liver and bone marrow. The gene delivery technologies are derived from viruses and the aim is to replace faulty genes • Dr Robyn Jamieson at the Children’s Medical Research Institute is finding new treatments for blindness. Genetic tests are run on young children to find the underlying genetic cause and this is leading to potential treatments. • Dr David Winlaw is leading research projects to help discover the genetic causes of congenital heart disease in order to improve understanding and develop new treatments for the most common congenital abnormality affecting children in Australia.

• Dr Tony Roscoli is harnessing new technologies in genomics to help unravel the genetic causes of diseases including craniofacial disorders and in particular children and families with cleft palates.

The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network is also home to the Australian Paediatric Surveillance Unit which has been researching rare childhood conditions since 1993. The work of the APSU has led to new research and contributed to public health and clinical policy. Twenty years on, researchers into rare diseases remain just as committed to improving health outcomes for children and their families.

• Dr Nigel Clarke of the Institute for Neuroscience and Muscle Research is finding new genetic causes of muscular

The Network has been able to grow research in Genomics Rare Diseases thanks to the generosity of supporters like Costco.

Research Australia grassROOTS AUTUMN 2014

Autumn 2014

Cure For Life-Funded Researchers Discover More About The Role Of The Kynurenine Pathway In Brain Tumours A research study supported by Cure For Life Foundation has been published in the journal ‘Cancer Research’, one of the highest-impact journals in the field. Cure For Life Foundation allocated funds raised by Tour De Cure to a study led by Professor Gilles J. Guillemin and Dr Seray Adams called “The Involvement of the Kynurenine Pathway in Glioma Pathogenesis”. The Kynurenine Pathway has received a considerable amount of attention during the past decade for its involvement in immune suppression in cancer patients. But much of the research has been focused on the upper Kynurenine Pathway. This study has looked at how brain cancer cells may exploit the lower segment of this pathway, in order to explore potential new therapies. The study has made significant and rapid advances. The team have built on previous research into the pathway and found that a number of the enzymes it produces are over-produced in brain tumour cells compared to normal healthy cells. They have discovered that the Kynurenine Pathway is over-active in brain tumour patients compared to healthy patients. High activation of this pathway may suppress the immune system, which could in turn prevent it from fighting tumours. This is important because the ability of brain tumours to evade the immune system is one of the major challenges associated with brain tumour management. A better understanding of how tumours such as glioblastoma can evade the immune system could promote new treatment options. Activation of the KP in tumours also allows them to have a greater capacity to produce the essential co-factor NAD+, thereby aiding in the maintenance of cellular energy (ATP) metabolism for tumoral proliferation and DNA repair. As specific Kynurenine Pathway enzymes are needed to suppress the immune system, one strategy for treating brain cancer patients could be to inhibit the pathway, normalising the immune system so it can fight the tumour. Preliminary evidence from this study suggests that this could be achieved by repurposing a

drug not previously used in brain cancer, thus reducing brain cancer growth. This project has also involved collaboration with a group in Germany and their common work on GBM and Kynurenine Pathway has led to the publication of two more papers in Nature and Cancer Research.

 rof Gilles Guillemin (Professor of P Neuroscience at Macquarie University) and Serray Adams, Postdoctoral Research Fellow.

Research Australia grassROOTS AUTUMN 2014


Autumn 2014

Australian First Fertility Trial At Mater Mother’s Hospital Mater Mother’s Hospital in Brisbane is researching alternative natural therapy options for infertility and miscarriages, giving more couples the chance to experience the joy of their own ‘little miracle’. Threatened miscarriage, which occurs in 25 per cent of couples and recurrent miscarriage (more than three), affects about 1 in 100 women. Thanks to funding from Mater Foundation (the charity arm of Mater Health Services) and Golden Casket, Mater’s Fertility Service trial is the only one in Australia using natural fertility enhancement. The trial which started in 2011 has shown one in three women with subfertility has a hormonal deficiency in their cycle. The trial has also helped couples with threatened miscarriage or recurrent miscarriage, to fall pregnant or stay pregnant by using progesterone and other therapies. The reasons for miscarriage are complex and include anatomic, genetic and molecular abnormalities and endocrine disorders. Women who experience a threatened miscarriage are at significantly increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes including antepartum haemorrhage, preterm delivery, perinatal mortality and low-birth weight babies. Mater Fertility Service Principal Investigator Dr Luke McLindon said, “We have found that many of the women presenting to us with threatened miscarriage or subfertility concerns have consequently been diagnosed with a hormonal deficiency in early pregnancy. “Our research in threatened miscarriages is focusing on hormonal deficiency in these early pregnancies. Increased Progesterone levels have been shown to improve placenta development and pregnancy outcomes. Mater’s trial aims to provide therapy to look at the effect of improving hormone levels in pregnancy,” Dr Luke McLindon. Progesterone is important for the establishment and maintenance of pregnancy. Its presence creates a mature endometrium and a favourable immune environment for early embryonic development. Those who experience recurrent miscarriage have been shown to have particularly low endometrial progesterone levels. Progesterone fosters a favourable immune environment and is a potent inducer of antiinflammatory substances.


Research Australia grassROOTS AUTUMN 2014

“Our research in threatened miscarriages is focusing on hormonal deficiency in these early pregnancies. Increased Progesterone levels have been shown to improve placenta development and pregnancy outcomes. Mater’s trial aims to provide therapy to look at the effect of improving hormone levels in pregnancy,” Dr McLindon said, “There is some observational data which supports our thinking; however there is a need for these formal clinical trials before this therapy can be offered as proven medicine worldwide.” The ‘Supporting Threatened Outcomes with Progesterone’ (STOP) trial is recruiting women with a threatened miscarriage less than ten weeks. Medical research shows women diagnosed with threatened miscarriage have a higher rate of miscarriage and difficulties during their pregnancy and that progesterone is often low in these threatened pregnancies. Mater Mothers’ Hospital is investigating a therapy that may be associated with decreasing the likelihood of miscarriage and that is safe to use in pregnancy. Mater is offering participation in the clinical trial for support in early pregnancy that will look at comparing progesterone (an important hormone in early pregnancy) or placebo therapy until 12 weeks by dates. Kristy Riggall was 30 years old when she had suffered three miscarriages and was seven weeks pregnant when she heard about Mater’s trial to help her bring her baby to full term. This was Kristy and her husband Shane’s last chance for a hopefully viable pregnancy after six years of trying. “It was emotionally and physically exhausting after all the losses so if this pregnancy didn’t work out we weren’t going to try anymore. It was really heartbreaking and we wanted at least one child which if it was possible we would think ourselves very lucky,” Kristy said. After speaking to Mater’s Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit and tests diagnosing she had symptoms of her progesterone level

dropping, Kristy was referred to the trial at Mater’s Fertility Clinic. “As I had so much trouble staying pregnant I thought it was a great opportunity and I may as well try as I was more than likely going to miscarry otherwise without participating in the trial at Mater. “The midwives at the Mater Fertility Clinic were really wonderful and I can’t thank them enough for recommending me for the trial. They talked me through everything and were really nurturing,” Kristy said. On 19 September 2012, Kristy gave birth to her first child Ava by emergency caesarean 38 weeks and weighing a healthy 4 kg. “It was a surreal experience seeing Ava born. I looked at her on the operating table and she cried. I thought that’s my baby crying. I think because we tried so hard to have her.

assisting women achieve a healthy, full term pregnancy. For many families the road to parenthood can be a long one and currently one in six couples has problems conceiving. If you feel this research could benefit you or someone you know, or you require further information please contact the Mater Fertility Clinic on telephone 07 3163 2505 or visit

“I still look at her and think how lucky we are and how close we came to never having her or any children at all. Sixteen months later, Ava is a happy and healthy, active little girl,” Kristy said. Kristy recommends other women who have experienced trouble maintaining a pregnancy or falling pregnant to join the trial. ”The Mater trial gives your baby a chance. While you don’t know whether you’ll receive the progesterone or placebo, it’s worth a try and helps you feel you can do something even if it’s technically out of your hands,” Kristy said. One in seven Queenslanders are born at Mater Mothers’ Hospital—making it the busiest maternity hospital in Australia. Of the 10 000 births each year, 2000 premature and seriously ill babies (as young as 25 weeks gestation and as little as 400 grams) are cared for in the Neonatal Critical Care Unit making it the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. All women who present to Mater’s Fertility Assessment and Research Clinic will be seen by experienced doctors and midwives. All Australian women are eligible. There are no out of pocket expenses to participants. A comprehensive participant information package and consent process will be provided. STOP is part of a suite of trials looking at subfertility and miscarriage; with the aim of

Research Australia grassROOTS AUTUMN 2014


Autumn 2014

New Medical Science Precinct World Class Tasmania is at the forefront of medical research and education with the recent launch of the new UTAS Medical Science Precinct.

 asmania’s Medical T Science Precinct has transformed the city’s landscape.

