ISSUE TWO 02 A message from the CEO 03 Listen to the Future 04 Novel Early-Career Research Funding
05 Philanthropy in Action 06 From Canberra to the Cape 07 Suit Up and Ride with Cadel Evans 08 Inflammation and Parkinson’s disease
09 The Bupa Health Foundation 10 The Alzheimer’s Australia Quality Dementia Care Initiative
11 New Genomics Facility in South Australia
ental Pulp Stem Cells give hope D to Stroke Sufferers
13 The Foundations for Hope 14 Research to improve Knee Replacement surgery
15 Listen up! we want to talk to you about hearing health
16 The Garvan – Kinghorn Opening 17 Celebrating decades of cancer research support
18 National honour for infectious diseases researcher
20 Undergraduate Research Opportunities Project
A message from the CEO Spring is a new beginning! Spring has sprung, and as we race towards the last months of 2012, it is with pleasure that we publish our second edition of Grass Roots. This magazine is designed for you, our members, to showcase your activity in philanthropy for health and medical research. Our first edition was widely acclaimed, and received a wide additional ‘pass-along’ audience! I feel sure you will find this edition just as engaging as our first! Research Australia has been very busy in the philanthropic space in recent months. I met many of our members in person at our annual Philanthropy in Medical Health & Research Conference in Melbourne in August. The conference attracted 150 delegates and we got great feedback on the overall program, with Melissa Stevens from FasterCures USA being the highlight of the conference. These events take a lot of planning to make a success and I would personally like to thank everyone involved for their support. In particular our major sponsors Bupa Health Foundation, Cook Medical, Garvan Institute, Ogilvy PR Health, gofundraise and Novartis. Planning has already commenced for next year’s conference which will be in Sydney, so watch this space! The other philanthropy area Research Australia has been very active in lately is lobbying Treasury about the regulation of the not-for-profit sector and charities. In particular we have been focusing on the proposed definition of ‘Charity’ requiring that donated funds would have to be spent in Australia to qualify the organisation for DGR tax status. Our voices have been heard, there is in the Bill that is currently before Parliament a ‘carve out’ for health and medical research organisations from this provision! I hope you enjoy this edition of Grass Roots. Elizabeth Foley Chief Executive Officer
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SAVE THE DATES • Research Australia Annual General Meeting 15th November 2012 – 12.15pm Level 7, 384 Victoria Street Darlinghurst NSW 2010
• 2012 Awards Dinner Announcement of Winners 14th November 2012 – 7.00pm Powerhouse Museum 500 Harris Street Sydney NSW
• McKeon Review Dates Submissions to the draft consultation paper to be made by the
31st October 2012 Watch this space for further updates
Listen to the Future Award winning program educates on decibel danger of personal music players. The cry from previous generations of “Turn that music down!” came from frustration at having to hear their children’s music played loudly. Modern personal music players (PMPs) with earphones were considered a breakthrough, bringing welcome ‘silence’. However, while the dangers of industrial noise are generally known, the fact that music played at high levels, especially close to the ears, can be just as damaging, is less well known. With PMPs now an accepted part of life, many young people are unknowingly risking their hearing health. Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) is irreversible. But it is preventable. And that’s where the Ear Science Institute Australia’s (ESIA) innovative and ground-breaking Cheers for Ears program is having a significant impact. Targeting ages 10 to 12, Cheers for Ears aims to educate young people on the dangers of loud music, focusing on PMPs and other entertainment noise. Since May 2010, the award winning program has reached over 17,000 children across 150 schools in Western Australia. Cheers for Ears is delivered by a health promotion officer directly to students. One hour interactive classroom sessions include ear and hearing videos, activities and discussions on hearing protection. Students receive information packs and teachers receive worksheets to integrate with health and science lessons, reinforcing the message.
Cheers for Ears was initiated through a grant from the Department of Health and Ageing through its Hearing Loss Prevention Program. Seed funding allowed for program development, initial delivery and evaluation. Funding also enabled development of a comprehensive website and sound monitoring ‘App’ for Android smartphones. In 2011, Cheers for Ears received the AMA(WA)/Healthway Healthier WA Award in recognition of its significant contribution to the health and wellbeing of Western Australians.
“Ongoing funding is required to further develop Cheers for Ears and ensure it reaches more metropolitan schools as well as regional Western Australia.”
Hearing loss is the most common disability in the world. The major economic, health and social cost to society is well documented. Prevention through education is extremely cost-effective. Recent studies show the detrimental effects on hearing from PMPs, so the likelihood of noise induced hearing loss becoming more prevalent in young people is high. The ESIA Cheers for Ears program is a powerful, engaging and relevant way to educate young people on hearing loss, and empower them with simple prevention strategies. Ongoing funding is sought to continue the program and ensure further development, including regional school visits. For more information, please contact: Mrs Natalie Leishman Health Promotion Coordinator
Further funding has been received from private and corporate donors, including Commonwealth Bank and Chevron. However ongoing funding is critical to the program’s development and success. Ensuring equity of access to children from all areas is a priority.
Ear Science Institute Australia Level 2, Suite 1, 1 Salvado Road, SUBIACO WA 6008 P: 08 6380 4900 E: Natalie.email@example.com
“Maximum PMP volumes can reach the level of a power mower (106dB). Exposure for more than 3.75 minutes risks permanent hearing damage.” Cheers for Ears has recently developed a mannequin head incorporating a hearing loss simulation device and sound level meter. This will demonstrate to students the actual decibel output of their own music players and allow them to experience hearing loss for themselves. The aim is to show students a safe volume level.
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Novel Early-Career Research Funding
By Joseph Sheehan
Cancer researchers across Australia are receiving financial support from a grass roots program run by Can Too, with all funds raised channelled to Cure Cancer Australia Foundation’s early-career research grants. These organisations offer participants the chance to achieve personal goals they never dreamed possible, while supporting over 400 innovative young researchers in the fight against cancer since 1967. In early November, Can Too parties in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne will be celebrating something huge. These groups will be made up of people from different walks of life – business people, scientists, mothers, retirees. What ties these seemingly unconnected people together is the celebration of a milestone, achieved through the tireless dedication of so many to making a difference. Can Too is not your average non-profit organisation – this is a charity where donors get back as much, if not more, as they contribute. Through their training programs, beginner and experienced runners, swimmers and tri-athletes are mentored by professional coaches to achieve their health and fitness goals, while raising much-needed funds for cancer research. It is this winning combination of fitness incentives and a good cause that has seen Can Too raise $10 million so far, training over 7500 people to run and swim further than they ever thought they could. The charity was founded in 2005 by Annie Crawford, who came back from living overseas determined to make a difference. “I had a plan to combine my passion for running and fitness with raising money for a non-profit organisation,” says Annie. “This led me to Cure Cancer Australia”. “I was impressed with the work of Cure Cancer to fund breakthrough research by supporting young and brilliant Australian scientists – and so the money we raise goes toward funding researchers in all areas of cancer, through Cure Cancer.” Having lost her own father to cancer when he was just 51, Annie knows first-hand the devastating impact that cancer can have on an individual and the people who care about them. This increased her drive to succeed, and in May 2005 the first Can Too program was up and running – and has become much more than a fundraising venture.
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elbourne Can Too-ers , Cure Cancer supporters, researchers and Can Too Panda at M The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research(WEHI)
“For many of our participants, completing a Can Too program is totally life-changing,” she says. “It’s not just about the physical challenge. The transformation that occurs from making the impossible achievable, from putting yourself out there, taking risks, setting goals and doing something for others, is profound.”
“… a good cause that has seen Can Too raise $10 million so far, training over 7500 people to run and swim further than they ever thought they could.” This sentiment is echoed by MargaretAnne Hayes, a veteran Can Too-er who proves that no matter what your goal is, with a little determination you can knock down any walls that stand in your way. “When Annie first began Can Too, I used to gasp in wonderment at these incredible people who could run a marathon,” says Margaret-Anne. “It was beyond my wildest imagination!”
