Menzies Annual Report 2017

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Annual Report 2017








3 About Us

17 Awards and Recognition

Menzies exists to perform internationally significant medical research leading to healthier, longer and better lives for Tasmanians.

The groundbreaking work of our staff and students is recognised around the world.

6 Message from the Chairman and Director 8 Multiple Sclerosis Research Program The focus of our flagship program of research is to ensure that the work is translated into improved outcomes for people with MS.

10 Research Highlights A snapshot of some of our outstanding research in 2017.

20 Education and Training Menzies had more postgraduate research students than ever before in 2017 and committed resources to ongoing professional development for staff.

22 Global Collaboration

32 Philanthropy and Community Engagement Our community engagement and philanthropy programs allow us to connect with the community in a way that is mutually rewarding.


Financial Report

1 January to 31 December 2017

36 Board and Management

Menzies is actively involved in many international research consortia.

26 Major Grants and Competitive Funding Menzies received $6.4 million in competitive funding in 2017.

Front cover: Arthritis researcher and NHMRC grant recipient Dr Dawn Aitken. Photo: Peter Mathew

Menzies Institute for Medical Research Annual Report 2017



Menzies exists to perform internationally significant medical research leading to healthier, longer and better lives for Tasmanians. Menzies has five key research areas

We aim to advance human health and wellbeing by contributing significantly to knowledge on prevention and treatment of diseases including multiple sclerosis, cardiovascular disease, obesity, hypertension, stroke, motor neurone disease, inherited eye diseases, mental illness, dementia, cancer, arthritis and osteoporosis.

Public Health and Primary Care Our Public Health and Primary Care theme seeks to better prevent and manage important population health problems. Projects address a broad range of conditions including cardiovascular disease, obesity, cancer, multiple sclerosis, type-2 diabetes and depression. Several projects are investigating how lifestyle factors (e.g. smoking and physical activity) and obesity in childhood and early adulthood affect the risk of developing disease later in life. Research in this area includes epidemiology, behavioural science, environmental health, biostatistics and health economics.

Menzies performs excellent clinical, population health and laboratory research in themes that reflect the burden of disease in Tasmania and our expertise in addressing those diseases. We conduct research that relies on the unique, stable base that characterises Tasmania’s population, managing nationwide studies and collaborating with interstate and international researchers. Our context is an island community that has limited funding for health care and specific challenges relating to disadvantage.

Within this theme we have established partnerships with the Tasmanian Government. This theme also includes the management of the Tasmanian Cancer Registry and the Tasmanian Data Linkage Unit.

Neurodegenerative Diseases/Brain Injury Our neuroscientists aim to understand the mechanisms underlying diseases such as dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease), multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and motor neurone disease, as well as the brain’s response to trauma. This research will assist in the development of new ways to diagnose, prevent and treat these devastating disorders.

We serve the community in both disease prevention and treatment. We aim to translate the knowledge we gain into recommendations for better treatment, improved health policies and the highest quality training. We educate and train future research scientists and health professionals.

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University of Tasmania

Peter Mathew

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HELPING HAND: Professor Peter Dargaville is a Professorial Research Fellow at Menzies and full-time neonatal specialist at the Royal Hobart Hospital.

Cardio-Metabolic Health and Diseases The primary aim of this theme is to reduce the burden of cardiovascular and metabolic disease on our community. The group uses interventions targeted at identifying and preventing hypertension, heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes and stroke. Areas of interest include blood pressure assessment, large and small blood vessel function (including brain imaging), and cardiac imaging in heart disease. Research techniques mainly focus on clinical and population health studies, and clinical interventions are used to discover new ways to prevent the progression of cardio-metabolic disease. Clinical trials are in progress to reduce the risk of developing cardiac disease in people with early “sub-clinical� disease and in those who have first-degree relatives with heart disease.

Menzies was established to address the health issues facing the community. Menzies Institute for Medical Research Annual Report 2017


Musculoskeletal Health and Diseases Research in this area optimises Tasmania’s unique population characteristics to investigate musculoskeletal disease, with a particular emphasis on clinical drug trials for osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. Epidemiological research into musculoskeletal disease helps us understand the impact of arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions on the individual and the community, so the best medical care can be developed and delivered where needed.

