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Spring into action

03 Labor and Medical Research – Investing in the future

04 The Coalition’s proud record supporting H&MR

05 Green industries hit ‘a hole in one’ for cancer research

07 New clinical trial to fight kids’ brain tumours

08 Clive Berghofer makes record breaking donation to QIMR

09 Can vitamin D prevent multiple sclerosis?

10 Improved screening drives

better health outcomes for rural children

11 New Auburn Clinical School Opens

12 Multimillion-dollar boost to brain diseases with opening of new research facility

13 Vaccine prevention of middle ear infection in children

14 ChIPS: A peer support group

helping young people living with chronic illness

15 Recovery on the HORYZON 16 UWS researcher receives accolade


for Chinese Medicine research

17 Australian-Indonesian partnership yields practical solution to sanitation problems


Editor’s Corner



Spring 2013

Springing into action Cook For A Cure, the Philanthropy Conference and a Federal Election Campaign; what more can we fit into August. How about the Spring Edition of grassROOTS! In June, Health and Medical Research got the recognition it deserves, with The Hon. Tanya Plibersek M.P. having her portfolio name changed to Minister for Health and the Minister for Medical Research. We asked the Minister and The Hon. Peter Dutton to give us their views on Health and Medical research, to feature in this edition of grassROOTS magazine. This quarter, Research Australia has been very actively lobbying against a $2,000 cap on self-education expenses as a tax deduction. Such a cap unfairly disadvantages many health and medical researchers who attend overseas conferences at their own expense to share their results, and learn about the latest research from their international colleagues. And the Government has listened, with the recent announcement that the imposition of the cap would be delayed for a year. Cook For A Cure is running in August, featuring 10 new projects, including brain, ovarian and bowel cancer projects, healthy bones, better gluten free bread, improving care for stroke patients, helping kids with hearing loss, MS, food safety and severe asthma. Cook For A Cure seeks to increase the broader community’s awareness of the value of health and medical research. We have a number of Members of both State and Federal Parliaments involved with running events, as well as schools.


Collaboration For Better Health Philanthropy for Health & Medical Research

Conference 2013



 he Hon. Peter Dutton, Christine T Bennett, Chair, Research Australia & The Hon. Tanya Plibersek M.P.


Tuesday 20th and Wednesday 21st August, 2013 Amora Hotel Jamison, Sydney

Gold Partner

Silver Partner

You can still book into our Philanthropy Conference in Sydney on August 20–21. The program of speakers is outstanding, HEALTH and there are sessions for both those


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seeking funding and those giving funds. In particular, for the first time we will be looking at the question of judging impact, and how explaining this will assist both givers and askers. Ita Buttrose AO, OBE is the guest speaker at the conference dinner, and Mary Woolley President and CEO of Research America, will be talking about living in the sequestration era in the USA. This year we have had over 30 nominations for the Research Australia awards. Our

board will be going through the difficult task of selecting whom the awards will be given to this year. I hope you will be able to join us at our awards night in Melbourne this year on November 13. The spring edition of grassROOTS sees a broad range of articles, from our Health Minister and Shadow Health Minister, to the opening of new clinical schools, winning awards in China, and clinical trials to fight children’s brain tumours. I hope you enjoy the read. Elizabeth Foley Chief Executive Officer Research Australia

Spring 2013

Labor and Medical Research – Investing in the future Australia has long boasted some of the best scientists, researchers and medical pioneers. Their successes have meant less disease, better care and prevention, and improved quality of life and longevity for Australians – and the rest of the world. Over time, this incredible work has driven the fundamental repurposing of our health system – from a system of a century ago, focused on the management of devastating communicable diseases like polio, smallpox and tuberculosis, to one now facing up to similarly threatening non-communicable diseases like diabetes, dementia and cancer. A concrete measure of the great progress is found at the recently opened NeuRA building in Sydney, built on the grounds of the former chest wards of the Prince of Wales Hospital – chest wards that are no longer needed because medical research found a treatment for tuberculosis. Labor Governments have a proud record in advancing health care in this country. We have championed the creation of a health care system that is accessible, affordable and world-class. We also recognise the fundamentally important role that health and medical research plays in that advancement. Labor in government has invested in medical research at record levels. Since 2008, we have provided $3.5 billion for ground-breaking medical research across Australia. Since October 2012, we have committed funding of nearly $802 million for 1,309 grants to ensure that Australian researchers stay at the cutting edge of health and medical research. And now, for the first time, health and medical research has a seat at the Cabinet table. I am proud to be Australia’s first Federal Minister of Medical Research, and I admire health and medical research. I love its optimism. I love its doggedness. I love its focus. I love its tradition of self-effacing public service. The Labor Government is committed to health and medical research and we recognise that if we are to meet the challenges facing the future of our health system, then it is not enough to simply rest on our past achievements. A better health system will rely on research more and more, so we can make evidence

based policy decisions in health more readily – better services, better treatments and better preventive measures. That is why Labor, despite the continuing tight fiscal environment, has committed to increasing funding for NHMRC to a record $814 million in 2016/17. This figure is almost 25 per cent higher than the annual investment in the NHMRC by the previous government in 2007. Through our nation-building Health and Hospitals Fund, the Labor Government has also committed $700 million to building and upgrading health and medical research and training facilities across Australia. Health and medical research is also an important economic driver. Our national economy benefits from research findings that lead to the development of innovative new industries, as well as productivity benefits through better health outcomes. Labor’s investment in medical research has contributed to medicines becoming Australia’s biggest research-intensive export, worth around $4 billion each year. This investment is helping to build a stronger, more competitive and productive economy.

Labor Governments have a proud record in advancing health care in this country. We have championed the creation of a health care system that is accessible, affordable and world-class. So it’s big business. It’s also, of course, big ideas – a natural place for our best and brightest minds to dedicate themselves to making a real difference to the health and wellbeing of the community. But I think probably its most important benefit, though a less tangible one, is that it offers hope. The kind of hope that MS sufferers feel when they walk into the Brain and Mind Research Institute at the University of Sydney to see their doctor – a place they see the very researchers who are working on their disease, searching for that breakthrough that could change their lives.

The Hon. Tanya Plibersek M.P. Minister for Health, Minister for Medical Research. Member for Sydney

In May 2011, Labor announced a major independent review of health and medical research in Australia. The McKeon Review – “Better Health Through Research” – focused on optimising Australia’s capacity to produce world class health and medical research to 2020. It found that while Australia has one of the world’s best performing health systems, that we need new strategies and processes to drive improvements in healthcare delivery through a renewed and fully integrated health and medical research sector. The McKeon Review offers a roadmap – a way forward: – T  o give health and medical research a greater role in delivering evidence-based health care; – T  o better connect health and medical research and the delivery of continuously improving health care services, making research a natural part of healthcare delivery; and – T  o get the best return on the Government’s investment in research – so that it delivers the greatest economic and social value for the nation.