The new Precinct, heralded by Hobart’s iconic MS1 and MS2 buildings, is now home to a number of world-class institutions and teaching facilities including the Menzies Research Institute, UTAS Faculty of Health and UTAS’s School of Health Sciences Hobart Domain Nursing Campus. “We have a constellation of truly outstanding research and teaching activities happening within the Medical Science Precinct,” University of Tasmania Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Rathjen said. “These activities are global in both standard and scope.” “It is fitting that these elements should be afforded a single identity which is both immediately powerful and full of promise for the future.” The Precinct was made possible by funding from the Australian Federal Government through the Health and Hospitals Fund ($44.7m), the Capital Development Pool grant ($12m) and the Better Universities Renewal Fund ($11.5m). The Tasmanian State Government contributed $24m in funding and in-kind support. Private donors and philanthropic organisations including The Atlantic Philanthropies and The Select Foundation have contributed a total of $21.5m to the project. The University of Tasmania contributed $34m to the project. The striking exterior design, influenced by cell structures and the Hobart landscape, is iconic to the medical research community. The Royal Hobart Hospital is adjacent to the Precinct. The first stage building (MS1) was completed in 2009, and MS2 completed recently. Its environmentally friendly attributes, including an 80,000-litre rainwater tank and energy efficient lighting with sensor activation, has secured it a 5-Star Green Star rating. “The Medical Science Precinct doesn’t just represent the good work we already do within Menzies and Faculty of Health as health and medical research and teaching organisations,” Menzies Director Professor Tom Marwick said.


“It is fitting that these elements should be afforded a single identity which is both immediately powerful and full of promise for the future.” “It captures the potential of what we can do when we bring world-class teachers and researchers together with talented students, which ultimately will deliver benefit to our communities. “The Precinct would not have been possible without the support and partnership of the Federal Government, State Government and contributions from philanthropic organisations and private donors who share our vision.” Faculty of Health Dean Professor Denise Fassett said teaching and research in health and medicine was central not only to the university’s future, but to Tasmanians more broadly. “By the aged care industry’s own figures, the 7000-strong workforce in Tasmania will need to double or treble heading towards

Research Australia grassROOTS AUTUMN 2014

2050,” she said. “UTAS is well placed to produce that workforce for the future.” The launch of the Precinct also coincided with the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the Menzies Research Institute Tasmania. The Institute has developed an international reputation in ground-breaking research that focuses on preventing a range of diseases including arthritis, cancer, multiple sclerosis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes type-2, osteoporosis, mental health, obesity and dementia. They carry out studies across Australia and collaborate with interstate and international researchers. UTAS’s Faculty of Health continues to develop an academic health science culture, carrying out world-class research including the School of Medicine’s Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre. The Centre recently developed the University’s first MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), Understanding Dementia. The course attracted almost 10,000 participants world-wide and boasted a startlingly high completion rate compared to global benchmarks.

Autumn 2014

It’s In The Blood Walter and Eliza Hall Institute researchers are searching for ways to improve leukaemia treatments. Just 50 years ago, leukaemia was considered an incurable disease and little could be done for those diagnosed. Today, many types of leukaemia can be successfully treated and sometimes cured. However there is still much we don’t understand about how it develops and why treatment is not successful in all cases or for all types of leukaemia. Researchers at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute have been studying blood and blood cancers for almost 60 years. From finding the mechanism that keeps cancer cells alive to developing drugs that target specific types of leukaemia, the institute is leading the search for new and more effective treatments for leukaemia and other blood cancers.

Discovery the key to survival White blood cells are produced by blood stem cells in the bone marrow and are essential for the immune system’s response to infection. In people with leukaemia, the bone marrow produces cancerous white blood cells that don’t function properly and are made in such high numbers that they overwhelm the bone marrow, preventing healthy blood cells from being made. In the 1980s, institute researchers made a discovery that revolutionised our understanding of cancer. They identified that a gene called BCL-2 made ‘prosurvival’ proteins that, at high levels, could prevent cancer cells from dying.

discovery of the function of BCL-2 was identifying the other molecules involved in controlling cell death, such as the ‘prodeath’ proteins that bind to and block BCL-2, forcing the cell to die,” he said. “Since then, we have devoted ourselves to understanding the process of cell death and are now trying to identify and develop small molecules that can control this process, with the aim of treating cancers that overproduce ‘pro-survival’ proteins, such as some leukaemias.”

New treatments for leukaemia Dr Mary Ann Anderson, a haematologist at The Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH) and PhD student at the institute, treats people with blood cancers. She is working on a phase I clinical trial of ABT-199/GDC-0199, an anti-cancer agent that is designed to kill certain leukaemia cells by blocking BCL-2. ABT-199 has been co-developed for clinical use by two companies, AbbVie and Genentech, a member of the Roche Group, and was discovered in a joint research collaboration that also involved scientists at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute. This international trial is being led in Melbourne by the institute’s head of clinical translation and RMH haematologist Professor Andrew Roberts. Dr Anderson said it was an exciting project to be involved with. “ABT-199 specifically targets BCL-2 proteins, which are often found at high levels in many patients with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, the most common adult leukaemia,” Dr Anderson said. “ABT-199 works well on its own in the lab and the results of the phase I trials, which are mainly to test safety of the treatment, have already shown an impressive response in the clinic. We

hope to see Melbourne patients be part of an international phase II trial that has just begun.”

Finding the cause Back in the lab, institute researcher and RMH haematologist Dr Ashley Ng is investigating how blood cells develop from their stem cell “parents’, to find insights into leukaemia development. “Leukaemias develop from immature blood cells, so investigating how blood cells develop from their earliest stages to maturity is an important part of the puzzle,” he said. “We now know cancer is a disease of the genes, and genes which are important in normal blood cell development have been shown to be important in the development of some blood cancers. “We are studying a gene called Erg, which is critical in controlling blood cell development. We know that people with Down’s syndrome have extra copies of Erg and a substantially increased risk of developing some types of leukaemia. By better understanding the genetic trigger that links Erg to leukaemia development, we may find new therapies.” Dr Ng said going back to the basic biology of leukaemia development was the key to new treatments. “Standard chemotherapy is probably nearing its limit of effectiveness for the treatment of acute leukaemia,” he said. “We need to understand how specific leukaemias develop to identify new approaches that target these diseases that don’t respond to standard chemotherapy – a personalised approach to treatment is the future for leukaemia.”

BCL-2 is essential for the body’s normal growth and development however, when there is too much, it can override the cell’s normal cell death processes, allowing cells to accumulate changes that lead to cancer. Institute researcher Professor Andreas Strasser said this discovery changed how scientists around the world viewed cancer development. “A significant step after the  ells (purple) in the bone marrow C divide and mature into white blood cells (pink). Leukaemia is a cancer of abnormal white blood cells that divide uncontrollably in the bone marrow, crowding out healthy cells.

Research Australia grassROOTS AUTUMN 2014


Autumn 2014 Prime Minister Opens Flagship Health And Medical Research Centre The first stage of one of Australia’s largest purpose-built health and biomedical precincts was officially opened in Adelaide in November 2013 by the Prime Minister of Australia, Hon Tony Abbott MP. The visually striking South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) has been built as part of a new $3 billion-plus health and biomedical precinct on Adelaide’s North Terrace and from December 2013 will house a team of more than 600 leading researchers working together in the search for better treatments and cures for some of the world’s most challenging diseases. Over the next five years, it will be joined by the new Royal Adelaide Hospital, a proposed second SAHMRI research building and two multi-storey medical research and training facilities to create one of Australia’s largest health and biomedical research precincts. SAHMRI’s world-leading research will be centred on seven research themes of Aboriginal Health; Cancer; Healthy Mothers, Babies and Children; Heart Health; Infection and Immunity; Mind and Brain; and Nutrition and Metabolism.

“Attracting and fostering leading edge research work through facilities such as SAHMRI will assist South Australia’s transition to a smart and creative economy while building on Adelaide’s global reputation as a university city,” Mr Weatherill said.

Researchers from all of South Australia’s universities will work under the same roof – a model that is unique in Australia. The facility brings together a partnership between the Federal and State Governments, the University of Adelaide, Flinders University and the University of South Australia and collaboration with organisations including CSIRO, the Australian Cancer Research Foundation, Cancer Council SA, Heart Foundation and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory – Europe’s flagship for the life sciences. The South Australian Department of Health will also play a key role in applying and delivering research outcomes within the community.

“The unique co-location of research and hospital services will create synergies between researchers and clinicians, integrate health and medical research into clinical practice, and help attract and retain key researchers, scientists, undergraduates and research students to South Australia.”

The Executive Director of SAHMRI, Professor Steve Wesselingh, said SAHMRI would provide a clear focal point for health and medical research in South Australia and nationally. “SAHMRI will be a vibrant, globally recognised research institute which harnesses dynamic collaborations to deliver tangible health outcomes and community impacts not just in Australia, but across the world,” Prof Wesselingh said. South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill said the health and biomedical precinct on Adelaide’s North Terrace represented a strong step towards realising South Australia’s place as Australia’s “smart State”.