Cancer, Genetics and Immunology Work in this theme is aimed at identifying the underlying causes of complex diseases and the drivers of disease progression. These complex diseases include eye disease, cancer and immune disorders. We are using innovative technologies to identify the genetic changes that underlie the risk of developing a disease or influence disease progression, in addition to laboratory-based approaches to understanding the biology of these diseases. Our work includes studies of immune disorders such as multiple

sclerosis and lupus; eye diseases such as keratoconus and glaucoma; prostate and breast cancer; and the Tasmanian devil facial tumour disease.

We have a history of discoveries Menzies was established in 1988 by the University of Tasmania with support from the Menzies Foundation and the Tasmanian Government. Menzies was established primarily to address the health issues facing the Tasmanian community. We are located within the University of Tasmania’s state-of-the-art Medical Science Precinct, in close proximity to the Royal Hobart Hospital. Over our 29 years, significant breakthroughs have been made by our scientists into the cause, prevention and treatment of a number of diseases impacting Tasmanians and people around the world.

Menzies’ impressive record of research discoveries includes: ■ K ey evidence on the link between babies’ sleeping position and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) ■ R emodelling of nerve cells in undamaged parts of the brain in response to acquired brain injury ■ R ecognition of high rates of vitamin D deficiency in Tasmania, development of ways to improve this and the association of higher vitamin D levels with a lower relapse risk in multiple sclerosis ■ G enetic markers linked to men’s risk of developing prostate cancer ■ U nderstanding how bones develop in childhood and risk factors for childhood fracture ■ T he potential irreversible impact of childhood exposure to parental cigarette smoke on cardiovascular health later in life ■ D evelopment of risk algorithms to predict heart failure in at-risk people

How we spend our donor funds Every donation received by Menzies, whether big or small, goes towards research undertaken in Tasmania. Donations may fund research projects, provide student scholarships, contribute to researcher salaries, or finance the purchase of equipment. Donations may support an initial research project that later attracts government funding. This is very important because government and competitive funding bodies favour funding projects with a record of success, which can make it difficult to get new research off the ground. Gifts to the Menzies Institute for Medical Research are an investment in a healthier future for all Tasmanians.

KEY RESEARCH: PhD student Renee Pepper is working in Menzies’ flagship program of research into multiple sclerosis.

Peter Mathew


University of Tasmania


Peter Mathew

Every year in Australia hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on medical science, with the funding invested in universities and institutes working to improve our health and quality of life. The research workforce in these organisations is spread across laboratories, clinics, offices, hospitals and communities.

Quite correctly, there is an increasing expectation that the outputs from this funding go further than conference presentations and journal publications, that the investment flows on to the ultimate recipients – people in our community with or at risk of disease. The pressure is on to ensure that our research is genuinely helping people, that it is being translated into practice,

and furthermore that this practice is contributing to further research. This means that much of our planning, our grant applications and our conversations with our partners must be guided by how we can embed our research outcomes into the community, and how we can maximise the impact of our research. This is more challenging in some research areas than others, but we are committed to it and, particularly in the area of multiple sclerosis (MS), we have taken action to progress this

translation agenda as quickly as we can. Menzies has been researching multiple sclerosis for 20 years, with our expertise now established in disciplines across laboratory, clinical and population health science. In 2017, we attracted $3.3 million for MS research. The prospect of a sustained focus on that final and vital part of the pipeline – putting findings into practice – is exciting and motivating, but will only happen in partnership with people living with MS, governments, clinicians, advocacy organisations, allied health professionals

$6.4 million

Menzies Institute for Medical Research Annual Report 2017

won in competitive funding


We are proud of our researchers and in 2017 we published 286 articles in peer-reviewed publications. and the general community. We look forward to growing these relationships in all the diseases that we research.

Left, Professor Alison Venn; and above, Chairman Bruce Neill.

We are proud of our researchers and in 2017 we published 286 articles in peer-reviewed (A1) publications, such is the quality of our people. Menzies researchers led or contributed to articles in The Lancet, the British Medical Journal, European Heart Journal, Nature, Journal of Hepatology, Diabetes Care, Pharmacology & Therapeutics, Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Blood, and JAMA Paediatrics, among many others. We published work from all our research themes and contributed to the global knowledge of many of the most common chronic diseases, including but not limited to cardiovascular disease, various neurodegenerative diseases, cancer, eye disease and arthritis. This level of output is only possible because of our hard-working cohort of research students. At the end of 2017 they numbered 101 and almost all were enrolled in a PhD. This is a higher number than ever before and it gives Menzies great pleasure to see the students contributing so much to the Institute. This level of achievement is evidenced by various international successes in 2017.