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The overarching vision of the Review is embedding health and medical research into all aspects of the health system. This is because health services that conduct research deliver better health outcomes for patients. Labor wholeheartedly endorses this approach and I will be outlining our initial response to the Review in the near future. These policies will build on Labor’s achievements in the sector, recognising that we cannot stand still on this issue. With the release of the McKeon Review, the Labor Government reaffirmed its commitment to health and medical research and the pivotal role research

will play in building a world-class health system. Supporting health and medical research makes good health sense. It makes good business sense. It makes good economic sense. It ticks all the boxes in terms of good policy and good government by delivering better health outcomes, generating national wealth and encouraging innovation.

our health and wellbeing, while helping to reduce the burden of disease on the hospital system.

But it’s the impact that health and medical research has on society – on people – where I see its real value.

New cures, less sickness and disease, greater health prevention, better care, improved treatments, better medicines – these all derive from the successes of our researchers.

Innovative thinking, informed by the best evidence, can have significant benefits for

In turn, they translate into improved quality of life for all Australians.

The Federal Coalition’s proud record supporting H&MR The Coalition has a proud record of supporting health and medical research when in government and we have continued our strong advocacy of the sector in Opposition. We stood with researchers and the sector to stare down the Labor Government’s planned $400 million cut in the 2011 Budget. In Government we provided a five-fold increase in funding. It was a solid investment that will continue to pay dividends in the form of new clinical treatments, a more productive and efficient health system, high-skilled employment opportunities and long-term benefits for our economy. In recent times, the McKeon Review has undertaken important work in comprehensively assessing the state of the sector and providing a path forward. The Coalition has already made a number of initial policy announcements informed by the findings of that review.

The Hon.. Peter Dutton


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Australia has had many achievements, a number of Noble Laureates and an impressive publication rate. The mooted Labor cuts in recent years have damaged confidence and jeopardised projects. We want to build on our country’s record, not undermine it. Despite the Government’s dire fiscal position, the Coalition has committed to providing funding certainty for health and medical research to ensure we continue to have successes into the future and to provide some career stability for researchers,

particularly those just starting out. The Coalition is also committed to reducing the red tape burden across government. Our red tape reduction efforts apply to the health and medical research sector as well. We want to make it easier for our finest minds to focus on what they do best – developing new drugs for treatment and finding new cures, not filling out complex and large amounts of paperwork. Tony Abbott and I have announced that if elected, the Coalition will streamline the grant application process, including simplifying the grant applications themselves and better integrating the process with that used by the Australian Research Council. Essentially, we want to reduce the length and detail of NHMRC grant applications to just the core, necessary elements. We will also simplify the NHMRC’s grant assessment process. This will provide an ‘early triage’ of grant applications. Assessment panels would review new, smaller applications before sending them to external reviewers. This will ease the load on those responsible for the grant reviewing

Spring 2013

process and will assist in providing a more timely assessment of new applications. As part of our plan, the Coalition will move to expedite a nationally consistent approach to the clinical trials, including in relation to ethics review processes. This will make it easier for researchers and hopefully provide faster access to innovative new treatments for patients.

Finally, we support the transition towards research grants that have longer timeframes. As has been increasingly acknowledged, high quality research is becoming increasingly complex to perform. Increasing the average grant timeframes closer to five years will better accommodate this complexity and allow for greater career certainty.

These initiatives build on the Coalition’s strong track record of support for health and medical research. Our health system faces many well cited challenges in terms of chronic disease and an ageing population. To ensure our health system remains sustainable into the future we must continue to support a strong and stable health and medical research sector.

Green industries hit ‘a hole in one’ for cancer research Nursery & landscape philanthropists donate to Ingham Institute cancer research programs to leave a legacy. A group of philanthropists from NSW’s nursery and landscaping industry recently presented the Ingham Institute with a cheque for over $6000, making a much-needed contribution to the Institute’s cancer research programs. The cheque was presented by key members of the Nursery & Garden Industry NSW & ACT (NGINA) and the Landscape NSW & ACT Ltd (LNA), signifying proceeds from the Green Industries Charity Golf Day held on April 12. The event saw over 75 participants ‘teeing off’ and completing the eighteen-hole course and Muirfield Golf Course in North Rocks, NSW. The event was held to honour the late Mike Skegg, the former CEO of NGINA who lost his battle with cancer last year. Event organiser Bob Wynyard, from NGINA, was delighted with the outcome of the event and selected the Ingham Institute as the chosen charity for the highly specialised and unique work that they are doing in the area of cancer research. “We wanted to donate to an organisation with a big cancer research focus to leave a legacy to Mike and help other people affected by the disease,” said Mr Wynyard. “That is not just doing, but applying the research to make a real difference to cancer treatment and patient survival. With this in mind the Ingham Institute was the obvious choice.” “Michael would have been very proud that the money raised is going to such a worthy cause and will benefit people like him in the

I ngham Institute, COO, A/Prof Greg Kaplan, NGINA, Business Skills Development Officer, Bob Wynyard, NGINA, Maree Curran, LNA, Executive Officer, Joanne Aquilina, Ingham Institute, Research Director, Prof Michael Barton OAM.

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I ngham Institute, MRI Linac Research Project.

future,” added Charlotte Skegg, wife of the late Mike Skegg. The Ingham Institute is certainly leading the way as an innovator in cancer research. Headlining this innovation is the, much heralded, Ingham Institute MRI-Linac cancer research project. Projected

The Ingham Institute is certainly leading the way as an innovator in cancer research. Headlining this innovation is the, much heralded, Ingham Institute MRI-Linac cancer research project. to launch in late 2014, the MRI-Linac effectively combines an MRI scanner with a Linac Accelerator dedicated to cancer research, with plans for the technology to be used and applied specifically to patient treatment in the future. One of only three in the world and a first for Australia at the Ingham Institute, Chief Investigator of the Ingham Institute Australian MRI-Linac Research Project Professor Paul Keall, who began his cancer research career at Sydney’s Liverpool Hospital who was brought over from Stanford University in the USA to lead the project, said that the MRI-Linac represents a game changer for cancer research in Australia.


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“Current treatments don’t take into account changes that can occur to the location and shape of tumours, which move as a result of breathing, swallowing and other normal body changes. The MRI-Linac will enable us to target the tumour with the radiation beam much more accurately in real-time, and have greater control over the radiation dose,” explained Professor Keall. “Once the MRI-Linac is operational it will set a new benchmark for cancer treatment in Australia, with the potential to dramatically reduce side effects and improve patient cancer treatment outcomes in over 50 per cent of all cancer patients.” The first phase of the project, the MRILinac prototype, is progressing rapidly, with the Ingham Institute bringing over the best talent worldwide to work on it, including Senior MR Physicist Dr Gary Liney from the UK. The Linac component of the technology (from Varian) is due to arrive in September and the MRI scanner (from Agilent) is currently being built in the UK and is due to be ready for testing and clinical trials by mid 2014, with the final version of the technology forecasted to be completed by 2020.

house the MRI-Linac combined with the best medical and scientific minds working on the project will cement the Institute as one of the most advanced cancer research hubs in Australia.” The Ingham Institute is the leading translational research facility in South West Sydney. Located at Liverpool Hospital, the Ingham Institute is supported by Founding Benefactor Bob Ingham (AO) and Lady (Mary) Fairfax (AC, OBE). The Institute undertakes medical research that specifically addresses, and can be applied to, the needs of the local population and wider Australia to create hope through health research. For further information please visit