However, the illness of a dear friend planted the seed of determination in Margaret-Anne’s mind that she would run the 9km Harbour Bridge Run for the both of them, and for all the people affected by the illness of someone they love. “My journey back to health was an uphill battle,” she says. “When training first started, having never run more than ten metres in my life, I struggled! But I went at my own pace, and the Can Too coach was very supportive. The program helped me progress at my own rate. “What Annie has done is to help stop other families from suffering the grief that her family suffered. While Annie lost a parent, I know what it feels like to lose a child – if by raising money for cancer research and ‘running for a cure’ I can stop one other mother from losing her child, then it is worth it a million times over.” The funds raised by incredible people like Margaret-Anne through the Can Too training programs go towards helping Cure Cancer Australia Foundation provide much-need grants to innovative and promising young researchers. Since 1967 Cure Cancer has funded over four hundred researchers, helping them get
the competitive start they need in their quest to find a cure, including scientist Dr. Megan Bywater. With her grant from Cure Cancer, supported by Can Too, Megan is investigating the processes by which cells in the body reproduce, and how this contributes to cancer growth when they reproduce at an abnormal rate. Megan’s work at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne has already produced success – in July she and her team celebrated a significant breakthrough in understanding the processes that control the growth of blood cells, signalling new hope in the treatment of diseases such as leukaemia and lymphoma. Megan’s funding from Cure Cancer and Can Too was a significant in contributing to this exciting discovery, as well providing her with a platform to explore new therapies.
A novel compound she discovered targeting cancer cells is going ahead in clinical trials this year, a result of the research she was able to do during her Cure Cancer Fellowship. “I’d really like to thank Cure Cancer and Can Too for providing me with this funding,” Megan says, “and really facilitating the completion of this research and moving forward into what we hope will be a new and exciting avenue for cancer therapy.” Securing grants can be a competitive and frustrating process for talented young researchers at the start of their careers. Despite their passion and thirst for knowledge, their innovative ideas can be overlooked in favour of more traditional approaches to medicine.
with new approaches to the detection, prevention and treatment of cancer. Without these funds, scientists may never get their projects off the ground, and new discoveries like Megan’s might never be uncovered. Every step the runners of Can Too take is another step towards finding a cure for this devastating disease. As they raise their glasses to celebrate Can Too’s ten millionth dollar, these people from different walks of life will be united by one hope – a world without cancer. For more information, please visit www.curecancer.org.au and www.cantoo.org.au
These charities give young researchers a voice and an outlet to experiment
Philanthropy in Action Written by Danielle Fischer from Melanoma Institute Australia.
When great minds come together, great things can happen. Philanthropy was certainly seen in action on Friday 24th August, as the Melanoma Genome Project was officially launched at Melanoma Institute Australia. This ambitious project, costing $5.5 million over 2 years, has come together because of the appreciation philanthropists have of the value of melanoma research.
the Institute’s BioSpecimen Bank, the largest collection of melanoma samples in the world. These tumours have been generously donated by melanoma patients and carefully collected and stored by pathologists. This tumour bank is a key factor in enabling the project to be undertaken in Australia.
The NSW Minister for Health and Minister for Medical Research, Jillian Skinner, launched the project with a donation from the NSW Government of $500,000. Bioplatforms Australia (with funds provided by the Commonwealth Government through the Education Investment Fund Super Science Program) committed over $1.5 million to support the initiative through access to their national network of genomics sequencing and bioinformatics facilities. In addition, Cancer Council NSW sponsored the project with a $500,000 grant.
“The Melanoma Genome Project will build on Australia’s international leadership in this area and move the world’s medical knowledge closer to being able to prevent and cure melanoma. It will lead to better diagnostic tests and new drugs which can specifically target the mutations that are causing this particular cancer,” Executive Director of Melanoma Institute Australia, Professor John Thompson said.
In addition, many individual donors, community groups and corporate groups – too many to name – have come together to support this vital research. The Cancer Institute NSW and the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) have also provided support via Program Grants to the researchers. Most tumour samples to be used in the Melanoma Genome Project are from
A national coalition of researchers from Melanoma Institute Australia, The University of Sydney, Westmead Millennium Institute, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and NSW Health Pathology, and Queensland Institute of Medical Research will work together to identify all the common gene mutations that cause deadly melanoma. Melanoma Institute Australia’s Co-Director of Research, Professor Graham Mann said, “Projects like the Melanoma Genome Project will generate data sets linking all aspects of cellular biology. They will be of huge value, not only for cancer
elanoma Institute Australia’s M Chairman Reg Richardson with The Hon. Jillian Skinner at the launch of the Melanoma Genome Project.
research, but for researchers across the biological sciences.” For more information about the Melanoma Genome Project and how you can support to this vital research, visit www.melanoma.org.au or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Affirming Mental Health Research: A Journey from Canberra to the Cape On New Year’s Day 2012, ANU Alumnus Brad Carron-Arthur started down the road on a life changing odyssey. Armed with only an 8kg backpack, sheer determination and a maturity beyond his 22 years, his aim was to run from Canberra to Cape York to raise funds for The Australian Foundation for Mental Health Research (AFFIRM). explains, “Mental illness is an issue which is close to my heart. Having completed a Bachelor of Psychology at ANU, I understand on an intellectual level the detrimental impact it has on society. But also importantly, having witnessed my dad’s plight with long-term depression, I have seen the detriment it can have on a more personal level. More recently, seeing him recover was truly inspirational.”
Brad Carron-Arthur in Tully Queensland (photo courtesy of Tully Times)
Nearly 5000 kilometers and 131 days later, Brad completed his journey. In an extraordinary feat of physical and mental endurance, he had averaged a marathon a day and raised $33 397 for mental health research in the process. Battling not just the usual runner’s discomforts of blisters and sore muscles, Brad endured torrential storms, swollen rivers, crocodile-inhabited waters and day-long slogs through mud and sand. Along the way, he took the community on a captivating ride, posting YouTube videos and keeping a blog of his adventures. Ironically, his worst day was also the most exhilarating – running 75 kilometres along the south-eastern ‘highway’ beach of Fraser Island in constant rain. Brad explains, “It was a race against time with the weight of my backpack making running in soft sand the entire way that much harder. But for anyone who’s been to Fraser Island, they’ll know just how enchanting the landscape is.” In addition to promoting mental health through taking part in numerous television, newspaper and radio opportunities, Brad also gave talks in a number of local communities and schools throughout his run. He explains, “I hoped to inspire other young people to live healthy and fulfilling
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lifestyles. I’m not sure how widespread my message became, but even if it was adopted by just one student, that would mean a great deal to me.” One remote mining community on the Cape York Peninsula, actively sought Brad out and
“Fundraising has been a rewarding experience for me because it has given me a profound sense that I can make an impact for the better…”
embarked on a 12 hour round trip to transport him to and from their town. After Brad’s talk, the ‘hat was passed around’ and over the course of the evening $1500 was raised in donations for AFFIRM. “Fundraising has been a rewarding experience for me because it has given me a profound sense that I can make an impact for the better,” he remarks. Brad chose to support AFFIRM to highlight the need for greater awareness and acceptance of mental health issues and because of its affiliation with research at the Australian National University. Brad
Over the past 12 months, mental illness has been elevated to centre stage of the political agenda and has become a priority amongst common health disorders. Brad explains, “One in five Australians will experience a mental illness such as depression or an anxiety disorder in their lifetime. This is an alarmingly high figure, especially given that only around three per cent of the total research and development in health in Australia is dedicated to mental health.” At the ANU Centre for Mental Health Research (CMHR), adequate funding and resourcing of these priorities is an ongoing issue and in 2002, the organisation set up its own endowment fund – AFFIRM. Founding Board Member of AFFIRM and the Director of CMHR, Professor Kathy Griffiths, explains “Finding the answers to the challenges posed by mental illness requires high quality research. Sadly, government funding for research is more often directed to physical illnesses. The work of AFFIRM has helped us to undertake critical research that would otherwise not be possible. It is helping us to make a difference.” The funds Brad raised will continue to support early-career researchers at CMHR. Brad was originally drawn toward raising funds for this program because he believed “that [CMHR’s] research into online therapy would provide highly effective tools and the most widespread means of managing mental illness in the modern world. When I discovered it was affiliated with the ANU, I was convinced. It’s a great feeling to give back to an organisation which has done so much for me.” In 2013 AFFIRM will fund a 12 month post-doctoral position. This is a crucial
time in a researcher’s career, for which limited financial support exists in Australia and is compounding the shortage of expertise in areas such as mental health. Through supporting early career scientists, organisations such as CMHR, can build on their research capacity and effectively return their training investment in higher degree students. This concern was recently echoed in an article in The Australian by the Secretary for Science Policy at the Australian Academy of Science, Professor Bob Williamson. According to Williamson, “Of the 2000 or so Australians granted PhDs each year, only a tiny proportion, perhaps 250, will get the careers they hope for as scientific researchers.” He continues, “We cannot afford to lose our best and brightest. We need to change the funding system, broaden the training and introduce better mentoring and more flexibility. We need to ensure that all highlevel scientists have the chance to fulfill their potential. We owe it to them, but we also owe it to ourselves and to our vision of a scientifically literate, economically viable and empowered Australia.” It is programs
like AFFIRM that are bridging the gap in early career researcher opportunities, paving the way for our future leaders on critical scientific issues. The overwhelming success of Brad’s campaign did not however, stop at the finish line. He continues to raise awareness about mental health issues through speaking pro bono at school, community group and business events. Brad explains, “There is a stigma associated with mental illness which discourages people from seeking help from the community and those immediately around them.” Brad’s run to the Cape was not without its dangers or mental challenges and on reflecting on his journey, he realised that there was no shame in asking for help when you need it. Just 80 kilometres from his final destination and in 30 degree heat with 95% humidity, Brad ran out of water. He explains, “My spirit was shattered. My passion for adventure was completely void. I had exhausted my will and I realised that I seriously needed help. At that moment I heard a car behind me. I turned around and put up my hands to indicate for them to
stop. I shuffled up to the window and said ‘Hi, I’m sorry. I need help. I need water’ to which I received the reply “We know.” Fundraising by community groups, corporate bodies or inspirational individuals like Brad, is critical in providing support to ANU’s research and endowment programs. Brad strongly encourages anyone considering embarking on their own adventure, “Pick something you enjoy, challenge yourself somehow with it and let others know about the experiences you have on the way. This story is an inspiration every time. People will be more than willing to contribute to your cause, especially if they see how much it means to you. “Ordinary people can achieve extraordinary things if they simply focus on enjoying what they do. I didn’t win my school cross-country and I’ve never really been much of a competitive runner. But I’ve run all these years for the fun of it, and one day I realised I could even use that to make a contribution to a cause which means a lot to me. Fundraising is a win for everyone involved.”