101 RESEARCH STUDENTS enrolled at the end of 2017

With a view to continuing to increase our revenue from competitive grants, we are continually refining and undergoing training to make sure our grant writing and internal review processes are of the highest standard. We won $6.4 million in competitive funding and secured $3.4 million in philanthropic donations and bequests in 2017. A highlight within our competitive funding was to be awarded the inaugural $750,000 MS Research Australia – Macquarie Group Foundation Paired Fellowship


program. This is Australia’s first paired fellowship for medical research, bringing together laboratory and clinical researchers to speed up the translation of research into practice. Another highlight was to be one of a small group of institutions to benefit from Neale Daniher’s Fight MND Foundation, with a grant of almost $1 million to investigate a potential drug therapy for motor neurone disease. Our philanthropic donations came from a broad base across the community. In 2017 we distributed more than $1 million of philanthropic funds to fellowships and scholarships. Our Everyday Angels continue to give and so many others generously donate to our appeals. Every one of these donations goes into our research and they all make a difference. We are grateful to everyone – staff, students, the community, our funding organisations and philanthropic donors – who helped to make 2017 another successful year for Menzies. We celebrate our 30th birthday in 2018, inspired by the knowledge that we are evolving the Institute and fulfilling our mission to perform internationally significant medical research leading to healthier, longer and better lives for Tasmanians. Mr Bruce Neill, Chairman Professor Alison Venn, Director

University of Tasmania


Menzies has a long history of research and advancements in multiple sclerosis. Since 1998, we have been at the forefront of some of the most important and groundbreaking discoveries in MS research. We have made significant contributions to understanding the genetic, environmental and lifestyle risk factors for both the development and progression of MS. Our scientists work with global partners to improve the lives of people with MS and towards a cure. We have an internationally recognised record of research achievement, having collectively published nearly 1,500 research papers with key collaborators.


MS RESEARCH PAPERS published with key collaborators

Our research has shown for the first time that higher levels of personal UV exposure are associated with a reduced risk of MS, that people with MS have concerningly high rates of Vitamin D deficiency and that higher Vitamin D levels are associated with fewer MS relapses. Tasmania also has the highest prevalence of MS anywhere in Australia and this, along with our extensive expertise in the area of MS, has made an MS Flagship Research Program a featured priority of Menzies. Through a shared passion between researchers and key stakeholders, including people living with MS, their families and carers, the flagship will provide leadership for an MS Research and Translation Network. The focus is to translate that research into improved outcomes for people with MS and to achieve global recognition for excellent research. We are proud of the contribution we have made to MS research since we established the flagship and a number of milestones have been reached. Key staff have been appointed to direct and promote the project, with a Project Manager and a Marketing and Communications Coordinator being recruited. MS was made the focus of the Menzies public talk for Science Week, where 140 people heard members of the MS research team, Professor Bruce Taylor, Dr Kaylene Young and Associate Professor Ingrid van der Mei, join the National Advocacy Coordinator for MS Australia, Andrew Potter, to discuss “Multiple Sclerosis – The Way Ahead”. The Winter Community Appeal was also dedicated to raising funds for MS research and $44,000 was donated.

Menzies Institute for Medical Research Annual Report 2017


FIGHTING FOR A CURE: Menzies MS researchers raise awareness on Red Lab Coat Day on May 1.

A coordinated strategy of political engagement to highlight the vision for an MS flagship and to spread the word about the excellent work already undertaken at Menzies also began. Co-Chair of the Parliamentary Friends of MS group, Senator David Bushby, visited Menzies in June to discuss Menzies’ aims in MS research. In early September, senior Menzies staff and board members travelled to Canberra to host a Parliamentary Friends of MS gathering and meet with the Federal Minister for Health, the Hon Greg Hunt MP. This Canberra delegation was extremely successful in raising the profile of Menzies and our MS vision with Members and Senators. In December, the Director consolidated this visit by attending the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes Annual Dinner at Parliament House in Canberra and further discussed opportunities for the MS flagship and Menzies. FUNDING AND AWARD ACHIEVEMENTS The declaration of the flagship has allowed a focus on attracting funding and a higher profile for the researchers involved. Examples of what we have been awarded include: ■ T he Vice Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Research Program. This award went to Professor Bruce Taylor, Professor Andrew Palmer, Associate Professor Leigh Blizzard, Associate Professor Ingrid van der Mei, Dr Jac Charlesworth and Dr Kaylene Young, who make up the MS Research Group. ■ he inaugural MS Research Australia T – Macquarie Group Foundation Paired Fellowship program totalling $750,000 for three years. This was awarded to Professor Bruce Taylor and Dr Kaylene Young to bring together clinical and