Ingham Institute Research Director Professor Michael Barton OAM said that the MRI-Linac represents a unique opportunity for the Ingham Institute to shine in the spotlight in terms of delivering best practice for radiation treatment across a range of cancer types. “The fact that the Ingham Institute will be the first medical research institute in Australia to pioneer the MRI-Linac speaks volumes,” said Professor Barton. The Institute’s unique facilities including the high-tech Research Bunker that will

Paul Keall

Spring 2013

New clinical trial to fight kids’ brain tumours

An Australian-first clinical trial, which aims to protect children’s bone marrow while they are having chemotherapy to treat malignant brain tumours, has been launched at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, thanks to sustained support from The Kids’ Cancer Project. After 14 years of research, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead is using gene therapy in childhood cancer to allow for the protection of bone marrow while using higher doses of chemotherapy. The trial is the result of a tireless commitment from the Children’s Cancer Research Unit at the Kids Research Institute, the research arm of The Children’s Hospital at Westmead. It would also not have been possible without generous financial support, including more than $4 million from The Kids’ Cancer Project (formerly the Oncology Children’s Foundation). Kids’ Cancer Project CEO, Peter Neilson, said: “This is another example of how the Kids’ Cancer Project is focused on achievements and results to beat this insidious disease.” The Sporting Chance Foundation and RadPharm also made integral contributions.

“Our funding is aimed at childhood cancers with the lowest survival rates. Almost half the children with these types of cancer lose their battle. “We hope our contribution will help dramatically shrink this frightening figure.”

Senior Staff Specialist at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead’s Oncology Unit, Dr Geoff McCowage, said: “This innovative treatment opens the door for better treatment for children fighting some of the most serious and life threatening tumours.

“We are optimistic, but cautious. This is the first step along a difficult road.

we were told there were no other treatment options so we turned to the trial.

“This is a phase one trial, where we aim to establish the safety and the feasibility of the gene therapy and its potential long-term benefits for other paediatric conditions involving bone marrow.

“Erin is now approaching one year post radiation and she is symptom free, enjoys a good quality of life and feels hopeful and confident about her future.”

“Although we proceed with caution, it’s very exciting to have reached this stage and we are hopeful for what lies ahead.” Brain tumours in children have been historically very difficult to treat because the chemotherapy drugs used have toxic side effects and can destroy healthy bone marrow cells. This leaves the child susceptible to infections. Higher doses could be more effective in treating lethal tumours, however, up until now the toxicities have limited the drug doses that can be used. The aim of the gene therapy is to increase the level of Methyl-Guanine Methyl Transferase (MGMT) in bone marrow, so higher doses of chemotherapy can be given to the child. This is done by inserting a specific gene into the patient’s cells. MGMT is a natural occurring substance which protects cells from chemotherapy drugs such as temozolomide. Children taking part in the trial have a very poor prognosis and would have exhausted all other conventional treatment options. Although in its early stages, the trial is showing positive signs. Erin Griffin, 12, was enrolled in the trial last year after she was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), a fatal brain tumour. The size of her tumour has since decreased. Erin’s mum Amanda said: “When Erin finished radiation therapy last September,

The ongoing support from The Kids’ Cancer Project has been crucial to the longevity of the relationship and highlights the essential role of partnerships in philanthropy and medical research. Associate Professor Jennifer Byrne, Head of the Children’s Cancer Research Institute, said: “This trial would not have been possible without philanthropic support and The Kids’ Cancer Project has underpinned the trial every step of the way. “We are extraordinarily fortunate to have their sustained support.” The fruition of the Cancer Gene Therapy Trail is the result of unwavering efforts from a number of dedicated professionals. Below is a brief look at just a few of them.

Dr Geoff McCowage – Senior Staff Specialist, Oncology Unit Dr McCowage initiated the program. Combined with the strong science behind the proposed strategy, Dr McCowage was inspired by the possibility of improving outcomes for children with highly malignant, and difficult to treat brain tumours. “This innovative treatment opens the door for better treatment for children fighting some of the most serious and life threatening tumours.”

Professor Ian Alexander – Head of the Gene Therapy Research Unit Professor Alexander is an expert in gene delivery to the haematopoietic stem cell compartment, having initiated the first gene therapy trial in Australia in 2002.

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This trial concerned the immunodeficiency disease X-linked SCID. Along with Dr Belinda Kramer (below), Prof Alexander is responsible for the design and development of the Cancer Gene Therapy Trial vector, and the trial protocol.

Cancer Research Unit in 1998, Dr Kramer has dedicated her time exclusively to making the Cancer Gene Therapy Trial a reality. Dr Kramer worked on earlier versions of the trial vector until work with current vector began in 2005.

“The amazing staff and state-of-the-art facilities at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, and generous financial support, have combined to make this possible.”

“It’s an absolute thrill to be at this stage of the trial.”

Dr Belinda Kramer – Senior Hospital Scientist Since transferring from the Bone Marrow Transplant laboratory to the Children’s

Peter Neilson – CEO, Kids’ Cancer Project The Kids’ Cancer Project (KCP) is an Australian charity that funds research programs dedicated to finding cures for childhood cancer. The KCP has been

a major supporter of the Cancer Gene Therapy Trial, donating more than $4 million to ensure integral research could continue. “This (funding) is another example of how the Kids Cancer Project is focused on achievements and results to beat this insidious disease.” For more information, or to arrange an interview, please contact Kate Symons, Public Relations at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, at or on (02) 9845 3586.

Clive Berghofer makes record breaking donation to QIMR Toowoomba businessman Clive Berghofer AM has announced he will give $50.1 million dollars to QIMR, making him one of Australia’s most generous philanthropists. Mr Berghofer has previously donated more than $10 million to QIMR, which named its Cancer Research Centre in his honour in 2001. QIMR Director Professor Frank Gannon said this new donation made Mr Berghofer one of Australia’s biggest individual contributors to medical research. “Simply put, Clive Berghofer is a truly great Australian. He has single-handedly transformed medical research in Australia and we will all benefit from his generosity,” Professor Gannon said. “Clive Berghofer has recognised that QIMR is a world-leader across cancer, infectious diseases and mental health and complex disorders. Our research can only go from strength to strength with financial backing on this scale. “This is a remarkable vote of confidence in our work, and a mark of the man.”