Join Tour De France champion Cadel Evans again this year at Orygen Youth Health Research Centre’s Suit Up and Ride Join Cadel , cycling legend Matt Goss, and see Mark Seymour perform at Suit Up and Ride 2012. Suit Up and Ride is Melbourne’s quirkiest corporate cycling event. Teams of five compete in a time trial sprint on Melbourne Bike Share bikes, around a short course at Waterfront City in the Docklands, the catch is they must wear their suit, or regular office attire or outlandish team outfits. In the past we’ve had miners on bikes, nurses, firemen, spin doctors in white coats, a team in recycled boxes and real estate agents bedecked in auction flags! The course is a short, flat 1Km along New Quay at the Docklands-so you don’t need to be a lycra-clad speed demon to participate! There are great prizes for best dressed! Cadel and Matt Goss are back again this year, and Mark Seymour of Hunters and Collectors fame will be entertaining us after the racing. Over the last two years Suit Up & Ride has raised over $200,000 making it a vital source of funding for Orygen Youth Health Research Centre (OYHRC) which is led by 2010 Australian of the Year, Professor Patrick McGorry AO.
Critically it allows OYHRC to implement programs and provide support for young Australians most in need. The money raised by Suit Up and Ride so far has been directly responsible for the following: • Funding research into treatment options for young people, with regards to suicide prevention • Funding research into trauma and e-youth mental health initiatives • Directly supporting the development of the Family Peer Support Program that helps families with a newly diagnosed son or daughter • Vital support for the vocation and social recovery research project into the benefits of returning to work or education, as research has found that having a job is associated with a range of great health and life outcomes for young people recovering from a mental illness. For more info, please visit our website: www.suitupandride.com.au or call Lisa Bird on (03) 9342 2998
adel Evans with Suit Up and Ride C Team from Grocon
When: Friday 23rd November, 2012 Time: 4:00pm – 6:30pm Where: Waterfront City, Docklands Cost to enter: $1,000 tax deductible donation We look forward to seeing you at Suit Up and Ride 2012!!
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Understanding the role of inflammation in Parkinson’s disease NeuRA is pioneering research into the role of inflammation in Parkinson’s disease thanks to philanthropic support from the Shake It Up Australia Foundation and Michael J. Fox Foundation. Parkinson’s disease is on the rise and the second most common neurodegenerative disorder worldwide. Thirty new cases are diagnosed each day in Australia and as age is the greatest known risk factor for Parkinson’s disease, incidence is expected to continue climbing. Despite the Nobel award winning research surrounding the discovery of levodopa for the symptomatic treatment of Parkinson’s disease, causes and cures have remained elusive in the 200 years since James Parkinson’s first description of the disease in 1817. However, a major push driven by philanthropic support from Shake It Up and the Michael J. Fox Foundation is currently underway, and the goal of these organisations is clear: make Parkinson’s disease history. Shake It Up was established in 2011 by Australian businessman Clyde Campbell who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2009 at the age of 44. Shake It Up works with the Michael J. Fox Foundation to direct money to high-impact Parkinson’s research projects throughout Australia. In late 2011 Neuroscience Research Australia’s Prof Glenda Halliday and Dr Nic Dzamko received the first of these research grants.
The grant is supporting research into an enigmatic protein kinase called leucinerich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2). Mutations in the LRRK2 protein are a leading cause of familial Parkinson’s disease and this protein represents a number of potential new therapeutic targets for the treatment of the disease.
disease so that the mechanism can be targeted therapeutically.” “Determining whether and how LRRK2 affects innate immune pathways will identify potentially modifiable pathways for therapeutic targeting.” “If we observe a change in LRRK2 only in immune cells from patients with Parkinson’s disease, we will assess this finding further as a potential biomarker for the disease,” Prof Halliday concluded.
Latest research by the team at NeuRA suggests that LRRK2 may be part of the signaling pathway that regulates the inflammatory immune response to viral or bacterial infection. Intriguingly, “…whether mutations in LRRK2 can inflammation, also pre-dispose to Crohn’s which everyone inflammatory bowel disease. “This grant is allowing us to determine whether LRRK2 affects innate immunity, the first non-specific line of immune defence, and whether LRRK2 function in immune cells is changed in patients with Parkinson’s disease,” Prof Halliday said.
experiences during their lifetime, goes on to cause Parkinson’s disease remains hotly debated.”
“Thanks to support from the Michael J. Fox Foundation and Shake it Up, we have become a part of the international LRRK2 Biology Consortium that is working to determine how LRRK2 causes Parkinson’s
Increased inflammation in Parkinson’s disease is not a new concept and a lot of work has shown that many markers of inflammation are increased in patients. “However, whether inflammation, which everyone experiences during their lifetime, goes on to cause Parkinson’s disease remains hotly debated,” said Dr Dzamko.
With continued funding from the Michael J. Fox Foundation and Shake It Up Australia Prof Halliday and Dr Dzamko are continuing their work to determine how inflammation might lead to Parkinson’s disease and whether blocking LRRK2 with drugs will be of benefit for patients. Mr Campbell, the founder of Shake It Up Australia, is one of around 80,000 Australians living with Parkinson’s disease. He said Shake It Up is devoted to funding innovative research in Australia into the mechanisms that cause Parkinson’s disease. “Our end goal is finding a cure. The research being performed by Prof Halliday is innovative and could have wider ramifications for other motor-neurone diseases,” Mr Campbell said.
Dr Nicolas Dzamko, Neuroscience Research Australia.
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The Bupa Health Foundation Introduction The Bupa Health Foundation is committed to helping improve health for all Australians. Through partnerships with outstanding researchers and health organisations, the Foundation is committed to helping solve some of the big challenges facing the Australian health system, including the rise of chronic diseases, an ageing population, and the impact of unhealthy life choices.
Foundation Partnerships in Primary Health Care Empowering doctors in treating chronic pain The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners & The Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA) Faculty of Pain Medicine. It’s estimated that over 3 million Australians experience chronic pain, costing health services and the economy more than $30bn a year. And it’s expected that by 2050 the number of Australians with chronic pain will grow to 5 million.