Officially opening the Federally-funded facility in Adelaide, Prime Minister Abbott said investment in facilities such as SAHMRI would serve to attract and retain great minds in Australia while also advancing the nation’s goal of being a “clever country in the Asia Pacific.” “The establishment of SAHMRI will significantly increase Australia’s capacity for leading scientific research by bringing together a team of more than 600 top researchers in a world-class precinct of medical research and clinical application, state-of-the-art laboratories, and a purpose-built, iconic, 25,000 square-metre facility adjacent to the new Royal Adelaide Hospital,” Mr Abbott said. Prof Wesselingh said SAHMRI had been established and its key research themes developed as a direct response to identified needs in the South Australian, national and global communities. “SAHMRI is not a ‘me too’ research facility. Its research themes have been

Research Australia grassROOTS AUTUMN 2014

 rime Minister, The Hon. Tony Abbott P MP at the SAHMRI opening celebration. .

chosen to fill gaps in global health and medical knowledge with a view to then applying that knowledge through extensive and interactive community engagement and education programs,” Prof Wesselingh said. “The research themes also recognise existing local world-leading scientific knowledge and researchers already residing within South Australia – which in turn has attracted some of the finest health and medical researchers from around the world to join the SAHMRI team.” Prof Wesselingh said the advantages of bringing a range of research focus areas under one roof included sharing the cost of expensive technology, improved sharing of research techniques and outcomes, and synergies from knowledge sharing. SAHMRI’s seven research themes will be serviced by Pillar Committees comprising experienced members of the health and medical research community who will engage with SAHMRI’s research themes and promote cross-disciplinary research. They will be based on the four pillars of health and medical research – Bioscience; Clinical Research and Drug & Device Development; Health Services Research; and Population Health and Health & Social Policy. Each pillar intersects with each of SAHMRI’s research themes and links with the other pillars to achieve health outcomes.

Autumn 2014

The Power Of Microparticles A University of Sydney discovery has the potential to transform the treatment of a heart attack, after a new approach boosted heart function and reduced heart scarring in preclinical studies. The research breakthrough, published in Science Translational Medicine, involves injecting tiny “microparticles” into the bloodstream within 24 hours of a heart attack to reduce tissue damage made by inflammatory cells. The discovery was made at the University of Sydney and is the result of an international collaboration with researchers at Northwestern University in the USA, and Bonn and Münster in Germany. After a heart attack (myocardial infarction), much of the damage to heart muscle is caused by inflammatory cells that rush to the scene of the oxygen-starved tissue. But researchers found this damage was slashed in half when they used the microparticles to keep the highly damaging cells away. “This is the first therapy that specifically targets a key driver of the damage that occurs after a heart attack,” said Dr Daniel Getts, one of the original discoverers from the University of Sydney, now based at Northwestern University in the USA. “There is no other therapy on the horizon that can do this. It has the potential to transform the way heart attacks and cardiovascular disease is treated,” he said.

limit major tissue damage in such a wide range of diseases.”

“This is the first therapy that specifically targets a key driver of the damage that occurs after a heart attack,” The next step is safety tests on the microparticles, which are tiny balls of absorbable material, 200 times smaller than the thickness of a human hair. They are made of a biodegradable compound, poly lactic-co-glycolic acid, used in absorbable surgical sutures and already approved for use in humans. Clinical trials on heart attack patients could follow within two years at the University of Sydney. The research was co-authored by Professor Nicholas King from the University of Sydney and and Dr Daniel Getts from Professor Stephen Miller from Northwestern University.

 hows microparticles (the fluorescent S green dots). The blue colour is the nuclei of the cells in the spleen.

I nflamed blood vessels in the virus-infected brain. .

Nicholas King, Professor of Immunopathology at the University of Sydney and co-discoverer, said the power of the treatment was that the microparticles triggered a natural pathway that destroyed the inflammatory cells. “We’re very excited,” Professor King said. “This discovery means that we can prevent major tissue damage simply because the inflammatory cells pick up microparticles in the blood stream and are then diverted down a natural cell disposal pathway into the spleen.” The discovery also has huge potential beyond the cardiovascular system. The research shows the microparticles reduce inflammatory damage and enhance tissue repair in disease models as diverse as multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, peritonitis, viral inflammation of the brain and kidney transplant. “The potential for this approach is quite extraordinary,” Professor King said. “It’s amazing that such a simple approach can

Research Australia grassROOTS AUTUMN 2014



Australians have type 1 diabetes

The Type 1 Diabetes Clinical Research Network is facilitating collaboration and innovation in research. By increasing the volume and scope of clinical research, the CRN will help to deliver better therapies and health outcomes for people with type 1 diabetes.


Research Australia grassROOTS AUTUMN 2014

Autumn 2014

Lifetime Achievement Award For Professor Len Harrison JDRF has announced that the recipient of the 2013 JDRF Lifetime Research Achievement Award is Professor Leonard Harrison of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute. The JDRF Lifetime Research Achievement Award recognises the long-standing nature and high quality of contributions of the very best Australian researchers who have steered global directions of type 1 diabetes research. Head of JDRF’s Research Development Dr Dorota Pawlak PhD said, “Professor Harrison’s career has spanned exceptional achievements in understanding the mechanisms of immune tolerance, advancing antigen specific therapies and defining paradigms for factors that contribute towards the development of type 1 diabetes.” “His lifelong work to understand autoimmunity in type 1 diabetes and pioneering work in the prevention of the disease has significantly accelerated research progress towards JDRF’s mission to cure type 1 diabetes and its complications.” “In doing so, Prof. Harrison’s leadership and guidance has played a vital role in recognising Australia as a major global hub for type 1 diabetes research. It has

provided great hope for better therapies and treatments for people living with type 1 diabetes every day.” Prof Harrison’s major research interests are immune regulation and immune therapies, applied to type 1 diabetes. His achievements are documented in 500 clinical and basic research publications and several patents. His awards for research include C.J. Martin Fellowship, Wellcome Australia (Glaxo) Medal, Susman Prize

“His lifelong work to understand autoimmunity in type 1 diabetes and pioneering work in the prevention of the disease has significantly accelerated research progress towards JDRF’s mission to cure type 1 diabetes and its complications.”

(Royal Australian College of Physicians), Kellion Medal (Australian Diabetes Society) and Rumbough Award for Scientific Excellence (JDRF). Len has been a Director of the Australian Society for Medical Research, President of the Australian Diabetes Society, President of the Immunology of Diabetes Society and Professor/Director of the Burnet Clinical Research Unit and Department of Immunology and Allergy at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. The Award was presented to Professor Harrison at the conference dinner of the International Congress of the Immunology of Diabetes Society. Dr Pawlak said “JDRF sincerely thanks Prof Harrison for his contribution to influencing research directions on the path to a cure for type 1 diabetes.”

Professor Len Harrison.

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Autumn 2014

World First Dementia Risk Reduction App – BrainyApp There are more than 332,000 Australians living with dementia. And the number is set to more than double in the next twenty years as life expectancy increases. But while many people know that ‘brain training’ may help reduce the risk of developing dementia, far fewer are aware that maintaining good cardiovascular health can also play a big role in avoiding diseases like Alzheimer’s disease. Based on scientific research that links brain health to a reduced risk of developing dementia, BrainyApp assists people in monitoring and improving their brain-heart health. Developed by Alzheimer’s Australia in partnership with the Bupa Health Foundation, the original BrainyApp was launched in late 2011 as the world’s first risk reduction app in the global fight against dementia. BrainyApp is a smartphone application (‘app’), initially released as an app for Apple devices (iPhone, iPad & iPod Touch) in Australia and New Zealand. Due to its overwhelming success, it was subsequently launched internationally in November 2011 and, thanks to numerous requests, BrainyApp for Android was launched in July 2012. To date, there have been more than 300,000 downloads of BrainyApp, with 85 per cent of those being Australian downloads. Now, the Spanish language version of the award winning BrainyApp will be available both in Australia and internationally with its launch planned for February 2014. The new Spanish version is the first nonEnglish translation of BrainyApp, which helps users to monitor and improve the physical, mental, dietary and social aspects of their lifestyle. “The development of a Spanish version of BrainyApp demonstrates our commitment to improving healthcare outcomes for our community, particularly when it comes to people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds,” said Bupa Health Foundation spokesperson, Dr Daniel Valle Gracia.

“While the measures we need to take to reduce our risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke are often well known, what many people don’t know is that these same lifestyle choices may also lower their risk of developing dementia,” said Ms Buttrose. BrainyApp español will be available as a free download from the App Store for users of iPhone, iPod and iPad devices as well as for Android phones and tablets from the Google Play Store. BrainyApp allows users to take a BrainHeart health survey about their diet, exercise patterns and lifestyle. It then provides suggestions and ideas about how to improve on these, includes brain games and encourages users to build BrainHeart points. The content of the original BrainyApp has been translated into Spanish in collaboration with Sanitas. An evaluation of the tool and its impact upon influencing healthy behaviours is currently underway. BrainyApp is based on the scientific evidence presented in Your Brain Matters. Your Brain Matters: The Power of Prevention is a brain health program run by Alzheimer’s Australia. For more information about the program, go to

“It’s really important that people from all backgrounds and cultures can access the right tools to help them improve their brain health earlier in life, since the changes in the brain that lead to dementia can start when people are in their 20s, 30s and 40s,” said Alzheimer’s Australia National President Ita Buttrose.