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As a sign of gratitude, and in recognition of Mr Berghofer’s long history of support, QIMR will now be known as the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute. “We don’t change our name lightly, but cannot possibly continue our world-class research without recognising the important contribution of one man,” Professor Gannon said. “We hope Clive’s actions inspire other Australians to follow, to invest in medical research which has the power to transform our lives for the better.” Professor Gannon said the funds provided a great platform of security to support current and future research and invest in the latest technologies. “The funds will be used to enable us to continue our cutting edge research. They will enable us to expand our recruitment program, provide strong support for students, and ensure our staff have stateof-the-art equipment.” Clive Berghofer is a Toowoomba based property developer and philanthropist. Despite leaving school at 13 with few prospects, he went on to be listed as one of the top 200 richest people in Australia. In 2006 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for his service to the community through philanthropic support of medical research, sporting

and educational organisations. One of the QIMR Berghofer’s Medical Research Institute’s three buildings is the Clive Berghofer Cancer Research Centre, a state of the art research facility named in his honour in 2001. Clive Berghofer has also made sizeable contributions to Careflight, Red Cross, St Vincent’s Hospital, Toowoomba Hospice and the University of Southern Queensland. The QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute is a world leading translational research institute focused on cancer, infectious diseases, mental health and a range of complex diseases. Working in close collaboration with clinicians and other research institutes, our aim is to improve health by developing new diagnostics, better treatments and prevention strategies. The QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute gratefully acknowledges the support of the Queensland Government. For more information about the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, visit

Spring 2013

Can vitamin D prevent multiple sclerosis? A world-first trial in Australia and New Zealand is set to find out. There is now little doubt among researchers and clinicians that vitamin D deficiency plays a significant role in the development of multiple sclerosis (MS). However, solid evidence for the benefits of vitamin D supplementation in MS is lacking. Now with the combined support of philanthropists, state MS organisations and individual donors, Multiple Sclerosis Research Australia has commenced the PrevANZ vitamin D MS prevention trial. available medications, Australia and New Zealand are uniquely placed to conduct a trial to get the necessary evidence. Over the last several years MS Research Australia has worked closely with world-leading Australian researchers, to develop this trial.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a progressive, chronic disease of the brain and spinal cord. It is the most frequent neurological disease in young and middle-aged adults in developed countries, affecting 23,000 Australians and over 2.5 million people world-wide. MS is a complex and unpredictable disease with varying symptoms including eyesight problems, fatigue, pain, reduced mobility and memory and thinking changes. There is no cure, however, the last decade has seen the introduction of several drugs that reduce the frequency of relapses, resulting in less unpredictability in the early stages of the disease. There are currently no treatments for the progressive forms of the disease. MS most commonly strikes between 20 and 40 years of age and three out of four people with MS are women. Thus, MS tends to strike people in their most productive years, devastating careers, family, and social life. Finding a means to prevent the development of MS in people at high risk would have a far-reaching impact for both individuals and society.

Vitamin D and MS, what is the evidence? The first clue that vitamin D may play a role in MS, came with the identification that the risk of MS increases the further away someone lives from the equator. This is seen even within Australia, with Tasmanians six times more likely to develop MS than Queenslanders. The most likely factor responsible is the difference in ultraviolet (UV) light which regulates synthesis of vitamin D in the skin. This is supported by the observation that other factors related to sun exposure, such as sun damage to the skin and outdoor occupations, are also associated with a lower risk of developing MS. A large Australian study of people presenting with a first episode of symptoms suggestive of MS, known as clinically isolated syndrome, showed that low vitamin D levels predicted a second episode and a diagnosis of clinically

Dr Matthew Miles, Chief Executive Officer of MS Research Australia said, “Australia and New Zealand can really have an impact in this field. We owe it to the international MS community to make this trial count and produce a definitive outcome that will fill a treatment gap for people in the earliest stages of MS and inform the future international guidelines for vitamin D supplementation in MS.”  rofessor Bruce Taylor of the Menzies P Research Institute Tasmania

definite MS. A large study of people in the US military also showed that low vitamin D levels could predict subsequent development of MS. Low levels of vitamin D are also associated with increased disease severity and higher relapse rates in people with established MS. Genes involved in the metabolism of Vitamin D have been implicated in susceptibility to MS and Vitamin D is also known to regulate the activity of many of the other MS risk factor genes.

Can vitamin D supplementation prevent MS? As a result of this evidence, there is widespread interest in vitamin D supplementation amongst both doctors and patients in the global MS community. However, there is as yet no evidence from rigorously conducted clinical trials of the benefits and safety of vitamin D supplementation in MS and there is confusion about the optimum dosage or blood levels required to achieve beneficial effects. With a critical mass of expertise in Australia and New Zealand regarding vitamin D and MS, and patients with clinically isolated syndrome not generally eligible for currently

This will be a world-first trial with the statistical power and comprehensive design required to definitively answer the three vital questions of safety, dose and efficacy of vitamin D to delay or prevent progression to clinically definite MS following a first episode of symptoms. It will be a randomised, placebo-controlled trial meaning that patients will be randomly assigned to receive one of three doses, or a “placebo”- or a dummy pill and neither doctor nor patient will know which dose they are to be given. This “gold standard” trial design provides the best opportunity to compile data which is scientifically meaningful and can be held up to any scrutiny. Sun exposure and dietary vitamin D intake will also be accounted for to enable accurate assessment of the impact of vitamin D supplementation.

 ssociate Professor Helmut Butzkueven A of the University of Melbourne

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Mr Marcus Stafford, Chief Executive Officer of the MS Society of Western Australia said, “We are strong believers in funding research to find the cause and cure of MS, and this year MSWA has contributed a record amount. For the second year, we’ve invested funds into the Vitamin D study because we believe that it will provide important information to the global research and healthcare services community.” said Mr Stafford.

The first patients were recruited in July, with the trial set to run over three years and results expected in 2017. “This trial would not be possible without philanthropic support,” said Dr Miles, “The state MS organisations have been behind this trial from the start, however, it was a pivotal grant from the John T Reid Charitable Trusts that really got the ball rolling. This enabled us to leverage major donations from the MS societies, particularly the MS Society of Western Australia who have been instrumental as a funding partner, and other Foundations such as the Trish MS Research Foundation, Foundation 5 Million+ and the Clayton Utz Foundation.” Debbie Ashbolt, Executive Officer of the John T Reid Charitable Trusts said, “The Trustees of the John T Reid Charitable

 rof Bruce Taylor with Federal Member P for Franklin, The Hon. Julie Collins MP at the official launch of PrevANZ held in Hobart in December 2012

Trusts are proud to be a part of this important trial”

$2.8 million dollars of the total $3.5 million trial budget has been secured. “We are confident that we will reach our goal and achieve a fully enrolled trial of 240 patients for a statistically sound and conclusive result to the trial,” said Dr Miles For more information please visit

Improved screening drives better health outcomes for rural children A grant from the Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) is enabling rural health charity, Royal Far West to reach a better understanding of what affects children’s developmental outcomes. Royal Far West is a non-government organisation that has been providing health services to children living in rural and remote New South Wales for over 89 years. It works in partnership with families and their local health and education providers to complement existing services within the community. While the indigenous healthcare gap is well-recognised, less attention is paid to the rural-urban gap in health outcomes. Royal Far West works to bridge this gap. It uses an integrated clinical and educational model of care to help country children who have nonacute developmental, behavioural, learning, emotional and mental health disorders, and limited access to local services. The FaHCSIA grant allowed Royal Far West to enhance its screening tools and processes to better understand family circumstances. Such circumstances often include exposure to domestic violence, childhood sexual assault, parental mental health difficulties and alcohol, tobacco and other substance abuse. By managing a more holistic assessment of the child within the broader family context, Royal Far West is now able to increase support to families— either directly by referring them to their multidisciplinary team prior to their child’s first admission to Royal Far West, or by linking them with their local health services.