And while the pressures on the health system can seem “The daunting, it’s easy to forget Foundation that we already possess many has invested of the answers we need to around $19m deal with these challenges. in partnerships They lie in the insights and The RACGP and ANZCA have discoveries generated by across five identified that health care some of Australia’s leading key areas…” professionals would benefit researchers. But too often the from improved training and evidence on what works is not resources to support patients translated into action. This has negative with chronic pain. They are developing consequences for patients who don’t get an online program on pain management the best treatment, and leads to waste and that will be an accredited active learning inefficiency in the health system as a whole. module (ALM). And as Professor Christine Bennett, Chair of the Bupa Health Foundation Steering Housed on the RACGP online education Committee, says, “Waste in healthcare is site, gplearning, this new set of an ethical issue”. modules will be particularly important in disseminating knowledge and best practice The Bupa Health Foundation is an across Australia, particularly for clinicians independent charity aimed at improving in rural and remote areas where accessing the health and healthcare of all Australians. quality education can be difficult. One of the ways it achieves this goal is by focusing on translation research – turning evidence into action. Too often, good ideas never have the chance to make a difference. The Bupa Health Foundation, with its partnerships in health research and practice, aims to put that right.
The content of the program will focus on the need for a holistic approach to pain management, and the importance of effective treatment of pain in preventing it becoming a chronic condition.
The Foundation has invested around $19m in partnerships across five key areas: wellbeing, healthy ageing; chronic disease; empowering people about their health; and promoting affordable healthcare. Central to many of these partnerships is the knowledge that good evidence exists, but is not always widely applied.
Preventive Evidence into Practice
A Focus on Primary Care The Foundation’s partnerships have a strong focus on primary healthcare. Primary health care is called the ‘frontline’ for good reason – it’s where the battle with emerging health challenges is fought. It is the common thread in preventing, managing and treating ill health. That’s why many of the Foundation’s partnerships focus on collaboration across this crucial part of the health system.
RACGP, Heart Foundation of Australia, University of New South Wales, Flinders University, Monash University, Bond University, University of Queensland The challenge of turning evidence into action applies not only to new treatments, but also to new ways of preventing ill health. And with nearly one third of the burden of disease attributable to modifiable behavioural and environmental risk factors, there is a real need to support doctors in prevention as well as cure. While guidelines have been developed for the assessment and management of risk factors for vascular disease, uptake in clinical practice has been variable. This
has negative consequences for individual patients and the health system as a whole. This partnership is developing and evaluating a model for the implementation of preventive care guidelines in Australian general practice. This includes a literature review, qualitative study, consultation with key stakeholders and the piloting of a new model to put evidence into practice. This study emphasises the importance of having effective implementation strategies to support new clinical guidelines, to help ensure that all Australians have access to the best evidence based support.
Osteoarthritis Clinical Excellence Hub Arthritis Australia Osteoarthritis (OA) is the leading cause of pain and disability among the elderly in Australia. Nearly 90% of primary total hip replacements have OA as the primary diagnosis. As obesity is a significant risk factor for the development of OA, it is likely that prevalence will increase over time, with an associated increase in pain, functional limitation and impact on quality of life. But while OA is extremely common, it is not always well managed – nearly 20% of women and 25% of men take no action for their OA. That’s why Arthritis Australia and the Bupa Health Foundation are developing a clinical excellence hub aimed at empowering people with OA to better manage their health. Called myjointpain.org this free services will bring together the combined knowledge and expert advice available to OA sufferers. For the first time people with OA will have a single, interactive resource where they can access evidence based information that will ultimately lead to improved health outcomes. This will include practical resources and information for patients as well as GPs, pharmacists and allied health professionals.
Summing Up The Foundation’s partners are working to make sure that the best available knowledge and evidence is widely known and acted upon to benefit the health of the whole community.
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Making health and medical research count: The Alzheimer’s Australia National Quality Dementia Care Initiative By Dr Chris Hatherly, National Research Manager, Alzheimer’s Australia.
In his foreword to the draft consultation paper on the future of Australian health and medical research, Simon McKeon AO points out that there is a disconnect ‘between health and medical research and the delivery of healthcare services.’ carers from around Australia to identify the biggest problems in dementia care. This group – the Consumer Dementia Research Network (CDRN) – then worked with leading dementia researchers to match the problem areas identified to existing relevant evidence and created a prioritised shortlist of ‘evidence-practice gaps’ in which they wanted to see change at a national level.
embers of the Consumer Dementia Research Network at a meeting with stakeholders in M September, 2010.
This disconnect will be familiar territory to many readers, particularly those whose work straddles the divide between academia and clinical practice; from either side. It is also distressingly real to many consumers who suffer the consequences of healthcare that is either inconsistent with evidence-based best-practice (30–40% of all care), or significantly worse – in 10–20% of cases – than no care at all.i Take dementia as an example. Approximately 60,000 of the estimated 300,000 people with dementia in Australia are prescribed antipsychotic medications to reduce the severity of associated behavioural and psychological symptoms. These medications have a clinical benefit for a minority of older people with dementia. However, they are also associated with serious side effects (including increased risk of stroke and death), and best-practice guidelines recommend they are used only as a last resort, and with regular clinical review. What is clear from a number of surveys is that there is a clinical justification and compliance with guidelines and consent requirements in fewer than 20% of cases, and that they are most often used off-label as a form of ‘chemical restraint’ – sedating people with dementia who should receive psychosocial care. It is estimated that anywhere from 900 to several thousand Australians with dementia die prematurely as a result of unnecessary antipsychotic medications each year. Coming back to the disconnect, the time lag from academic publication to mainstream
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healthcare practice is estimated to be 17 yearsii (think about this: Latest medical breakthrough, coming to a hospital near you in 2030!) The number is based on a ‘passive’ model of evidence uptake (5–6 years for replication and inclusion in systematic reviews, several more to be picked up in clinical guidelines, then up to a decade to infiltrate the health system), and is often used as a justification for more active models of ‘knowledge translation’ (or any of the 46 commonly used synonymsiii). The objective is to get research findings into healthcare practice more quickly using a variety of strategies – intervention research, systematic reviews, guideline development, education, public awareness, commercialisation, practice incentives or regulation, to name just a few – in order to achieve better patient outcomes. Examples such as infection control through hand hygiene (evidence-base established for 150 years; non-compliance still around 25%) are used to illustrate the magnitude of the challenge. As a consumer organisation, Alzheimer’s Australia’s approach to this challenge has been to develop a process driven by consumers. With generous financial support from the J.O. and J.R. Wicking Trust, Bupa Care Services and the Dementia Collaborative Research Centres (funded by the Federal Government through the NHMRC), we established the National Quality Dementia Care Initiative in 2010 and convened a group of 25 people with dementia and family
These priorities included things like improving the provision of person-centred dementia care, improving assessment and diagnosis, promoting psychosocial alternatives to antipsychotics, and increasing uptake of advance care planning; none easy to achieve with the $250,000 grants on offer, and a first round call for projects was disappointing. Most were research projects and few were national. Members of the CDRN selected only 2 of 44 applications to receive funding (one promoting dementia sensitive building and garden design; the other promoting the Montessori approach to dementia ‘enablement’ amongst family caregivers) then went back to the drawing board.
“Approximately 60,000 of the estimated 300,000 people with dementia in Australia are prescribed antipsychotic medications…” There followed six months of intense work with dementia researchers, clinicians and service providers as well as the NHMRC to drill down to the specific barriers preventing the wider use of evidence and to develop feasible strategies that could begin to tackle these. A second funding round and a better targeted call for applications resulted in members of the CDRN faced with more high quality projects than they could fund. A suite of eight innovative national dementia projects are now underway and are due to conclude in late 2013 (more information at www.qualitydementiacare.org.au). The initial funding has been leveraged twofold, and Alzheimer’s Australia is actively seeking more funding from government and philanthropic sources to continue establishing innovative new projects.