Research Australia grassROOTS AUTUMN 2014

“It’s really important that people from all backgrounds and cultures can access the right tools to help them improve their brain health earlier in life, since the changes in the brain that lead to dementia can start when people are in their 20s, 30s and 40s.

Autumn 2014

CP Check-Up Donor support has been crucial to the development of a surveillance and follow up program aimed at reducing chronic pain in children born with cerebral palsy. A Swedish surveillance and follow up program has proven it is possible to eliminate hip dislocations, and reduce chronic pain caused by contractures and other orthopaedic problems in children born with cerebral palsy. Now, thanks to the generosity of donors, researchers at the Research Institute of Cerebral Palsy Alliance have developed a similar program called CP Check-Up to help improve the quality of life for the 50% of Australian children born with cerebral palsy who experience chronic pain. While the Swedish program focussed on investigating the effects of cerebral palsy on a child’s upper and lower limb development and nutrition, the Australian CP Check-Up program has expanded its assessment criteria to also include pain, sleep, communication, cognition and learning as well as parent and child well-being.

By identifying problems early, the clinicians can then work with families to develop and prioritise goals, plan and provide timely treatments. This may reduce time spent on hospital waiting lists by proving the urgency of a particular intervention and start the process of applying for equipment funding earlier. Petra Karlsson says the information on the database is not only helping children who are currently participating in the program, but over time the data will contribute to information that will guide clinical practice. ‘By systematically monitoring these children and recording the interventions they’ve used, it is possible to see what works best and make similar treatment recommendations for other children. This sort of information is particularly useful for parents considering invasive interventions such as surgery.’

To date, parent feedback on the program has been positive says Petra. ‘Parents are particularly pleased with how the CP Check-Up program has facilitated greater communication between therapy teams and families regarding their child’s development, prognosis, shared goal settings and intervention plans with other services such as hospitals.’ CP Check Up is funded through support from the community and by the Research Foundation of Cerebral Palsy Alliance. To make a donation to the CP CheckUp program, contact Tracey Jordan at

 etra Karlsson, Research Fellow at the P Research Foundation of Cerebral Palsy Alliance.

Based on the success of the Swedish model, Australian researchers are confident the CP Check-Up program’s focus on early identification will ensure Australian families will benefit from similar results. The CP Check-Up program requires children aged 0-6 years to attend twiceyearly assessments by Cerebral Palsy Alliance’s therapy teams during which vital details such as their measurements and treatment history are entered into an extensive cerebral palsy database. Petra Karlsson is a Research Fellow at the Research Foundation of Cerebral Palsy Alliance. Petra worked on the Swedish program and has been working on CP Check-Up since 2011. She says donor support has been critical to the program’s development, in particular the database. ‘Our supporters, in particular UBank, Clayton Utz Foundation and Notre Dame University, have made it possible for us to develop and build the database and implement CP Check-Up much earlier than we had originally envisaged.’ A child’s support team (including health professionals such as physiotherapists, occupational, speech and recreation therapists, psychologists, doctors etc.) can then access and analyse the information on the database, from which a report is generated, which can help them identify problems early.

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Autumn 2014

The Future Of Genomic Medicine Has Arrived In Australia The transformation of medicine by human genome sequencing has moved closer following the announcement today that Sydney’s Garvan Institute of Medical Research is one of the first in the world to acquire machines that can sequence a whole human genome at a base cost below $US1,000. This will accelerate medical research and provide widespread medical benefits, with significantly lower health costs, through early prevention and more targeted treatments. Speaking at the JP Morgan 32nd Annual Healthcare Conference in San Francisco this morning, Illumina CEO Jay Flatley introduced the HiSeq X Ten Sequencing System that enables large-scale sequencing for population disease studies. Added Flatley,”We approached the Garvan Institute due to its strength in the analysis and interpretation of genomic data, and its close affiliation with St. Vincent’s Hospital. The HiSeq X Ten is a dramatic technology advance that will enable researchers at the Garvan Institute to undertake studies of unprecedented scale.” With the generous support of the Kinghorn Foundation, Garvan has purchased the Illumina HiSeq X Ten Sequencing System, capable of sequencing around 350 genomes a week, or 18,000 a year. Garvan’s acquisition will allow a massive increase in human genome sequencing capacity in Australia. “I believe we have reached a tipping point where genome sequencing has become achievable on a broad scale,” said Professor John Mattick, Executive Director of Garvan.

“I anticipate Garvan will serve as a genomics hub for Australia and possibly the region. The initiative must be undertaken at a national level – and in collaboration with international partners, as it will need massive global databases to support interpretation of the data. We look forward to working with our partners in other states, as well as State and Federal governments, to develop a national alliance for delivering genomic medicine in Australia.” “We recognise there are many issues yet to be addressed, and protocols to be developed, but it is widely expected that genomic information will progressively inform and ultimately transform medicine and health.” “Community and clinical education will be a vital part of the process, and we’ll work closely with clinicians on how to commission, use and interpret data,” added Mattick. “At the same time, outcomes of global research will populate databases, and the clinical interpretation will be done by analytical engines that synthesise vast amounts of information.”  rofessor John Mattick, Executive P Director, Garvan Institute of Medical Research.

“Just over a decade ago it cost over a billion dollars to sequence the first human genome. Illumina’s new system makes it possible to address the pressing clinical needs of the thousands of people in Australia with genetic diseases and the tens of thousands diagnosed with cancer each year. We are delighted to work with Illumina to access the HiSeq X Ten which is the only platform to make this scale of sequencing a cost-effective reality.” “We will start by using our new system for large-scale research projects and for problem-dependent diagnostic purposes, specifically the routine analysis of cancer biopsies and people with genetic disorders. We will also begin to analyse the genomes of people suffering from other conditions, such as diabetes and Parkinson’s disease,” said Professor Mattick.


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Associate Professor Marcel Dinger, Head of Clinical Genomics at Garvan and leader of the bioinformatics team charged with interpreting and managing data, said “Generating DNA sequences will be less of an issue than analysing them in a way that is meaningful to clinicians, so we are putting a lot of effort into transforming the primary data into clinical grade reports.” “It is an enormous task, one that can only be undertaken by a leading-edge research institute with a mission to bring research advances rapidly to patients. It will also enable us to partner with similar efforts internationally.” “Establishing a genome analysis facility requires many dedicated resources including skilled technical and computational staff, sophisticated computing infrastructure and support, huge databases, and robotics.” “The real power of sequencing comes from volume. It provides the interpretative power that comes from being able to compare each newly sequenced genome with tens of thousands of other genomes, and pinpoint the relevant variations,” said Dr Dinger. Dinger had his own genome sequenced recently, alerting him to a real problem he can now avert, “In my case, whole genome sequencing revealed a likely sensitivity to a commonly used general anaesthetic. I would want that in my electronic health records, and if I were ever in hospital, it would be clear to the anaesthetist that they should use a different formulation.” Professor Mattick expects that genomic sequencing will become widely available for personal health management in the near future. “With the advice of their physician, people will be able to avoid adverse drug reactions, understand and reduce their risk of diabetes, stroke or other conditions, and generally optimise their health futures,” he said. “As a result, we will see a revolution in individual and public health, as well as health economics, with enormous impact on national well-being and prosperity.”

Autumn 2014

Taking The Lead In Motor Neurone Disease Research It’s an ambitious vision – to free the world from motor neurone disease (MND), one of the most puzzling and devastating neurological diseases. The Motor Neurone Disease Research Institute of Australia (MNDRIA) is committed to realising this vision. As the major force driving MND research in Australia, MNDRIA has initiated the MND Australia Leadership Grant to support tenacious leaders in their quest to discover treatments and a cure for MND. For most people living with MND, the early symptoms – slurring of words, difficulty holding objects or stumbling – rapidly escalate to an unstoppable wave of paralysis that robs them of their ability to move, eat, swallow and finally breathe. From the time of diagnosis, people with MND typically live 27 months. The only medication is modestly successful, probably prolonging life for 2–3 months. “Motor neurone disease is a medical research conundrum. The causes of the disease still elude researchers,” says Janet Nash, Executive Officer of MNDRIA. “But researchers are making inroads. In particular, there have been significant breakthroughs in the area of genetics in the last 20 years. We now know the gene mutations that are responsible for about 65% of inherited forms of MND.” Associate Professor Ian Blair and his team from the MND Research Centre in the Australian School of Advanced Medicine at Macquarie University have played key roles in identifying defective genes that cause inherited forms of MND. “Ian has distinguished himself in the area of MND genetic research and was awarded the inaugural MND Australia Leadership Grant, which provides $600,000 over four years. The grant will allow Ian to lead a team of MND scientists who will work together to further research of inherited forms of MND, which account for about 10% of MND cases,” says Ms Nash.