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and other agencies throughout the client journey.”

“Identifying important family information during the screening phase of the intake process enables us to offer appropriate support to vulnerable families prior to them attending our service,” said Caroline Harris, Intake Manager at Royal Far West. “This increases the effectiveness of our work with their children. We are able to better understand and respond to difficulties that may impact engagement or effective family-clinician partnerships within treatment plans.” The telephone screening questionnaire developed with FaHCSIA funding now provides summary data about issues experienced by clients and their families – including mental illness and levels of alcohol and tobacco consumption that exceed comparable state-wide data. According to the CEO of Royal Far West, Lindsay Cane: “Our evaluation shows that screening is a useful tool for identifying important contextual information about risk issues impacting on children. This knowledge helps us to work more smoothly with parents, carers

Targeted screening questions and strong processes give the Royal Far West clinical team a broader understanding of parental, carer and family difficulties. This in turn leads to the development of more targeted and achievable support plans. This is the first stage of a three-stage process to help families gain support as they tackle their health issues. The second stage helps parents and carers to build the knowledge and skills required to address their issues. The third stage further strengthens local community partnerships to assist families to better access local services. When surveyed about this approach, parents and carers stated they feel wellsupported by the Royal Far West clinicians and believe they now have greater access to local health care services as an outcome of talking about their problems. They particularly value practical skills and strategies that enable them to better help their children with their health needs, and to enhance their parenting capacity. For more information about this project or the broader activities of Royal Far West, please visit www.royalfarwest. or contact Jane Westley, Health Program Manager, on (02)8966 8530.

Spring 2013

New Auburn Clinical School Opens The new Auburn Clinical School that opened on Tuesday, 23 July 2013, is good news for the health workforce of Sydney’s south west and means residents will gain more local health services and skills, the Minister for Health and Minister for Medical Research, The Hon. Tanya Plibersek said, “It will train medical students from The University of Notre Dame Australia and will be a national centre for clinical research”. “The University of Notre Dame Australia’s new Auburn Clinical School was built with $11.5 million in support from the Australian Government’s nation-building Health and Hospitals Fund,” Ms Plibersek said. “Not only will this facility give students a great practical training experience, it also provides an opportunity for more interdisciplinary training for the local health workforce”.

The first floor has a lecture theatre, tutorial rooms, student common room, three overnight rooms for students and a break-out space.

The third floor houses extensive research facilities including two wet labs, a dry lab, a tissue culture room, sterilisation room and lab offices.

The second floor has academic offices, a student study room, three consulting rooms, a simulation lab and two student meeting rooms.

Media contact:
Leigh Dawson, University of Notre Dame: Tel (08) 9433 0569; Mob 0405 441 093

The School’s research facility includes a biostatistics centre to evaluate complex models of care, ambulatory care consulting rooms, two laboratories for microbiology and cell biology research for the training of medical students and hospital staff. Notre Dame medical students will also be given bedside training by staff at the adjoining Auburn Hospital. “The Australian Government’s health investments are producing more doctors and health professionals, new and improved hospitals and clinics, and more training places,” Minister Plibersek said. “The new clinical school in Auburn has been a very important local investment in Sydney’s southwest.” The lower-ground floor of the facility will accommodate an ambulance crib room and ambulance bay.

 Pictured left to right: Anthony Notaras; Mitchell Milanovic; Joe Jabbour; Christine Bennett; Hayden Ramsay; Celia Hammond; Tanya Plibersik; TerryTobin.

SAVE THE DATES Research Australia Events for 2013 • 3rd Annual Philanthropy for Health

and Medical Research Conference 20 – 21 August, 2013 Location: Amora Hotel Jamison, Sydney.

•R  esearch Australia’s Awards night

13 November, 2013, 6.30 – 10.30pm Location: Park Hyatt, Melbourne.

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Spring 2013

Multimillion-dollar boost to brain diseases with opening of new research facility Brain research in Australia has received a significant boost with the opening of a new $54 million research facility in Sydney.

The Margarete Ainsworth Building, the new home of leading medical research institute NeuRA (Neuroscience Research Australia), will be officially opened today by Federal Minister for Health and Minister for Medical Research, Tanya Plibersek, and NSW State Minister for Health and Minister for Medical Research, Jillian Skinner. The building is named in honour of major donor Margarete (Gretel) Ainsworth, businesswoman and wife of gaming magnate Len Ainsworth, in recognition of her generous $10 million gift. This is one of the largest single gifts given by a female philanthropist in Australian history. The Federal and State Governments have made significant grants for the construction of the building, as have other philanthropic individuals and organisations. Prof Peter Schofield, Executive Director and CEO of NeuRA, says: “This new facility will radically increase Australia’s capacity to conduct world-class research into brain and nervous system diseases.”

 illian Skinner MP (left) and The Hon.. Tanya Plibersek M.P. (right) congratulate J philanthropist Margarete Ainsworth (centre) on the opening of the Margarete Ainsworth Building at NeuRA

her and our other donors for giving so generously over the years to make the opening of this world-class facility possible. “With an ageing population there has never been a greater need for state-of-the-art facilities like these. With this building, we are bringing together the best minds in science to find cures for these conditions,” he says.

“Our challenge and goal is for neuroscience research to reduce the burden of neurological and psychiatric disorders, the healthcare requirements of which grow day by day,”

“Our challenge and goal is for neuroscience research to reduce the burden of neurological and psychiatric disorders, the healthcare requirements of which grow day by day,” he says.

The Margarete Ainsworth Building is the first stage of the neuroscience research precinct, which will become a hub for research and discoveries on diseases that affect the brain and nervous system.

“We are fortunate to have someone like Margarete and extend our gratitude to

Mrs Ainsworth says, “I feel one must help where one can. I have always supported


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mental illness as it is so terribly devastating to families.” The building consists of seven levels with a total gross floor area of approx. 8500sq metres. The plans include two floors of wet labs and one floor of dry labs, two floors of clinical research facilities, spacious office areas, an expansive atrium entry and staff amenities. The facility is also designed to house two sophisticated MRI scanners for both clinical and research imaging. Five levels of the building are either wholly or partially completed, with another two levels awaiting further funding to complete the fit out. The gift from Margarete Ainsworth will meet half of the cost of this fit out. The futuristic design of the building reflects the innovation and creative culture that thrives at NeuRA. We extend an open invitation to media outlets on the day. Media contact: Siobhan Moylan +61 406 599 569, or 02 9399 1271 to arrange interviews.