Meanwhile, the 25 members of the CDRN have gone from strength to strength, increasing their engagement with dementia researchers throughout Australia and abroad, securing an integral position with the forthcoming $25 million NHMRC Partnership Centre on Cognitive Decline, and registering their innovative approach to research engagement and knowledge translation at the highest levels of Government. With the support of a number of leading dementia researchers, the group has developed a sophisticated understanding of the research process,
and correspondingly their research partners are learning to value the unique perspective and insights that consumers can bring. Mutual respect and trust are blossoming. There will, of course, always be a vital place for investigator-driven research. It is arguable in fact that the funding and administrative constraints that prevent the best and brightest researchers from all-out pursuit of their ideas have the biggest detrimental impact on patient outcomes of all. However, we also need to put in place innovative, well-resourced and
sophisticated strategies to make the most of what we already know. Alzheimer’s Australia’s National Quality Dementia Care Initiative, and the Consumer Dementia Research Network that drives it is an exciting example that is working well. i Grol, R. (2001). Successes and failures in the implementation of evidence-based guidelines for clinical practice. Medical Care, 39(Supp 2), 46-54. ii Balas, E. A., & Boren, S. A. (2000). Managing clinical knowledge for health care improvement. Yearbook of Medical Informatics, Schlattauer: 65-70 iii McKibbon, K. A. Et al. (2010). A cross-sectional study of the number and frequency of terms used to refer to knowledge translation in a body of health literature in 2006: A Tower of Babel? Implementation Science, 5(16), 1-11.
New Genomics Facility: A Major Boost to Cancer Research in South Australia The chances of finding alternative treatments and a possible cure for some cancers have been given a boost with the opening of the $5 million Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) Cancer Genomics Facility in Adelaide on October 4, 2012. Jointly funded by the ACRF who provided $3.5 million, and the South Australian Government, the new facility will focus on research into faulty genes and developing individually-tailored treatments.
they occur, for example lung cancer; and their pathology, such as non-small cell lung cancer. Increasingly however, cancers are being classified and treated based not only on their location, but on their genetics.
The funding from the ACRF was made to a team of researchers from the Centre for Cancer Biology and the University of Adelaide.
Treatments are being specifically targeted to the genetic lesions that the cancers themselves contain. Herceptin for example can significantly prolong and improve quality of life for the approximately 20% of patients with so called HER2 positive breast cancer. HER2 is also found in metastatic gastric cancer and hence herceptin can also be useful in treating it.
Key goals for researchers using the facility are to obtain insights into the genetic modifications that underpin cancer and to develop new tools for better diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment. Ultimately clinical translation will lead to greater personalisation and more effective cancer management. Traditionally cancers have been classified and subsequently treated based on where
Minister for Health and Ageing John Hill said “This facility has state-of-the-art gene sequencers and a team of senior scientists to analyse and apply their findings and will lift cancer research in Australia to a new level. “The facility, situated within the Centre for Cancer Biology of SA Pathology (trading as IMVS Pathology) on Frome Road, will help our researchers to develop better diagnostics and more effective treatments tailored for patients’ particular needs.” “The end result of this research will contribute to the eventual development of personalised cancer treatment with fewer long-term side effects and better patient outcomes,” Mr Hill said.
eft: Mr Tom Dery (ACRF), Middle: Prof Hamish Scott, L Right: The Right Honourable John Hill
Recent advances in the power of DNA sequencing
technologies, together with the discovery of genetic lesions in particular cancers, and the ability to specifically target those mutations with specialised drugs forms the basis of personalised medicine which will become the standard of patient care in the near future. It is now possible to sequence an individual’s genome for a few thousand dollars. Equally importantly the protein coding genes that form the basis of personalised medicine can now be sequenced at the ACRF Cancer Genomics Facility for hundreds of dollars in just a few days. ACRF Chairman Tom Dery said, “The Australian Cancer Research Foundation funds only the most promising cancer research initiatives across the country and there’s no doubt that this new centre will fast-track discoveries with a focus on improved diagnosis and treatments for all types of cancer. “Cancer is a devastating disease that touches us all in some way and with cancer diagnoses on the rise, the opening of the ACRF Cancer Genomics Facility in Adelaide could not have come at a better time. “We are proud to be supporting such wonderful scientists here in Adelaide, and excited to share in today’s opening event. The challenge now is to interpret this deluge of data and determine its relevance to human health, a challenge that the Bioinformatics group at the Centre for Cancer Biology is eager to take on.
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Dental Pulp Stem Cells Providing Hope for Stroke Sufferers Peter Couche
Peter Couche was a healthy, fit, outgoing, 42 year old business man and father of three on a trip through Singapore. Then he suffered a stroke and his world as he knew it came to an end. For the past 20 years, Peter has been living with Locked-in Syndrome (LIS). His brain is as sharp and active as ever but he has virtually no physical abilities. He is able to move his eyes and has the ability to move one finger. Since his stroke, Peter has amazed everyone with his patience, persistence and positive attitude. He established the Peter Couche Foundation and persevered for 13 years to write his biography Lifelines. His biography is a love story and an account of the hope provided by stem-cell therapy. Above all, Peter shows how miracles can happen if we fight hard enough. In 2010 Peter was awarded the Pride of Australia Medal for Courage. This medal recognised his determination and strength of character to overcome personal adversity and is a well-deserved recognition for a truly inspirational man.
Peter Couche Foundation In 2010 Peter established the Peter Couche Foundation within the University of Adelaide. The foundation raises funds for the Robinson Institute’s Stem Cell for Stroke Research Program which aims to: • Progress dental pulp stem cell therapy research for brain repair in stroke victims
• Stroke is Australia’s second single greatest killer after coronary heart disease and kills more women than breast cancer “Supporting stem cell for stroke research provides hope for treatments into brain repair and significant benefits to those who have suffered a stroke and their families.” Peter Couche. In its second year, the Don’t Speak – silence for stroke campaign was held in September during Stroke Week. Combined the campaign has involved over 130 fundraisers who have worked to raise funds and increase awareness for stroke research.
Stem Cell for Stroke Research Program Associate Professor Simon Koblar, one of Australia’s leading stroke physicians, leads the Stem Cell for Stroke Research Program. He believes stem cell research has great potential to unlock the mysteries of stroke damaged brains and to help restore brain function to improve the quality of life of stroke sufferers.
“Peter has amazed everyone with his patience, persistence and positive attitude.”
• Dispel the myths surrounding stem cell therapy
1. Neuroplasticity: whereby a healthy brain may be able to make new connections to restore function for areas of a damaged brain post-stroke 2. Angiogenesis: new blood vessel growth in the peri-infarct region to provide more blood flow with oxygen and nutrients to stroke damaged brains 3. Immuno-modulation: whereby the immune or inflammatory system is influence by stem cells in a positive way to improve stroke brain recovery. Dental pulp stem cells from teeth “... are easily accessible and they can also be taken from the patient needing treatment, which potentially removes tissue rejection issues.” Said Simon.
Peter is a constant inspiration and his tireless work is providing hope for stroke sufferers.
To date the foundation has raised over $400,000 to support this leading international research.
“Certainly I would like to walk, talk, read, write and eat again – of course I would – but I suspect the restoration of lost functions may be of more significance to the next generation!
The importance of this research can be highlighted through these startling statistics.
Therefore I see my own role as that of an “agent for change” rather than an immediate and direct beneficiary.”
• In Australia every 10 minutes someone has a stroke
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The research team continue their work into examining the use of stem cells in the repair of brain function in stroke patients and are currently investigating three possible ‘mechanisms for action’:
Peter Couche is aiming to raise $900,000 over the next few years to progress this important research.
• Raise awareness of stroke, particularly that useful life does not end because someone has suffered a stroke.
A recently completed study found that injecting these stem cells 24 hours after suffering a stroke led to improved limb function.
• Show the hope that is being generated through innovative research on nonembryonic stem cells
• Stroke is the leading cause of disability with over 250,000 Australians living with the aftermath of stroke which costs the country an estimated $2.14 billion a year
Research to date has indicated that stem cells from adult teeth (dental pulp stem cells) have the ability to form brain cells and make a range of growth factors that are likely to help repair the brain.
ssociate Professor Simon Koblar with A Peter Couche
Associate Professor Simon Koblar believes that this stem cell research has great potential to help the stroke patients that he sees every day.