Rowe, who is a leading clinician in the treatment of the disease. “The Leadership Grant provides the impetus to further research newly discovered MND genes and investigate how defects in these genes lead to the death of motor neurones,” says Associate Professor Ian Blair. “We believe that the MND Research Centre’s combined expertise together with the latest scientific equipment will lead to therapies that will help people with MND.” Collectively, the researchers will use a research pipeline that starts at the motor neurone disease clinic where patient samples are collected and used for genetic and biochemical studies to identify causes of MND. Genes are then tested in cell biology and animal models of the disease, with the goal of identifying therapeutics that can then be returned to the clinic for evaluation. The Leadership Grant has been generously supported by the MND and Me Foundation, the Scanlon Foundation and CommBank Enterprise Services. The challenge is now to source further corporate and philanthropic foundation

support to ensure that the Leadership Grant continues to fund pioneering MND research. The latest statistics from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare show that MND is on the rise. The percentage of deaths from MND of total deaths in Australia has doubled in the last 25 years. “Now more than ever we need donations to help researchers achieve the next breakthrough to unravel the mysteries of MND and move us closer to a cure,” says Ms Nash. MNDRIA is the research arm of MND Australia, the national peak body for MND. Thanks to the generosity of supporters, the MND research community has received record funding for new grants commencing in 2014. A panel of eleven renowned MND research experts rigorously assessed 52 applications and awarded 22 new grants to researchers working in diverse areas of science. Every dollar donated to MNDRIA is used to fund the best MND research in Australia. More information: or email

“The Leadership Grant has assisted Ian Blair to build a team which is an essential part of the dedicated MND research centre and integrated research program, the only one of its kind in Australia. This really is a milestone in Australian MND research that we hope will bring us closer to a world free from MND.” Associate Professor Blair is joined by four other senior researchers whose teams bring diverse areas of research together to tackle MND from every angle. They work closely with neurologist, Professor Dominic

 raig Hollingsworth and the top fundraisers from CommBank Enterprise Services with staff C from the MND Research Centre (Macquarie University), and Carol Birks and Janet Nash from MND Australia.

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Strong Collaborations Result In Promising Heart Attack Prevention Drug

Autumn 2014

In November 2013, CSL announced some promising results of a Phase 2a clinical trial for a potential new heart attack therapy. The study showed a dramatic and rapid increase in key indicators of reverse cholesterol transport, a process by which cholesterol is removed from arteries and transported to the liver for clearance. Rapid removal of cholesterol following a heart attack may be a new mechanism for stabilising vulnerable plaque lesions and lowering the high risk of subsequent attacks. The therapy, CSL112, was developed by CSL scientists in Australia and other global sites and has benefitted from collaborations with a number of medical research institutions including the Baker IDI

Heart & Diabetes Institute in Melbourne. It is a novel formulation of apolipoprotein A-I (apoA-I), the active component of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or ‘good’ cholesterol. It is purified from human

plasma and reconstituted to form HDL particles suitable for intravenous infusion. Patients who experience an acute coronary event have a high risk of suffering another heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular event, particularly within the first 30 days. One US study reported that about a quarter of patients die and half are rehospitalised within a year following a heart attack. The dramatic and rapid effect of CSL112 addresses an unmet medical need, as existing therapies, including statins, fail to stabilize vulnerable plaques within an acceptable timeframe. CSL’s Phase 2a study was a randomized, multicentre, double-blind, placebocontrolled trial that evaluated the effects of a single-dose administration of CSL112 in 44 patients with stable heart disease over a 90 day period. In addition to positive results for key biological indicators, the trial data also demonstrated favourable safety and tolerability. With these results, CSL will now invest in a global phase 2b clinical trial program which will include sites in Australia, Europe, Japan and the US. The trial will assess multiple dose administration of CSL112 compared with placebo in approximately 1,200 heart attack patients. The final design of the trial is currently being reviewed by regulators.  CSL’s products are manufactured at major facilities in Switzerland, Germany, US and in Broadmeadows, Australia. CSL also operates CSL Plasma, one of the world’s largest plasma collection networks throughout the United States and Germany and employs more than 11,000 people in 27 countries.

 cientist Dr Andreas Gille presenting S CSL112 Phase 2a data at the American Heart Association Conference in November 2013.


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Autumn 2014

Children Of Older Dads More Likely To Suffer Mental Illness Children with older fathers are more susceptible to mental health disorders a University of Queensland (UQ) study has found. Led by the Queensland Brain Institute’s (QBI) Professor John McGrath, an international team of researchers used Danish health registers to examine the maternal and paternal age of 2,894,688 offspring at birth.

nuanced pattern of association between maternal and paternal ages and the risk for mental disorders in their offering.

“We found that the overall risk for psychiatric disorders, in particular mental retardation, autism and schizophrenia, increased for those born to a father over the age of 29 years.”

“The study followed people with a a broad range of mental disorders including schizophrenia, mood disorders, neurotic, stress-related, eating disorders, personality disorders and a range of developmental and childhood disorders born from 1955 to 2007, for the equivalent of 42.7 million person years,” Professor McGrath said. “We found that the overall risk for psychiatric disorders, in particular mental retardation, autism and schizophrenia, increased for those born to a father over the age of 29 years.” The association between parental age and risk of mental disorders in offspring may be confounded by a range of factors. “De novo (or new) mutation in the developing sperm cell may contribute to an increased risk for a surprisingly wide range of mental health disorders, including schizophrenia, autism and mental retardation.” When analyzing the data, the team also confirmed a link between the offspring of younger mothers and substance abuse disorders, hyperkinetic disorders and mental retardation. “For the broad range of neurotic and stress related disorders, the offspring of teenaged mothers were at the highest risk.” The study is a reminder that the offspring of older fathers have an increased risk of a range of disorders. “Recent genetic studies have confirmed that the offspring of older fathers have more de novo (or new) mutations. Our new studies suggest that age-related mutations from the father may impact on the mental health of the offspring.” In short, the biological clock ticks for men, as well as women. In addition to the recent attention accorded to the risk for mental disorders in the offspring of older fathers, the study demonstrates a more complex and

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Autumn 2014

Unearthing A Mystery Like an episode of “House”, a research team at the Menzies School of Health Research is on the trail of one of the most unique clinical cases ever seen in its 28 year history. The United States government considers it to be one of the deadliest organisms on the planet, so much so that that the US lists the microbe as a potential biological weapon, along with anthrax and Ebola. Yet northern Australia, and especially the ‘Top End’ of the Northern Territory, is teeming with it. Burkholderia pseudomallei, often shortened to ‘Burk’, is a deadly bacterium in the eyes of most, yet it is a natural resident of the Top End that has existed in the soil and water for millennia. When Burkholderia pseudomallei encounters an unfortunate human host, it causes the devastating disease melioidosis. The NT is a “hotspot” for the bacterium, which infects an unknown number of Territorians every year, with up to 100 developing melioidosis. Despite the best available healthcare, this disease still kills over 10 per cent of its victims. The Melioidosis team at Menzies, led by Professor Bart Currie, has been studying cases of infection for over two decades. During that time there have been greater than 800 cases and over 100 deaths in the Top End alone. Fortunately, more than 700 patients have had their infection successfully eradicated. There is, however, one perplexing exception.

A unique case of asymptomatic infection Patient 314 is a medical anomaly and the subject of a recently published paper in the leading microbiology journal, mBio. A long-term resident of Darwin, P314 was diagnosed with melioidosis over a decade ago while seeking treatment at Royal Darwin Hospital for a chronic and persistent cough. However, P314 did not display typical symptoms of melioidosis, with no signs suggesting the blood poisoning that is seen so commonly with classic melioidosis. Because the RDH doctors and nurses were well-trained to look for melioidosis in unusual situations, a sputum sample from P314 was sent to the pathology lab for special testing. Much to the surprise of the doctors, P314’s sputum was swimming with the bacteria.


An untreatable foe? P314’s circumstances have fascinated the Menzies Melioidosis team for the past decade. Despite best efforts, the infection lurking in P314’s lungs has proven impossible to eradicate, even with the most powerful antibiotics given on many occasions and in numerous combinations. Her sputum, to this day, remains positive for the bacterium. Now, thanks to cuttingedge next-generation genomic DNA sequencing technologies, the team is one step closer to solving this medical mystery.