Spring 2013

Vaccine prevention of middle ear infection in children Professor Allan Cripps leads the Immunology Research Group in the Griffith Health Institute at Griffith University. He is recognised globally for his research in mucosal immunology of the respiratory tract and middle ear and for the development of new vaccination strategies for middle ear and acute lung infections. His research approach is characterised by a continuum between basic mechanistic and proof of concept studies to applied human studies and industry engagement. Professor Cripps has published 229 peer reviewed publications, 19 book chapters and made 23 patent applications, many of which have been granted. Pneumonia is the leading cause of death in children world-wide. Professor Cripps co-chaired the International Symposium on Pneumococci and Pneumococcal Disease (ISPPD) held in Alice Springs in 2006. Under his stewardship a position paper was developed at this meeting which ultimately lead to the Global Action Plan for the Prevention of Pneumonia and a new online peer reviewed journal pneumonia. Professor Cripps is the current Secretary of the ISPPD. Middle ear infection (otitis media) is the most frequent illness of infancy and early childhood in developed and developing nations. In Australia, for example, from 1993 – 2011 hospital admissions in New South Wales related to acute middle ear infection were approximately 20% in non-aboriginal children and between 30-40% in Aboriginal children. This mirrors data nationally from an audit of paediatric outpatient practice published in the Medical Journal of Australia. Acute middle ear infections can lead to perforations of the ear drum, hearing loss and, particularly in younger children, delayed speech development, reduced learning ability, and reduced social interaction (Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council, 2011). Antibiotic treatment does not change the course of disease and an effective poly-microbial vaccine is urgently needed. Professor Cripps has made an outstanding contribution to the global organisation of the otitis media medical and scientific community through the formation of the International Society for Otitis Media earlier this year. He also led the successful Australian bid to host the 19th International Conference on Otitis Media in 2017 on the Gold Coast, Australia. Currently available vaccines for the prevention of middle ear infections show limited efficacy. Over the past 20 years Professor Cripps’ research has focused on the characterisation of the pathogenesis of lung and middle ear infections, the identification of vaccine antigens and vaccine delivery systems, particularly

 Allan W Cripps BSc (Hons I) PhD FASM FAIMS, FIBS(UK) AFCHSM Professor, Griffith Health Institute, Griffith University, Gold Coast campus

mucosal delivery. Unmet challenges include extending protection to additional serotypes and additional pathogens, the need to prevent early episodes, the development of correlates of protection for protein antigens and new adjuvants to elicit responses in the youngest infants. Addressing these challenges is likely to be productive and permit more antigens to move into human clinical trials. Professor Cripps heads world class team spanning clinical and experimental immunology with the capacity to undertake studies to meet these challenges and deliver an affordable vaccine for the prevention of middle ear infections and potentially improve the efficacy for vaccination against pneumonia. Previous studies in Professor Cripps’ Unit have identified a suite of candidate antigens from the major pathogens that are protective in animal models of acute lung and middle ear infections. Current studies are focused on two approaches for the prevention of middle ear infections.

First, the development of a mucosal immunisation technology utilising antigen packed bacterial ‘ghosts’ that are able to bind to antigen sensing cells (M cell) in the Peyer’s patches of the intestine. Animal studies have demonstrated that no additional adjuvants are required to elicit protective responses. A mucosal vaccine has a distinct appeal given the number of injection ‘jabs’ that young children need under the National Immunisation Program schedule. Secondly, a parenteral vaccine utilising recombinant hepatitis B small antigen (HBsAg) virus like particles (VLPs) as the delivery template for defined T and B cell active peptides of Streptococcus pneumoniae, Moraxella catarrhalis and/or non typable Haemophilus influenzae. The strategy aims to present a dual vaccine against HBV infection and the major bacterial causes of otitis media. HBsAg is a proven safe molecule in current use as a vaccine and because of its particulate nature may obviate the use of additional adjuvants.

Acute middle ear infections can lead to perforations of the ear drum, hearing loss and, particularly in younger children, delayed speech development, reduced learning ability, and reduced social interaction Additional funding would significantly shorten the development of these vaccine approaches as they move forward into human trials. A vaccine for the prevention of middle ear infections would not only relieve the pain and suffering of children globally but have enormous economic benefit through decreasing parent absenteeism from work and most importantly give each child the opportunity to attain their best outcomes in life without the hindrance of hearing loss.

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Spring 2013

ChIPS: A peer support group helping young people living with chronic illness The Chronic Illness Peer Support program (ChIPS) commenced at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead in 2005. The program aims to help young people to adjust to life with a chronic illness so they may utilise and develop their own abilities, increase their level of control over their health, and be active members of their community. The generosity of a philanthropic donor, The Ottomin Charitable Foundation, has enabled researchers in the Academic Department of Adolescent Medicine to conduct research designed to evaluate how effective the program is in making a real difference to the lives of young people living with a chronic illness. “The ChIPS program relies on donated funds to continue and it is vitally important for the sustainability of the program that we demonstrate its effectiveness in supporting young people living with chronic illness. The research evidence we are generating from our evaluation will provide

 mily Klineberg, Peter Lewis, Katie E Moore, Susan Towns, Kate Steinbeck

a substantial evidence base demonstrating the effectiveness of the peer support strategies the ChIPS program can provide” says A/Prof Susan Towns, head of the Department of Adolescent Medicine at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead. “Supporting young people to meet the challenges of living with a chronic illness is our primary focus” says program coordinator, Katie Moore. “ChIPS participants share experiences, provide support to each other, can become peer leaders and mentors to the younger participants in the program and become powerful advocates


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for the needs of young people with chronic illness. The transition from childhood to adulthood can be a period of rapid and dramatic physical, psychological, and social change for young people. The process can be more difficult for young people who have a chronic illness than it is for their healthy peers. Living with a chronic illness often means more frequent hospital visits and hospital admissions, time consuming or complex management plans with subsequent time missed from school and being with friends which can result in social isolation. Providing social interaction, education and support are key elements to helping young people adjust to life with a chronic illness. The ChIPS program is delivered in two parts. First, participants join an eight week course to introduce them into the program. The course is co-facilitated by a health care professional and a ‘peer

leader’ – someone who has completed the eight week course, is interested in helping new members enter ChIPS and who is interested in running ChIPS on an ongoing basis. The introductory course provides a place for young people with a chronic illness to meet others in a similar situation, to explore their experiences, and to offer each other support and advice. Second, after they have completed the eight week course, participants in ChIPS also have the opportunity to develop leadership skills in their role as peer leaders within the program. ChIPS can help young people develop new social connections and maintain those they have already developed. It is

led by young people for the benefit of young people. Those who join the program have the opportunity to develop a strong rapport with other young people in a similar situation – those with whom they share a common experience. ChIPS also provides an emotionally safe environment – where young people can discuss their experiences, fears, and dreams – and a physically safe environment where nursing staff are on hand to care for their physical needs, especially if those needs become urgent. Finally, participants are provided with opportunities for ongoing engagement with their new friends through regular social events organised by the ChIPS reference group, a small group of peer leaders and other ChIPS members with a particular interest in making ChIPS sustainable. The ChIPS program has been supported by philanthropic grants, including that received from The Ottomin Charitable Foundation, and generous donors some of whom have experienced chronic illness in their own childhood and appreciate how valuable peer support and social interaction can be .Other corporate donors have become involved by providing leadership training and mentorship for the young people taking on leadership positions and running, with the support of the ChIPS coordinator, workshops enhancing employment opportunities. ChIPS provides access for young people with chronic illness to experiences, such as overnight camps, that they would otherwise not normally have access to. ChIPS can therefore become an important part of some young people’s lives. “ChIPS means a lot to me” said one young person. And the program has the support of parents as well as their son or daughter: “I’m happy if my daughter is happy. When she attends ChIPS she is just so happy and excited” said one mother. Through the generosity of donors current research indicates that the ChIPS program provides increased social connectedness for young people and ongoing research will evaluate longer term outcomes of the program. This inspires all those involved in the program to continue to advocate for the needs of young people with chronic illness and the research has given us clear insights into what the young people themselves, their parents, and the program co-ordinators value most highly about ChIPS.