The Foundations for Hope Steve Harris knew something was up when, the day after a bit of horseplay with his son, he saw a hand print-shaped bruise on his arm. “He was either the strongest 9 year old in the world, or there was something really wrong with me”, he says. Steve spent the next four months dealing with a diagnosis of, and treatment for, acute promyelocytic myeloid leukaemia (APML). More than eight years after his diagnosis, Steve’s chances of relapsing now approach those of anyone else in the male population contracting the disease. Steve visited St Vincent’s Institute (SVI) with a group from the Leukaemia Foundation in August to hear about SVI’s leukaemia research program, funded in part by the Foundation. “I was lucky enough to be in the position that I didn’t need to take advantage of the financial and patient support services offered by the Leukaemia Foundation, but I am a living example of the power of research. Without the work that went into developing new treatments for the type of leukaemia that I had, I wouldn’t be here today.”
fully functioning cells. This process reduces the number of leukemic cells in the bone marrow. My research focuses on the vitamin A pathway and on the roles of the three vitamin A receptors, which have different biological effects. In the future, therapies that specifically target one of the vitamin A receptors should prove even more effective than ATRA, which activates all receptors.” Louise’s group is pioneering studies into understanding the effects of vitamin A on bone and blood cell production. She believes that with a deeper understanding of how blood cells are regulated by vitamin A receptors – either through direct effects
on the blood cells, or indirect effects via the bone marrow microenvironment, which includes cells that form bone – we may be able to identify more sophisticated ways of treating blood cell diseases, such as APML. Steve says, “Until my visit to SVI, I had no idea of what a researcher did from day to day – the work requires the patience of a saint. I am very grateful, because research saved my life, there is no question of that.” If you would like to tour SVI, please call (03) 9288 2480, or for more information visit www.svi.edu.au.
“…the work requires the patience of a saint. I am very grateful, because research saved my life, there is no question of that.” Steve was particularly interested to talk to Associate Professor Louise Purton, of SVI’s Stem Cell Regulation Unit, who has devoted a large part of her research career to investigating exactly what goes wrong in leukaemia and studying the pathways that can be exploited to treat it. Louise explains that billions of cells are produced in our body each day, predominantly in the bone marrow. The non-blood cell types present in the marrow – collectively known as the bone marrow ‘microenvironment’ – help to control blood cell production from stem cells. Incomplete production or function of the different blood cell types, or problems arising in the function or composition of the non-blood cells that regulate blood cell production, can lead to blood cell diseases. Louise says “The drug that Steve received during his chemotherapy, called all transretinoic acid (ATRA), is derived from vitamin A, and forces leukaemic cells to mature into
Steve Harris with researcher Associate Professor Louise Purton
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Researchtotoimprove improveclinical clinical outcomes Research outcomes from k from knee replacement surgery replacement surgery Australians undergo 30,000 knee replacement operations annually, increasing by 10% each year.
clinical outcomes from knee
The superconducting separator at the Heavy Ion Accelerator Facility, with members of the ANU development team.
A team of researchers led by Professor Heiko Timmers from the University of New South Wales aims to improve the quality of artificial knee implants. This project is being carried out using the Australian National University’s Heavy Ion Accelerator, which allows production and injection of radioactive tracer atoms into the weight-bearing components of the implants.
Professor Aidan Byrne, ANU Head of College, and now CEO of the ARC commented: “This novel application of a unique instrument, developed at the ANU with ARC support, shows that fundamental research often results in unanticipated benefits to society.”
The superc at the Heav Facility, wit ANU develo
“Our research aims to show how to develop better artificial knee implants”
Australians undergo 30,000 knee replacement operations annually, 10% each year. A unique superconducting solenoidal separator, developed for research into nuclear fusion by a team headed by Professors Nanda Dasgupta and David Hinde at the ANU Heavy Ion Accelerator Facility, is a key component.
A team of researchers led by Professor Heiko Timmers from the Uni South Wales aims to improve the quality of artificial knee implants. Professor Timmers explains: “These radioactive atoms allow tracking of the wear particles that can lead to pain and severe bone loss, compromising the artificial knee”
This project is being carried out using the Australian National Univer “Our research aims to show how to Accelerator, allows production and injection of radioactive tra develop better artificial kneewhich implants, improving future clinical outcomes for recipients in Australia, and giving real weight-bearing components of the implants. economic benefits.”
Artificial knee implants
A unique superconducting solenoidal separator, developed for resea 14 grassROOTS SPRING 2012 fusion by a team headed by Professors Nanda Dasgupta and David
Listen up! we want to talk to you about hearing health The HEARing Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) is an interdisciplinary, interparty research and education collaboration that has been operating for almost a quarter of a century, with a specific interest in hearing and audiology. The CRC is focused on the twin challenges of more effective prevention and improved remediation of hearing loss. Hearing loss affects one in six Australians, having significant impact on an individual’s employment and participation in the community, as well as a total financial cost to the country estimated to be around $12 billion per annum (according to the CRC commissioned Access Economics report Listen Hear). Given our ageing population, and the increasingly noisy environment we live and work in, the prevalence of hearing loss is projected to increase to a staggering one in four Australians by 2025. To address this projected rise in hearing loss, the HEARing CRC is undertaking research into technologies and programs aimed at preventing hearing loss, as well as technologies and clinical/habilitation activities to improve remediation of hearing loss (for example, improving perception
with ABC Science to launch Sound Check Australia (www.soundcheckaustralia.net. au) – as part of National Science Week. Sound Check Australia invited people from across the country to take part in an online survey featuring a series of inter-activities focused around hearing; this included an indicative hearing assessment.
“Results showed that young Australians who frequent loud nightclubs, live music venues and concerts are at greater risk of hearing loss.”
The results from the Sound Check Australia survey will provide a new dataset for CRC /NAL researchers to better understand the risks and impacts of our lifestyles on hearing. Its findings will build on the Binge Listening publication released by the same group of researchers in 2010.
in noise for users of hearing aids and/or cochlear implants). In addition, research is investigating avenues to improve access to clinical services for rural and remote and ageing clients, as well as those unable to access clinical audiological services on a regular basis. To ensure that its research findings and technologies reach the end-user, the HEARing CRC works with CRC Members, for example Cochlear or Siemens, to integrate outcomes into commercial products. However, much of the CRC’s research has a broader ‘public health’ application and the CRC is actively pursuing novel means of translating its research outcomes to a wider audience. In August 2012, researchers from the HEARing CRC and Core Member National Acoustic Laboratories (NAL) teamed up
Survey participants received direct ‘feedback’ about their responses, including information about their current hearing abilities and whether their lifestyle put them at risk of hearing loss. It also provided some useful steps that could be easily followed to reduce the risks of acquiring a hearing loss. As an incentive, people who completed the survey were able to enter a competition to win concert or festival tickets. The Sound Check website also featured a hearing loss simulator and articles about hearing and hearing loss.
Binge Listening was published as a public service report that detailed the findings of research into the listening habits of one thousand 18 to 34 year olds. Results showed that young Australians who frequent loud nightclubs, live music venues and concerts are at greater risk of hearing loss. Results also showed that young people who received the greatest noise dose from clubbing were also more likely to receive high noise doses from other leisure activities as a result of their musical interests. As exposure to noise dose is cumulative, this puts this particular group of young people at a much higher risk of acquiring a hearing loss. Despite the actual damage being done to their ears and their understanding of the risks of exposure to loud sound – the research findings suggested that the majority of the young adults surveyed were unlikely to alter their behaviour to reduce their longer term risk of hearing loss.
The high national profile and online nature of the Sound Check Australia survey means that three weeks post launch it had already attracted 7,500 participants. It is anticipated the results will reflect a broader range of age groups, work environments, attitudes, leisure activities and levels of existing hearing loss. An exciting sample indeed for any researcher working in this field! Once this data has been processed, the next challenge will be to find ways of effectively communicating findings with the aim of altering people’s behaviour towards better, long term hearing health. To ensure that the outcomes of the Sound Check survey and other research findings are accessible to the public,
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health professionals, policy makers and researchers, the HEARing CRC has recently launched the HEARing Education and Research Network (HEARnet). In addition to presenting information about Hearing CRC research initiatives, HEARnet will function as an information aggregator, providing general information on specific hearing loss topics and then acting as a spring board to other useful and relevant sites. It will also host the HEARnet library, providing access to an array of publications
including fact sheets, guidelines and conference presentations among others. Another important function of HEARnet will be to provide online training for health professionals about hearing health and hearing technologies. Known as HEARnet Learning, healthcare professionals (including clinicians, audiologists and GPs) will have the opportunity to undertake accredited training in an interactive online environment that is accessible from any location.
The HEARing CRC Ltd is part funded by the CRC Program (an initiative of the Commonwealth Government Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education) and part funded by contributions from its 26 Core and Support Members. For more information about the HEARing CRC: www.hearingcrc.org or contact: email@example.com.