How P314’s infection evolved The researchers took two samples from P314, isolated 12 years apart, and used DNA sequencing to accurately catalogue every single DNA change that occurred over this time. One of the surprising findings was that P314’s Burkholderia pseudomallei had lost a large chunk of its genetic code, or ‘genome’, in just 12 years. In total, 4 per cent of the genome, or 221 genes, were purged. Senior Menzies Research Officer and cofirst author of the study, Dr Erin Price offers a simple explanation for the change in genetic makeup. “The Burk residing in P314’s lung has developed an intimate relationship with its host, so it no longer needs those genes required for environmental survival,” she said. “Several mutations were identified in genes involved in virulence and evasion of the human immune system. “These extensive changes mean that a once-deadly organism has become irreversibly adapted to its human host, and would probably be unable to cause disease in another human being.” Collaborating Senior Menzies Research Officer and co-first author, Dr Derek Sarovich explains that perhaps the most stunning finding was the possible cause for P314’s asymptomatic infection. “We identified a novel mutation in capsular polysaccharide, which is a protective

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casing surrounding the bacterium and an essential virulence determinant. Intact, this factor assists Burk in evading the human immune response early on, but might have a detrimental effect for bacterial survival in the human host over the long term,” he said. “P314’s isolates had a unique mutation in this virulence factor, rendering it nonfunctional. So its loss-of-function early in the infection might explain why P314 did not exhibit classic melioidosis symptoms. “It was intriguing to watch the infection evolve over time to survive within the human lung without causing disease. There were quite dramatic, extensive changes, many more than we expected.” For the Menzies Meliodosis team, P314 has answered a lot of questions about how Burkholderia pseudomallei has become such a successful pathogen. P314 represents a remarkable case that has helped the research team to understand what genes are responsible for causing disease in ‘normal’ melioidosis cases, some of which have not been previously identified.

“It was intriguing to watch the infection evolve over time to survive within the human lung without causing disease. There were quite dramatic, extensive changes, many more than we expected.”

Where to from here? When asked the burning question of whether P314’s case could happen to others, Dr Price and Dr Sarovich answer almost in unison: “possibly, but unlikely.” While P314’s case is probably an instance of one rare event followed by another they won’t rule out the possibility of it happening in another patient.

“We still don’t understand exactly how the infection began, what prompted P314’s infection to become less virulent so quickly and why the patient didn’t develop classic melioidosis symptoms,” Dr Price said. In a strange way P314 may have just been plain lucky.

 r Price and Dr Sarovich are senior researchers at Menzies School of Health Research. They have worked together on the Melioidosis project since D starting at Menzies in 2011, and collaborate on many other projects at Menzies that use molecular genetics, genomics and transcriptomics tools to better understand antimicrobial resistance, virulence and epidemiology of pathogenic bacteria such as B. pseudomallei).

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Autumn 2014

Research Grant Offers Hope Of Better Pain Management For Australians With Dementia In mid-2013, the Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia Research Foundation (AADRF) awarded a significant research grant to Associate Professor Simon Bell from Monash University to investigate pain, sedation and the provision of painrelieving medicines to people with dementia in care. The grant was made possible through a partnership between AADRF and Resthaven Inc; a South Australian notfor-profit aged care community service of the Uniting Church that delivers a range of responsive residential and community care services to older people in South Australia and their carers. It has resulted in a research project that is working closely with Resthaven Inc. service users, staff and facilities with the shared objective of improving management of pain in people with dementia receiving aged care. Resthaven Inc. is a long-term supporter of AADRF and of research more generally, recognising the fact that many of the people using their services are living with or caring for people with dementia. Over the years, Resthaven Inc. has invested significantly in research and quality improvement projects related to diagnosis, early intervention, community awareness, supporting carers, and palliative care. As a result of this investment and the guiding philosophy, Resthaven Inc. is widely recognised as a leading provider of high-quality, evidence-based aged and dementia care. The partnership that led to this project started with a major donation from Resthaven Inc. to AADRF with the objective of awarding funding competitively to an Australian project addressing pain management; a priority for the organisation. Alzheimer’s Australia subsequently advertised the project as part of its annual national dementia grants program, and following a rigorous process of peer-review, selected Associate Professor Simon Bell’s project from a highly competitive field. At the time he applied for the grant, Simon was based at the School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences at the University of South Australia, and following his selection, began a conversation with Resthaven Inc. about ways in which he might be able to work with the organisation on the project. The ensuing partnership, which continued after Simon’s move to Monash University in early-2013, has grown, with Resthaven Inc. committing further time and resources to the project.


Mr Richard Hearn, Chief Executive officer of Resthaven Inc. said “We are very pleased to have been able to work with Alzheimer’s Australia to put in place an important and high-quality research project that will have direct benefits both to our organisation and our consumers, and to people providing and receiving aged and dementia care services more generally. We’re pleased to be continuing our relationship with the Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia Research Foundation, and hope to be able to establish another significant, priority driven research project later this year.” Dr Bell is Associate Professor, Centre for Medicine Use and Safety within the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at Monash University. He is also Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of South Australia and Adjunct Professor of Geriatric Pharmacotherapy at the University of Eastern Finland. Dr Bell graduated as a pharmacist in 2001, and his research focus has primarily been on the use of medicines in the aged population.

reason people with dementia are typically prescribed less pain-relieving medicines. The ensuing distress experienced by residents and carers can lead to the inappropriate prescription of psychotropic medicines (e.g. antipsychotics, hypnotic medicines), which have been associated with adverse effects including excess sedation, falls and fractures, and an increased risk of death. The Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia Research Foundation is the research arm of Alzheimer’s Australia, and runs an annual competitive research funding program that provides scholarships, project grants and postdoctoral fellowships to students and early career dementia researchers. In 2013, the Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia Research Foundation awarded 30 grants worth more than $2.5 million. The Foundation welcomes donations and philanthropic support in support of its objective of increasing Australia’s dementia research capacity.

“I am extremely grateful to Resthaven Inc. and the Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia Research Foundation for providing the possibility to undertake this research. Weighing up the risks and benefits of prescribing specific medicines is complex, particularly for older people with dementia. This is because people with dementia are susceptible to side-effects, and are often excluded from the clinical trials on which our evidence for prescribing is typically derived. The partnership with Resthaven Inc. and Alzheimer’s Australia will make a contribution towards the knowledge base in this area”. Dr Bell will use his research grant to develop geometric frameworks that can provide valuable guidance and support to clinicians (e.g. general practitioners, nurses, pharmacists) who provide care to people with dementia, and says that the key objective of the research is to develop new ways to alleviate suffering and behavioural symptoms associated with pain in people with dementia. People with dementia often experience and express pain differently to people without dementia and for this

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Dr Bell. .

Autumn 2014

C’mon Australia, Wear Your Sneakers To Work And Get On Your Feet Sitting has become a feature of our modern day lifestyle, in fact the average adult sits for eight to ten hours per day, and it has a negative effect on our health. For over ten years, Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute’s (Baker IDI) Physical Activity Laboratory has been researching the effect of sedentary behaviour on health. Studies, both from Baker IDI and around the world, have consistently shown the following health effects are associated with excessive sitting: • greater risk of premature death; • greater risk of early death due to a cardiovascular event; • association with known risk factors of chronic disease: – increased waist circumferences; – unhealthy levels of blood glucose, insulin, and blood fat; – diminished physical functioning.

On Your Feet Australia To raise awareness about the dangers of our sedentary lifestyle and the need to break up sitting time as often as possible, the On Your Feet Australia campaign has been established.

On February 19, Baker IDI urges individuals to wear their sneakers to work and get on their feet at every opportunity. In the process, participants can help raise funds to support Baker IDI and its research on improving the health of Australians. To get involved individuals simply: • Register and donate online at; • Wear their sneakers to work; • Get on their feet. Ultimately the On Your Feet Australia campaign hopes to encourage longterm changes in behaviour that reduce sitting time. Individuals who exercised for more than seven hours per week at a moderate intensity but sat for the same time (seven hours) per day, still showed negative health effects when compared with individuals who exercised as much but sat less (no

more than one hour per day). So essentially researchers are saying regular exercise is no longer enough if you spend large amounts of your day sitting. The current reasoning for the adverse effect of sitting on health is the lack of contraction by muscles, particularly of the lower limbs. That is, there is no need for your body to work to hold you up or move, and when these natural bodily functions are not required for large chunks of the day, other processes in the body may be compromised, leading to the health effects previously noted.

How to break up sitting time Though it is not currently known how much sitting is too much, research shows that briefly breaking up sitting time as often as possible (ideally every 20 minutes or so) is beneficial. That means, taking every opportunity to get on your feet and get moving. Simple strategies that individuals can use to do this include: • Stand during phone calls • Eat your lunch away from your desk • Move your bin away from your desk • Use the stairs • Drink more water Alternatively, at an organisational level options include: • Schedule 30 minute reminders for employees to break up their sitting • Create a daily tally to log the number of times employees use the stairs • Host all internal meetings standing up • Conduct a standing lunch • Organise a lunch time walk Armed with this knowledge individuals need to look for opportunities to stand up, sit less, move more, more often. With this in mind, c’mon Australia, wear your sneakers to work and get on your feet.