Spring 2013

Recovery on the HORYZON Psychosis is a serious mental disorder which disrupts the functioning of the brain and can cause confused thinking, delusions and hallucinations. The disorder can dramatically affect a person’s ability to engage in work, school and to interact socially. Three in every 100 people will have an episode of psychosis in their life, with most occurring in the early teens and late 20s. In 2013 Orygen Youth Health Research Centre celebrated 21 years of the Early Psychosis Prevention and Intervention Centre (EPPIC), a model of care for young people with the early signs of psychosis developed and refined by two decades of medical research led by former Australian of the Year, Professor Patrick McGorry AO. This evidence-based model has proven effective in assisting the recovery of young people with psychosis and with government support is now being rolled out through nine headspace centres nationally.

people get their lives back on track. This means helping them to resume education or work, re-build social supports and maintain their mental and physical health.”

“HORZYONS is not just another online intervention. I am proud to say it is the first internet platform to integrate online social networking, effective interactive psychological interventions and peer and expert multidisciplinary support”, explains Dr. Alvarez-Jimenez. HORYZONS plans to help young people interact with not only with experts and clinicians, but with other young people who have experienced psychosis through an online portal which is safe and secure. As well as social networking and peer support functions it also encourages participants to complete therapy work to help them manage symptoms and enjoy a full functional recovery across all aspects of life. “Our goal is to not only reduce the symptoms of psychosis, but to help young

The HORYZONS research project is now in its second iteration and was pilot tested in 2012 on a small group of young people. A much larger study on its effectiveness is now being planned by the team. The project would not have been possible without the support of philanthropic donors who recognised the potential that HORYZONS has to revolutionise the longterm treatment of young people with psychosis. HORYZONS has received funding from the Telstra Foundation, Helen McPherson Smith Fund, Telematics Trust and The University of Melbourne. These generous philanthropic donations were fundamental in developing the platform and gaining enough evidence on its effectiveness to prompt a large investment from the Victorian Government Mental Illness Research Fund (MIRF) in 2012.

Dr. Mario Alvarez-Jimenez, Senior Research Fellow at Orygen Youth Health Research Centre has seen the recovery outcomes made possible by the EPPIC service and began to think about novel ways to assist this recovery once a young person has been transitioned out of the service. Together with Professor John Gleeson from Australian Catholic University and colleagues, Dr. Alvarez-Jimenez started to develop HORYZONS, a world first online platform which combines evidenced-based treatment with social networking to create a collaborative and supportive virtual space for young people to continue their recovery from psychosis.

HORYZONS was created in an attempt to tackle these challenges.”

 r. Mario Alvarez-Jimenez is a CR Roper D Fellow at The University of Melbourne and leads the HORYZONS research project at Orygen Youth Health Research Centre

Young people are at the centre of the HORYZONS research project, being consulted through the process to ensure that the platform is engaging and youthfriendly. As well as assisting with the transition from care, Dr. Alvarez-Jimenez also sees possible application for the large proportion of people who currently do not have access to effective, stigma-free psychosis treatment. “Although other treatments are effective, they are not accessible to everyone; stigma about psychosis can prevent people from seeking help, mental health resources are extremely limited, and for those who are able to access good treatment, it is time limited and the risk of relapse without ongoing support remains high.

While HORYZONS is being designed and tested specifically for treating psychosis, Dr. Alvarez-Jimenez sees the potential for the innovative support platform to be adapted for a range of other mental health disorders. “We are already developing novel versions of HORYZONS and in the coming months we will complete the first fully integrated platform combining online social networking, interactive therapy, peer and multidisciplinary expert moderation specifically designed to prevent relapse in young people with depression (LATITUDES), as well as a similar platform to support the families of young people suffering from mental disorders (THE BRIDGE).” The most important thing about HORYZONS is that it treats young people where they are – online. They can engage in treatment from wherever they feel safe and this helps to break down a major barrier of entry which young people have in getting access to effective treatment. The HORYZONS research project is creating a roadmap for how online interventions can be conducted across a range of healthcare areas.

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Spring 2013

UWS researcher receives accolade for Chinese Medicine research University of Western Sydney researcher, Professor Alan Bensoussan, has been recognised for his global impact on the clinical study of Chinese Medicine with a prestigious award from the World Federation of Chinese Medicine Societies (WFCMS) in Beijing. Professor Bensoussan received the International Award for Contribution to Chinese Medicine at a special ceremony in the Great Hall of the People on 29 June 2013. The International Award for the Contribution to Chinese Medicine is the only world-wide prize in Chinese medicine awarded by the Chinese Government. The prize is awarded every 1 to 2 years to groups or individuals who have made outstanding achievements in medical treatment, teaching, research, legislation, or have made a special contribution to the international dissemination of Chinese medicine. Professor Bensoussan says he is deeply honoured to receive the Award. “For over 25 years I have had the privilege of working with some of the world’s best Chinese Medicine practitioners and researchers,” says Professor Bensoussan, who is Professor of Chinese Medicine at UWS. “As a scientist, it is very exciting to be able to apply scientific analysis and conduct rigorous clinical trials to uncover the secrets of Traditional Chinese Medicine which has been practised for thousands of the years. “Chinese medicine holds tremendous promise to help the world tackle some of the most challenging and costly chronic health concerns of the 21st century.” Three prizes were awarded this year and Professor Bensoussan is the only recipient based outside the People’s Republic of China.

About the World Federation of Chinese Medicine Societies The WFCMS is an international academic organization with 195 Chinese medicine societies in 57 countries and regions. It is devoted to promoting the understanding of Chinese medicine worldwide and fosters academic cooperation and exchange. WFCMS is approved by the State Council of the People’s Republic of China. Its current Chairman is Ms. She Jing, Former Vice-Minister of Health and Former Director


grassROOTS SPRING 2013

 eft to right: Wang Guoqiang, Vice-Minister of Health and Commissioner (Director General) L of State Administration of TCM, Professor Alan Bensoussan, Li Yong, Deputy, Director of the Ministry of Civil Affairs

of the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

About Professor Alan Bensoussan Professor Bensoussan has been in clinical practice for 25 years and is an active researcher, attracting funds from leading agencies including the US National Institutes of Health and the Australian National Health & Medical Research Council. Currently, Professor Bensoussan is Director of the UWS Centre for Complementary Medicine Research (CompleMED) and of the National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM) also based at UWS. Under the leadership of Professor Bensoussan, CompleMED has grown to become Australia’s premier research centre for the safety, efficacy and use of complementary medicine, with a special focus on Traditional Chinese Medicine. The Australian Research Council’s Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) 2012 assessed CompleMED and NICM research as ‘well above world-class’ – the highest rating. The University of Western Sydney

The International Award for the Contribution to Chinese Medicine is the only world-wide prize in Chinese medicine awarded by the Chinese Government” was the only organisation to receive this rating in complementary medicine. Professor Bensoussan has forged a broad network of links with national and international organisations within government and industry, including major collaborative research projects with key institutions in China. His work has also contributed to the development of clinical trial protocols for Chinese medicine, and improved Chinese medicine practitioner and product regulation in Australia. Media contact: Paul Grocott, Senior Media Officer, University of Western Sydney P: 02 9678 7083 M: 0406 429 304 E:

Spring 2013

Australian-Indonesian partnership yields practical solution to sanitation problems

cost reduction of all those illnesses and increased output of the people should make it a worthy investment, but that road is long and has many twists and turns.”