The Garvan – Kinghorn Opening On Tuesday, 28 August, Prime Minister Julia Gillard officially opened The Kinghorn Cancer Centre in Darlinghurst, Sydney. The Centre is a joint venture between the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and St Vincent’s Hospital and will bring together cutting-edge research at the Garvan and the clinical expertise at St Vincent’s.
the rapid translation of research findings to new approaches to cancer diagnosis, treatment and prevention. This will spare individuals from side-effects of treatment from which they won’t actually benefit, and more expeditiously get them the therapies that will be specifically effective for them and, in the process, save the health system money.”
250 researchers and clinicians from across the St Vincent’s campus will work together at the Kinghorn Cancer Centre, allowing clinical challenges to directly drive laboratory research, and enabling research findings to be rapidly translated into clinical application for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer patients.
From a clinical perspective, Professor Allan Spigelman, Director of Cancer Services said, “The Kinghorn Cancer Centre will focus on providing a holistic approach to cancer care throughout the entire patient journey, from diagnosis to full recovery (where cure is possible) and will incorporate world-class educational and training programs to develop researchers and clinicians to optimise translational outcomes. Key patient services will include multidisciplinary clinics, outpatient chemotherapy services and the Wellness Centre, which will provide complementary therapies such as acupuncture as part of the cancer treatment.”
The Prime Minister toured the new facility, taking the time to speak with researchers, clinicians and patients. In one of the new, state-of-the-art labs, researchers from the Garvan Institute explained their work to the Prime Minister, including Dr Alex Swarbrick who showed the Prime Minister breast cancer cells through a multi-headed microscope; Professor Andrew Biankin discussed his team’s ground-breaking work in pancreatic cancer research; while Dr Goli Samimi explained her team’s research to find an accurate, simple and non-invasive test for early ovarian cancer. During the official opening, His Eminence Cardinal George Pell blessed the building with holy water and channel Nine news anchor, Mr Peter Overton generously donated his time to MC the event. Patron of the Kinghorn Cancer Centre, Ms Delta Goodrem, who was treated for cancer (Hodgkin’s lymphoma) on the St Vincent’s campus when she was just 18, performed two of her songs. The St Vincents Campus is home to St Vincents Hospital, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, The Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, and now The Kinghorn Cancer Centre. At the official
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opening, Prime Minister Gillard described the campus as, “Per square metre, perhaps the greatest concentration of medical care and research excellence in the nation.” At The Kinghorn Cancer Centre, cancer specialists and researchers work together to find personalised solutions to each person’s cancer, by fundamentally understanding each individual’s needs at the molecular level. Research knowledge, principally based on individual ‘biomarkers’, will enable doctors to sub-stratify patients in a more effective way, with the potential to identify targeted therapeutics to match their individual genetic profile to better determine how each individual’s cancer will progress and specify which treatments will work most effectively. Professor Rob Sutherland, Director of The Kinghorn Cancer Centre said, “The Kinghorn Cancer Centre’s approach to personalised medicine places the patient at the centre of all decisions, maximising
The $128 million Centre has been funded through a $70 million Federal Government grant from the Health and Hospital Fund as well as major philanthropic support. The Centre incorporate several sophisticated technological and design-firsts that will transform both care delivery as well as the research undertaken.
he Garvan Institute of Medical Research’s Dr Alex Swarbrick showing Prime Minister T Julia Gillard breast cancer cells under the microscope.
Celebrating decades of cancer research support Thirty-five years ago, a little Perth girl was diagnosed with leukaemia. Her name was Jennifer Harper and she was nine years old. When her father Peter discovered that there was no research into children’s leukaemia in WA, he set out to raise funds for this purpose. Together with other parents of children with cancer, and with the support of Princess Margaret Hospital for Children, the Children’s Leukaemia and Cancer Research Foundation (CLCRF) was formed. Jennifer inspired the creation of the Foundation, but she did not win her fight against leukaemia. She died in 1978. In 1983, the Children’s Leukaemia & Cancer Research Laboratory was established on the children’s hospital (PMH) campus and in 1984, Swiss-born scientist Dr Ursula Kees was recruited from the German Cancer Institute to head up the research laboratory. When the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research was established in 1990, Dr Kees was appointed to head the Institute’s cancer research team and the CLCRF’s Laboratory was relocated to the Institute. Today, the CLCRF continues to generously fund seven of the 20 childhood cancer researchers at the Telethon Institute. Foundation Chairman Geoff Cattach has been involved since the beginning. It was his own son being diagnosed with leukaemia just before his third birthday that sparked his commitment to the Foundation. “This was the impetus to get involved and over time, and being a little old fashioned, I vowed to see it through to a position where it would not falter and the research work would continue into the future,” says Geoff. Geoff’s dream for the Foundation is to find a foolproof cure for all children’s cancers. Establishing the lab has helped to build a world-class cancer team in Perth, not only in research but clinical care too. “Our researchers provided the scientific backup that encouraged Dr Michael Willoughby to come to Perth (from the UK) to head up the Oncology Department at PMH,” explains Geoff. “And the research team was instrumental in the establishment of the bone marrow transplant program and treatment protocols at PMH – equal to anything in the world.”
ounder of the Children’s leukaemia and cancer research foundation Peter Harper (right) F with Chairman Geoff Cattach.
achievement has been the establishment of the laboratory and being able to raise funds to provide security of tenure for the scientists over the last 30 years. He says moving the laboratory from the hospital campus to the Institute has been a highlight for the Foundation, which celebrated 30 years of support in 2010. “The collaboration between our two organisations has been wonderful over many years and we hope that this will continue in the future,” says Geoff. “We are here for the benefit of our children, not only here in WA but around the world.” Professor Ursula Kees, head of the CLCRF cancer research team at the Telethon Institute, said the Foundation has made a vital contribution to finding the answers to
the major questions which still challenge childhood cancer doctors and researchers. She congratulated the Foundation for raising more than $19.8M during the past 30 years for childhood cancer research. Professor Kees said that as a result of the extraordinary fundraising efforts of the Foundation, her team had always been able to use the latest technology. “In 1983, I made a list of equipment for the laboratory,” Professor Kees explains. “One of the most expensive items on my list was a liquid nitrogen tank. Back then, no-one at the hospital or in research labs in WA used such tanks. That very tank was in operation for more than 20 years, a very good investment. Now the Institute has four such tanks.”
“According to the WA Cancer Registry, in 2008 there were 60 children under the age of 15 years diagnosed with cancer and other cancer-related conditions. Cancer at this age is a rare disease and annual variation in numbers and types is considerable. Leukaemias and lymphomas were most common.”
Geoff says the Foundation’s greatest
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Contained within that liquid nitrogen is Western Australia’s first Cancer Tissue Bank, which was developed at least ten years before any other was started for research in adult cancers. It contains several thousand tumour and leukaemia specimens from patients diagnosed at PMH. This outstanding collection of specimens is still used constantly today and forms an important part of our research. In 1984, Professor Kees’ team started using another new technology – growing cancer cells in the lab. “Because most patient specimens are very small, they do not provide enough material for our research,” says Professor Kees. “So we developed a method to keep the tumour cells alive in the laboratory so we could expand the cell numbers. “We have established what is probably the largest collection of such cell lines, from over 50 childhood cancer patients. These cell lines are a great asset for our studies, particularly to investigate resistance to the best cancer drugs.”
Today, the team is known internationally for their ability to grow cancer cells in the lab and the cell lines are in great demand by researchers around the globe. Professor Kees says that the Foundation’s funding has also enabled researchers to work more closely with the doctors, nurses and pharmacists in PMH’s Ward 3B. Working together, researchers and clinicians can select the best possible therapy for each patient, based on their knowledge of the individual patient’s disease. Following the sequencing of the Human Genome in 2000, new technologies became available which allow us to test 20,000 genes at the same time. These ‘array technologies’ are expensive, more than $2,000 per test, but we’ve been able to test our cell lines stored in liquid nitrogen as well as many patient samples.
identify the changes that lead to cancer or leukaemia, and to therapy resistance. While the cure rate for children with leukaemia or cancer has increased steadily over the past 50 years, and today is approximately 70%, drug resistance is still an important problem. However, with the support of the Children’s Leukaemia & Cancer Research Foundation, we can continue our current research of testing new approaches to overcome drug resistance and find better therapies for children with cancer. Thank you to the Foundation for your continued support of our cancer research. You really are helping to make a difference to the lives of those children, and their families, living with cancer.