Research Australia grassROOTS AUTUMN 2014


Autumn 2014

Osteoporosis Australia Launches New Burden Of Disease Study Osteoporosis Australia has launched a new Burden of Disease study titled Osteoporosis Costing All Australians – A new Burden of Disease analysis 2012 – 2022. The new study, co-authored by Jennifer Watts and Julie Abimanyi-Ochom from Deakin University and Kerrie Sanders from the University of Melbourne, was launched at an event hosted by Osteoporosis Australia at Parliament House Canberra on December 4. The event was attended by ministerial advisors to the Prime Minister Tony Abbott and to The Hon Fiona Nash Assistant Minister for Health, as well the The Hon Catherine King Shadow Minister for Health and The Hon Shayne Neumann Shadow Minister for Ageing, and other politicians. National organisations were also represented including the Australian & New Zealand Bone & Mineral Society (ANZBMS), The Australian Medical Association (AMA), The Pharmacy Guild of Australia, The Pharmaceutical Society, Carers Australia, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) and the Commonwealth Department of Health. The report is a detailed analysis of the burden of osteoporosis in the Australian population in 2012 and estimates the annual impact of the disease over a decade (2013 – 2022). The prevalence rates and associated costs are alarming:


• Prevalence 66% of Australian adults over 50 have osteoporosis or osteopenia • High number of fractures Annual number of fractures are set to rise, from 140,882 fractures in 2012 increasing to 183,105 fractures by 2022, an increase of 30%. Over a 10 year period an estimated 1.6 million fractures are expected. • Alarming costs to Government, the community and individuals Total direct and indirect costs of osteoporosis, osteopenia and related fractures over 10 years is $33.6 billion. Fracture costs account for the largest proportion of direct costs. Hospital costs alone account for 73% of direct costs of fracture. Hip fracture remains the mostly costly type of fracture, average direct cost of $23,276 (in adults over 50 and this cost increases in adults over 70). Osteoporosis Australia Chairman John Hewson has called on the government to renew its commitment to osteoporosis as a national health priority and urged Australians to take bone health seriously to reduce the impact of the disease, which

Research Australia grassROOTS AUTUMN 2014

can be prevented, or better managed when diagnosed. Professor Peter Ebeling, Medical Director of Osteoporosis Australia, noted that previous studies have underestimated the impact of osteoporosis, and he stressed the need for greater support of intervention strategies to help combat rising fracture rates. The report clearly demonstrates that fractures are costly to repair, and yet osteoporosis remains under-diagnosed even when a fracture has occurred. Osteoporosis Australia considers the report essential reading for all those concerned about reducing the impact of osteoporosis and related fractures in the near future, including government policy makers, funding bodies, clinicians, researchers and healthcare organisations. The study is available via the Osteoporosis Australia website.

 ohn Hewson, Chairman of J Osteoporosis Australia with Professor Peter Ebeling at the report launch.

Autumn 2014

“Battle” Of The Stroke Clot-Busting Drugs A Hunter Medical Research Institute stroke drug trial that yielded rapid treatment benefits for patients is being expanded nationally and internationally, with new funding support from the National Heart Foundation of Australia. Led by neurologist Professor Mark Parsons, researchers from the University of Newcastle and Hunter New England Health are establishing a network of 20 acute stroke centres around Australia and 50 world-wide, with the clinical trial to cost an estimated $5 million overall. They will be investigating the effectiveness of the clot-busting drug Tenecteplase, commonly used for heart attacks, over the standard stroke treatment Alteplase in a broader group of stroke victims. The study has been dubbed TASTE (Tenecteplase versus Alteplase for Stroke Thrombolysis Evaluation). Results from the Phase II trial conducted between 2008 – 2011 found two-thirds of patients treated with Tenecteplase showed major neurological improvement within a day, compared with 36 per cent for those administered Alteplase. “Using Tenecteplase we’ve seen patients severely affected by stroke returning to normal function within two or three days,” Professor Parsons said. “The future is looking very promising but we now need this larger study to see if this drug benefits stroke patients in the real world. “The Heart Foundation is supporting the study with a Future Leaders Fellowship, which allows us to bring imaging specialist Dr Andrew Bivard back to the Hunter after working in Melbourne.” Heart Foundation NSW Chief Executive Ms Kerry Doyle, commented: “In NSW we have some of the most innovative and outstanding researchers who are tackling the multiple facets of cardiovascular disease and stroke head-on.

“We use a rigorous criterion to find patients mostly likely to benefit from clot-busting treatment,” Professor Parsons said. “With our initial study we screened 2,800 patients before enrolling 75, whereas for the new trial we need to enrol 1,000 patients, which will average at around five patients per site per year.” HMRI Stroke Program leader Professor Chris Levi said the trial would utilise new software technology developed by collaborators in the US. “The participating centres are installing a system for automated scan analysis, which processes the CT image into an automatic readout telling the doctor how much salvageable brain tissue there is,” Professor Levi said. “They can then make a decision on whether to randomise the patient for the trial because there is no point administering a clot-busting drug unless there’s a substantial amount of brain tissue left to save.

administered Tenecteplase under the Phase II trial after arriving at Newcastle’s John Hunter Hospital partially paralysed and unable to speak. Her husband Phillip approved her participation in the trial after discussions with Professor Parson. “I had no understanding of the drug that was being trialled and in my own mind I thought Sylvia would be under some loss of function for the rest of her life. That’s how she left the house,” Mr Ryan said. “When we went home that night Sylvia had some movement in her leg, but next morning when we arrived she was speaking and seemed as bright as a button. It was an absolute miracle.” Mrs Ryan recalls being asked by nursing staff if she knew where she was. She heard herself saying “John Hunter Hospital”.

“That said, even the standard drug Alteplase is under-utilised, with some hospitals only treating 5 per cent of patients where they could be treating 20 per cent.”

“Suddenly I was screaming out, ‘I can speak, I can speak’ … I think the whole hospital heard me,” Mrs Ryan said. She left hospital days later, walking and talking, and has required no further speech pathology or physiotherapy.

Stroke survivor Sylvia Ryan, from Pokolbin in the Hunter Valley wine region, was

“I doubt I’d be here today without it. I can’t say enough for it – life’s good.”

 rofessor Mark Parsons with P patient Mrs Sylvia Ryan.

“It is vital that we build our research in these areas which claim more lives than any other disease in Australia, to better understand and discover new techniques and models of clinical care which directly impact on the lives of individuals.” With advanced MRI and CT perfusion imaging being required to identify suitable trial candidates, Professor Parsons has been travelling extensively in recent months surveying hospital centres and checking their scanning infrastructure and capabilities.

Research Australia grassROOTS AUTUMN 2014


Autumn 2014

Hand Washing Research To Underpin New Australian Standard About one in 16 emergency department staff may not be washing their hands correctly due to confusing placement of soap, sanitiser and lotion, reveals Queensland research which will underpin a new Australian Standard. With funding from the Queensland Emergency Medicine Research Foundation, researchers at Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane found more than six per cent of emergency medical staff choose the wrong solutions to wash their hands.

Background The World Health Organization World Alliance for Patient Safety campaign “Clean Care is Safer Care” launched in 2005 (relaunched in 2009 as the “Save Lives: Clean Your Hands” campaign) identified health care associated infections as a major and growing issue in the quality and safety of health care, in both the hospital and community settings. As a result, HCAIs were nominated as a priority area by the Australian Commission on Safety


and Quality in Health Care (ACSQHC). The ACSQHC engaged Hand Hygiene Australia (HHA) to implement the National Hand Hygiene Initiative (NHHI) to develop a national approach to improving hand hygiene and monitor its effectiveness.

healthcare institutions and the wider Australian community.

The main objectives of the HHA campaign were to achieve sustained improvements in hand hygiene compliance rates, accurately measure rates of staphylococcal disease – a key outcome measure of the program and reduce the rates of Health Care Associated Infections. It also developed an effective education and credentialing system to improve knowledge about hand hygiene and infection control and make hand hygiene and infection prevention ‘core businesses’ for all

The Research Problem

Research Australia grassROOTS AUTUMN 2014

Improved healthcare worker hand hygiene is the highest priority area to reduce the risk of healthcare-associated infections.

Effective hand washing and hand hygiene are universally recognised as the simplest ways to prevent the spread of infection. As well as limiting the spread of disease, hand washing is one of the few effective ways to reduce the development of antibiotic resistant infections. Despite this, many studies have shown that hand hygiene and compliance with best-practice standards is universally poor amongst people in hospitals.