Clean water can be a precious commodity for many people, as can clean soil. For people who live in areas without sanitation having neither can diminish the potential of children and make life gruelling for adults. In tropical Indonesia E.colli breeds at frightening rates and soil-transmitted helminths (STH), commonly known as intestinal worms, are incubated by warm soils and spread by an absence of toilets. They lead to malnutrition, stunted growth and development in children, which leads to significant school absences and a cycle of disease-created poverty. A partnership between the Griffith Health Institute (GHI), Queensland University and Diponegoro University (UNDIP) in Semarang City (Java) has developed an easily built and maintained latrine, which may provide a solution to this global problem. The project has recently attracted extensive funding from Swiss Bank philanthropy, UBS Optimus Foundation to complete scientific testing of the latrine’s effectiveness. The partnership began back in the 1990’s when an Indonesian student in Australia, Dr Budi Laksono concluded from his local medical practice that it was this lack of sanitation that was holding rural Indonesians back. Kids too sick to attend school, end up dropping out completely; parents who struggle to complete a weeks work because of regular gastroenteritis find it difficult to feed their families, and the knot of poverty tightens. In some areas, 90% of rural Indonesian’s do not have any sanitation. Gastrointestinal infections are thought to account for over 165,000 deaths a year with diarrhea as the major cause of infant mortality (31%). The answer, for Dr Laksono and his then supervisor now project partner, Professor Don Stewart, was latrines. Made of local, inexpensive materials they needed to be

adaptable, easy to produce, good in wet or dry seasons and easy to maintain. The pair’s preliminary work coincided with the arrival of the Millenium Development Goals (MDG), which included a target to halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. After nearly a decade of development, testing and digging Dr Lakson and Professor Stewart’s latrines have been recognised as potentially making a major contribution to the fight against poverty and disease. UBS-OF is a keen funder of MDG projects. Professor Stewart from GHI’s Population and Social Health Research Group, believes the money should directly assist around 4000 people in Central Java to get their first access to sustainable sanitation. Many more will be assisted by improved productivity and education. “The latrine model has already been field tested for cultural acceptance and works in both wet and dry seasons. Technically, the design works and, as a result of local village input, it satisfies the critical cultural and social requirements of defecation in the rural environment; and seasonal changes in water supply,” said Professor Stewart.

The full-scale field test of the latrine’s effectiveness will include randomised control trials across 16 villages near Semarang City in Central Java. Half of the villages will receive a latrine and hygiene education, the others remain as they were. Scientists from Griffith, UQ and UNDIP will conduct faeces, soil and water testing across all sites for infection and pollution and conduct health tests for diseases relating to water and soil contamination. The partnership will also include two PhD students, one from Indonesia and one from Australia who will both gain PhDs from Griffith and will be expected to work in the field for a substantial amount of the twoyear project. The team expects to see a significant rise in calorie and protein intake for the children of the area, which they hope will translate into improved growth and development, greater school attendance and increased energy and capacity to attend in class. “It can be difficult for many people to understand the link between sanitation and education. As Public Health scientists this is what we’re about, ensuring people have a healthy environment which allows them thrive and achieve their full human potential,” said Professor Stewart. “This has been Budi’s passion for as long as I’ve known him. His ideas are very astute and his focus on achieving them is inspiring.” The GHI/UNDIP latrine project will get underway in the last quarter of 2013.

“The key to the latrines is that they’re cheap (around AUD $20 to make) they use local resources and are easy to make. The last key point is that they’re household latrines, not public latrines, which means people take ownership over them, maintain them and consequently gain the benefits of them. “We hope the cost and effectiveness of the latrines will encourage Indonesian local government and indeed governments around the world to invest in them. The

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Spring 2013

2013 PHILANTHROPY FOR H&MR CONFERENCE This year our conference will be opened by NSW Minister for Health The Hon. Jillian Skinner Go to: conference for detailed information on the Conference

SAVE THE DATES Tuesday 20 & Wednesday 21 August 2013 Registration closes at 5pm 16 August 2013

KEYNOTE SPEAKER Mary Woolley, CEO & President of Research America. Mary will be examining the differences in the H&MR landscape between the US and Australia. She will look at the role of philanthropy and consumer involvement




Dr Wendy Scaife

Australian Centre for Philanthropy & Nonprofit Studies, QUT

NFP Director vs Management, tips and traps for fund raising

Dr Tony Penna

NSW Department of Health

Collaborating NSW Style

Prof. Deb Verhoeven

Deakin University

Using crowd funding to fund H&MR

Mr Alastair Lucas

Burnett Institute

A model for a National Health & Medical Philanthropic fund

Dr Stan Goldstein

Bupa Health Foundation

How do givers select health & medical research projects

Mr Jim Marsden

Ingham Institute

Starting from scratch; the good, the bad and the ugly of fund raising for a new Institute

Ms Lisa Croucher

Osteoporosis Australia

Collaborating with the Patient

Mr Chris Hatherley

Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia Research Foundation

Collaborating with the Patient

Ms Louise Walsh

Philanthropy Australia

How effective is my philanthropic dollar? Measuring impact

Mr Andrew Giles

Garvan Institute

Managing a portfolio of fund raising activity

Ms Kylie Charlton

Centre for Social Impact

Beyond philanthropy: Looking at new fund raising models

ACCOMMODATION Special rates for delegates have been secured with the Amora Jamison Hotel Sydney for the duration of the conference: Room only: $300 per night, Room and Breakfast: $329 per night To book please contact the hotel directly on 02 9696 2500 or and use the code: A-BIO200813 to access these delegate rates. 18

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Spring 2013

Editor’s Corner

Who can put an article in grassROOTS? grassROOTS 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 October 30, 2013. 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 :

Sydney 2013 – Philanthropy Conference There are still places available for our Philanthropy Conference being held at he Amora Jamison Hotel Sydney in Sydney on the 20th and 21st of August 2013. Mary Woolley President and CEO of Research America will be our keynote speaker, and this year our conference will be opened by the NSW Minister for Health, The Hon. Jillian Skinner. We have put together a fantastic program for you this year so get online and register now.

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.

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

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