Today, we are using what is called Next Generation Sequencing which generates information of unprecedented quality and provides detail on all 3 billion base pairs of genes. This research allows us to
National honour for infectious diseases researcher Associate Professor Deborah Lehmann has been recognised for her research dedicated to reducing serious chest and ear infections in children, with the award of Officer in the Order of Australia (AO). The Award was announced in the Queen’s Birthday honours list on June 11. Deborah leads the Telethon Institute of Child Health Research infectious diseases team, working on otitis media (middle ear infections), pneumococcal infections, the evaluation of swimming pools in remote Aboriginal communities and factors that contribute to lower respiratory tract infections. She said the award was an acknowledgment of the team effort of colleagues in Papua New Guinea and Australia, in particular at the Institute. “I enjoy working with a wonderful group of researchers who share the passion to make a difference in the health and wellbeing of children by doing excellent multi-disciplinary research in a friendly,
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supportive environment,” Deborah said. Telethon Institute Acting Director, Professor Moira Clay, said Deborah had made an enormous contribution with her determination to understand the causes of disease and ways to prevent them, particularly for Aboriginal children. “It is her research, evidence and advocacy that has supported the introduction of vaccines to protect against pneumococcal and Hib disease, and showed the health benefits of swimming pools in remote communities,” Professor Clay said. “These initiatives have resulted in a significant reduction in these life-threatening diseases in children, particularly for those in remote or disadvantaged areas. “She is also a generous mentor that models the highest scientific rigour and a great collaborator who brings together diverse groups of people for a concerted attack on a particular disease or issue.” Dr Lehmann has a medical degree and a Masters degree from the University of London. She spent 17 years in Papua New Guinea (PNG) where she Deborah Lehmann with Riley
headed the Pneumonia Research Program of the PNG Institute of Medical Research, undertaking studies of the epidemiology of respiratory infections and trials of pneumococcal and Hib vaccines. In 1998, Deborah moved to the Telethon Institute where amongst many achievements, she led the Institute’s Capacity Building Grant that consisted entirely of Indigenous team investigators. Deborah is also the recipient of the Public Health Association of Australia Community Award, the Telethon Institute’s Consumer and Community Participation Award and the Fiona Stanley Medal for Research.
Future scientists getting a head start via the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program A program in Melbourne is helping to harness the energy and enthusiasm of aspiring young scientists in their undergraduate years. Through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), students from the second year of their undergraduate degree onwards can join research teams as casual employees. In this way, UROP gives participants the chance to experience life as a researcher alongside their continuing studies. For the brightest students, undergraduate years are a time when their eyes are opened to research findings but they have few or no opportunities to be directly involved in research themselves – that chance usually has to wait for honours or postgraduate courses. An employment scheme, with educational objectives, UROP provides an opportunity for students to support themselves via meaningful work that is related to their course and interests. With positions lasting a minimum of six months, student participants find mentors, make networks and get thoroughly involved with the research of the groups they join. Increasingly, UROP is being used to develop a cohort of scientists with specialist skills. This has become particularly important as the rapid impact of computational approaches in scientific research is felt across the sector. UROP is playing a significant role in attracting computing and mathematics students to health and biomedical research.
Since 2004, over 400 students have passed through the scheme. Many success stories have resulted – here are a few vignettes of outstanding researchers who started out in UROP:
“I found myself in a totally fabulous research environment under the wing of a wonderful mentor who gradually introduced me to his world.” Kyle Slater, Bionics Institute: Kyle was appointed to a UROP placement that was a three-way collaboration between the Bionic Ear Institute, Cochlear Implant Clinic and the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of Melbourne. He was given the task of writing software designed to assess the perception of speech, with the aim of streamlining testing by clinicians at
the Cochlear Implant Clinic at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital. Kyle could not have imagined how soon he would start to make a difference in the clinical diagnosis and management of hearing loss. On returning from a threemonth overseas trip, he learnt that the draft of ‘discoLinga’ he left with Cochlear Implant Clinic Co-ordinator, Rod Hollow, was in wide use by the local audiologists. Today, they all use it. “UROP completely changed my career direction, and, in that sense, my life. Previously, I had been sure from an early age that I wanted to be an engineer. The UROP scheme and my supervisor Dr David Grayden supported the transition to research.” Kyle has stayed on at the Bionics Institute, where he is now enrolled in a PhD. In the meantime, he has won an international engineering prize for a directional sound detection device. Caroline Lin Lin Chua, Royal Melbourne Hospital: Caroline was a third year immunology student when she joined UROP. Her early experience of malaria research strengthened her determination to proceed along the research path. “I found myself in a totally fabulous research environment under the wing of a wonderful mentor who gradually introduced me to his world.”
Caroline’s competence is striking: after her UROP experience, 6 months of Caroline’s honours project the following year was spent in Papua New Guinea setting up sample collection, training nurses, community liaison officers, drivers and clinical staff for her study on how malaria infection in pregnant women leads to babies with low birth weight. Supervisor Professor Phillipe Boeuf has high praise for Caroline: “Seeing Caroline grow from timid UROP student to seasoned researcher and being able to play an active role in this evolution has been the highlight of my career so far. I couldn’t have dreamt of a better UROP, Honours and PhD student.”
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Caroline has continued her studies in this field and is today nearing completion of her PhD. Dr Slave Petrovski, University of Melbourne: Slave entered UROP during his combined degree in science and information systems. He was matched to a position with Professor Terry O’Brien, an expert in epilepsy research at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, where he joined BioGrid, a multi-partner project designed to link clinical data in institutions around Australia. With his understanding of human biology as well as computing, Slave was able to provide a link between doctors and programmers. He went on to combine information about the genetics of Dr Elena Tucker epilepsy patients, their brain imaging and psychological information, to design a test that could help doctors determine the best treatment approach in newly mutations in genes that cause disease diagnosed patients with epilepsy. Slave of the mitochondria, the power-houses has now completed his PhD and has of cells. Mitochondrial disease is serious already made an international mark and often fatal and Elena’s approach in the use of genome sequencing to has the potential for a new, more rapid identify the causes of and convenient diagnostic common and disabling technique for the disease. “Just think what community diseases. Accolades not only boost an amazing the young researchers’ “UROP made a connection investment careers and their chances of that I could not have made. It decision it is attracting research funding, was clearly a critical stepping but also provide validation stone at an early stage in to kick start of the value of schemes my career.” a brilliant such as UROP. Elena Dr Elena Tucker, Royal young medical started her research career Children’s Hospital: Within researcher’s as a UROP student at St only a year of completing Vincent’s Institute of Medical career.” her PhD, Elena has already Research. She credits her won a series of awards for UROP experience of “actual her research, the most recent of which biomedical research” with setting her was a commendation in the 2012Victorian career on a laboratory research track. Premier’s Award for Health and Medical UROP is made available to the Victorian Research. Her commendation was biomedical research community by the received for her work at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute identifying Bio21 Cluster, Victoria’s leading biomedical
Caroline Lin Lin Chua in Papua New Guinea
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and health sciences research cluster, with the assistance of its two Principal Sponsors, CSL and the Victorian Life Sciences Computation Initiative (VLSCI) and its Supporting Sponsor, the Victorian Government. The Cluster welcomes further support of UROP through philanthropic donations specifically to provide individual UROP positions. In the words of the Patron of UROP, Mr Simon McKeon AO, 2011 Australian of the Year: “Just think what an amazing investment decision it is to kick start a brilliant young medical researcher’s career. It’s like turning on a tap of unlimited potential to improve our health and wellbeing…” If you would like to support a UROP position and help get a young scientist started on their career, please contact the UROP Manager, Dr Michelle Zajac: firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone (03) 8344 2199
Dr Slave Petrovski
Editor’s Corner Who can put an article in Grass Roots? Grass Roots 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? Our Summer edition will be published in February 2013 and the article submission deadline is January 30, 2013. Articles should be no more than 1000 words long and please provide one photo (with subtitles) and logo to accompany the article.
Sydney 2013 – Philanthropy Conference The next conference will be held in Sydney during August 2013 and Mary Woolley President and CEO of Research America will be our keynote speaker. We are currently developing the program for 2013 and our CEO Elizabeth Foley will be visiting the US later this year to look for interesting and innovative areas that could be featured at our conference. And of course, we have a number of sponsorship opportunities, so please contact Nick Koerbin on email@example.com or 03 96629419 for more information.
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