The Research Solution Using a $16,300 Emergency Medicine Trainee Grant from the Queensland Emergency Medicine Research Foundation, Professor Ramon Shaban, Dr Michael Sinnott and Dr Jenny Stackelroth led a research team at Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital to investigate how a consistent presentation of soap, sanitising foam and hand lotion (e.g. colour, bottle size, placement near sink) influenced hand washing behaviour and whether electronic surveillance was an effective monitoring technique. Electronic surveillance was used to monitor hand washing behaviour at six hand basins over a fortnight in the Princess Alexandra Hospital Emergency Department. The research showed people would use the cleaning solutions in the wrong order when they were not put in the same spot across all hand basins. It also determined as many as 6.65 per cent

of people washing their hands used the wrong cleaning products and more than six percent hesitated before choosing the right product. The Emergency Department has 21 sinks in the patient care areas, which have a hand wash solution on one side of the sink, and a moisturising solution on the other. Of these, 15 sinks have the hand wash solution on the left of the sink, and 6 have the hand wash solution on the right side. There was no consistency in hand wash solutions, the colour of the solution, the size and shape of the container, and the location relative to other resources was not consistent throughout the department. “This confusion is thought to be due to a lack of consistency in the relative placement of the solutions.’ Prof. Shaban said. Staff reported the widespread and frequent use of moisturiser instead of hand wash to decontaminate their hands, and have self-reported the need to standardise the placement of solutions. Prof. Shaba said “Electronic surveillance proved to work very well for this style of research because physical monitoring is expensive and people change their behaviour when they know they are being watched.”

The Research Saving

• reduce waste of hand hygiene solutions • reduce morbidity and mortality associated with health-care acquired infections • assist the public, when visiting a hospital through consistent location of solutions that are easily identifiable and improve patient and visitor compliance to hand hygiene standards also. This, in turn will reduce risk of cross contamination/infection of patients.  

Queensland Emergency Medicine Research Foundation funded research Queensland Emergency Medicine Research Foundation is committed to investing in high quality and translatable research that will contribute towards economic benefits for the healthcare system and improve the care of patients in Emergency Departments. These outcomes of this research demonstrates how an investment of $16,300 from Queensland Emergency Medicine Research Foundation has resulted in significant translational outcomes and a solid return on funding investment. Economically, the changes implemented by the standard could result in a saving of millions of dollars spent in treating Health Care Associated Infections.

In 2009, a Queensland University of Technology study predicted 175,153 cases of healthcare-acquired infection among admissions to Australian hospitals annually, and the extra stay in hospital to treat symptoms accounts for approximately 854,289 bed days. If rates were reduced by 1 per cent, then 150,158 bed days would be released for alternative uses. This would allow approximately 38,500 new admissions to Australian hospitals annually.

The Queensland Emergency Medicine Research Foundation, with the support of the Queensland Government’s Department of Health, awards Grants and Fellowships to support research relating to the practice of Emergency Medicine in Queensland.

The Research Outcome

Queensland Emergency Medicine Research Foundation works with Emergency Department staff to optimise working conditions in order to support and translate research into practice, and we facilitate education in order to continually improve research standards. Queensland Emergency Medicine Research Foundation prioritise research that translates into demonstrable benefit to patients, staff and hospitals.

Professor Michael Sinnott and Queensland Emergency Medicine Research Foundation are working with Standards Australia, as part of a committee, to develop a new Australian Standard for hand washing facilities in health care settings. This would recommend a consistent layout for soap, sanitiser and hand lotion at hand washing stations across all health care settings.

Our purpose is to support high quality research directed at improving the care of patients in Emergency Departments and to develop Emergency Medicine research capacity in Queensland.

The standard would improve: • hand hygiene compliance • reduce errors in hand washing

Research Australia grassROOTS AUTUMN 2014


Autumn 2014

Ingham Institute’s Inaugural Awards Night The Ingham Institute, a leading not for profit medical research organisation located at Sydney’s Liverpool Hospital, shone brightly at its inaugural Awards Night event held at the Liverpool Catholic Club on 6 December 2013. The event not only saw the presentation of three major research awards to very welldeserving recipients but also displayed the overwhelming philanthropic support and community spirit which has shaped the Ingham Institute into what it is today. The Ingham Institute is a leading not-forprofit research organisation located at Sydney’s Liverpool Hospital established to undertake medical research that specifically addresses, and can be applied to, the needs of the local population and wider Australia. One of the greatest stories in Australian philanthropic history, the Ingham Institute was established and continues to be supported by some of Australia’s most iconic health and medical philanthropists including Founding Benefactor Bob Ingham AO and Lady Mary Fairfax AC, OBE. The Institute’s research team is focused on exploring new medical approaches for a range of critical diseases including cancer, clinical science (comprising cardiovascular disease and infectious and inflammatory diseases), community & population health, early years/childhood health, injury and rehabilitation and mental health. These areas were highlighted at the Institute’s ‘night of nights’, with a crowd of 300 researchers, senior clinicians, philanthropists, sponsors, government dignitaries, Board and community members gathering for the first-ever event which acknowledged and celebrated the efforts of Ingham Institute researchers who received major national and international awards. “We have some of Australia’s best talent working at the Ingham Institute on a range of critical disease areas affecting Australians,” explained Professor Michael Barton OAM, Ingham Institute Research Director. “The night served as a wonderful opportunity to put our researchers names in the spotlight and give them the recognition they deserve for improving the health and wellbeing of Australians.” Three major awards were presented on the night including the Lady Mary Fairfax Distinguished Researcher Award, the Excellence in Teaching Award (sponsored by the South Western Sydney Local Health District – SWSLHD) and the Early Career


I ngham Institute Chair, Terry Goldacre and Professor Derrick Silove.

Researcher (sponsored by Liverpool City Council). Professor Derrick Silove, Director of the Psychiatry Research & Teaching Unit at the Ingham Institute, picked up the award for Distinguished Researcher for his lifelong contributions to the field of refugee and post-conflict mental health. Professor Silove leads mental health research with refugee populations in Australia, and in post-conflict developing countries in East Timor, AcehIndonesia, Papua and Vietnam and has achieved a swag of awards throughout his 25 year career including the prestigious University of New South Wales Dean’s Award for Life-Time Achievements in 2010. Dr Ajesh George from the Ingham Institute’s Centre for Applied Nursing Research got the gong for the Early Career Researcher Award (sponsored by Liverpool City Council). Presented by Liverpool Mayor Ned Mannoun, Dr George’s award highlighted his outstanding efforts in leading the establishment of Australia’s first Midwifery Initiated Oral Health program to promote maternal oral health and improve the quality of life of at-risk pregnant mothers and infants. The program has been hugely successful and was endorsed by NSW Health and, more recently, incorporated into Dental Health Service’ Victoria’s Strategic Plan. Dr George has received 10 competitive funding grants as a Chief Investigator and has been published in 20 peer-reviewed journals. He has also received various awards including

Research Australia grassROOTS AUTUMN 2014

the Australian Postgraduate Award Industry Scholarship, a SWSLHD Quality Award and a NSW Health Finalist Award. The proud winner of the Excellence in Teaching Award (sponsored by the SWSLHD), was Dr Slade Jensen, Group Leader of the Antibiotic Resistance and Mobile Elements Group. In addition to leading this team and one of the world’s largest-ever genomic studies to help eradicate the superbug Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) or “Golden Staph”, Dr Jensen is a Senior Lecturer in Microbiology and Infectious Diseases with the School of Medicine, University of Western Sydney (UWS) and teaches undergraduate and postgraduate students at the University of Sydney and UWS. Regarded as a passionate, dedicated educator and mentor, Dr Jensen supervises a Postdoctoral Fellow, four PhD students, an Honours student, a Masters student and two undergraduate students at the Ingham Institute. The awards ceremony was coupled with an array of speakers including the Member for Menai the Hon Melanie Gibbons and Research Australia’s very own Chief Executive Officer Elizabeth Foley, who engaged audience members with her presentation tilted ‘Medical Research in the Next Decade.’ Ms Foley commented, “It is very pleasing to see the huge amount of community spirit and philanthropic support that has shaped the Ingham Institute into what it is today and continues to drive its success.”

Editor’s Corner

Who can put an article in grassROOTS? grassROOTS is for and by members of Research Australia and is designed to showcase the activity in philanthropy for health and medical research, through either fund raising activity, awards, or the results of actual research funded by philanthropy. It is also a vehicle for the broader community to understand the importance of philanthropic funding and how they can contribute to the expansion and improvement in health and medical research in Australia.

When will I need to get my article in by if I want to be featured in the next edition? The article submission deadline is April 22, 2014. Articles should be no more than 1000 words long and please provide one or more photos (with subtitles) and logo to accompany the article. Please submit articles via email to:

Research Australia does not warrant or guarantee the accuracy, quality, completeness, currency, or validity of any information on its website or newsletter. Some of the materials in classified ads, press releases, and newsletters are also provided by other organisations. Research Australia does not edit or control the financial information it receives. Due to the possibility of human and mechanical error, neither Research Australia nor any of the contributors to this newsletter are responsible for any errors or omissions. All information is provided “as is” without warranty of any kind. Neither Research Australia nor the contributors to this newsletter make any representations as to the accuracy or integrity of the information. They disclaim all express, implied, and statutory warranties of any kind, including warranties as to accuracy, timeliness, completeness, merchantability, or fitness for any particular purpose. Neither Research Australia nor its contributors will be liable for any damages of any kind incurred as a result of the information contained within this newsletter or on this site.

grassROOTS – ISSUE 6 – AUTUMN 2014  

RESEARCH AUSTRALIA PHILANTHROPY This magazine is a vehicle for members to showcase their activity in philanthropy for health and medical res...