Peter Mathew

laboratory research to expedite new treatments to protect and repair the nervous system. ■ A National Health and Medical Research Council Early Career Fellowship worth $320,000 to Dr Kimberley Pitman. ■ T he Henry Baldwin Senior Research Fellowship in Multiple Sclerosis was awarded to Dr Jac Charlesworth for work to understand the genetic control of neurodegeneration, and to find better drug targets for neuroprotection and repair. ■ A Brain Foundation research grant of $30,000 went to Dr Carlie Cullen for the project “Understanding oligodendrocyte death in aging and disease”. RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS Under the flagship, our scientists expanded their contribution to MS

research and knowledge through the publication of key pieces of research. Dr Yuan Zhou, Dr Jac Charlesworth, Associate Professor Ingrid van der Mei and Professor Bruce Taylor are the authors of “Genetic variation in the gene LRP2 increases relapse risk in multiple sclerosis” which was published in the March edition of Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry. This paper represents a major and groundbreaking collaborative research project between three large MS groups and is the first study that has found a genome-wide significant loci that is associated with a metric of MS progression. Other top papers included: ■ “ Kynurenine pathway metabolomics predicts and provides mechanistic insight into multiple sclerosis progression”, published in Scientific

Reports (Professor Bruce Taylor). “ An adverse lipid profile and increased levels of adiposity significantly predict clinical course after a first demyelinating event”, published in Journal of Neurology (Mr Prudence Tettey, Dr Steve Simpson Jr, Professor Bruce Taylor and Associate Professor Ingrid van der Mei). ■ “ Complementary and alternate treatments of multiple sclerosis: a review of the evidence from 2001 to 2016”, published in Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry (Ms Suzi Claflin, Associate Professor Ingrid van der Mei and Professor Bruce Taylor). ■ “ Low-frequency synonymous coding variation in CYP2R1 has large effects on Vitamin D levels and risk of multiple sclerosis”, published in American Journal of Human Genetics (Professor Bruce Taylor). ■

Our scientists work … to improve the lives of people with MS and towards a cure.


University of Tasmania


TOP HONOURS: Dr Yuan Zhou’s work received a Ten of the Best award.

Peter Mathew

Public Health and Primary Care

Zhou et al, ‘Genetic variation in the gene LRP2 increases relapse risk in multiple sclerosis’, published in Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry. This paper was a winner of a Menzies Ten of the Best award.

Multiple Sclerosis The onset of MS is caused by an interplay of environmental and genetic factors, but little is known about the role genes play in the progression and severity of MS. In our southern Tasmania MS Longitudinal (TasMSL) Study, a genome-wide association analysis found that variations in a gene known as LRP2 are associated with a twofold higher risk of relapse in early and established MS. This finding has been replicated in an independent study, making it the first confirmed finding of a genetic variation associated with the severity of MS. Future research will investigate the precise mechanism by which variations in LRP2 affect the progression of MS.

Menzies Institute for Medical Research Annual Report 2017

For the first time in Australia, we quantified the impact of increasing severity of multiple sclerosis on quality of life among a representative sample of people with MS. The data generated will be useful in further health economic analyses of interventions that slow progression of MS. Ahmad et al, ‘The impact of multiple sclerosis severity on health state utility values: Evidence from Australia’, published in Multiple Sclerosis Journal.


The data generated will be useful in further health economic analyses of interventions that slow progression of MS.

Childhood BMI and adult obesity We have found that people who avoid obesity as an adult have a lower body mass index (BMI) at age 6 and a lower yearly change in BMI in childhood compared to people who develop obesity as adults. Our study also identified a second “critical window”, beginning in adolescence for females and early adulthood for males, where BMI levels started to stabilise in overweight or obese children who were able to avoid obesity as adults. The study used a new statistical modelling approach to analyse the long-term BMI trajectories in a sample of more than 2,700 participants who were tracked over three decades from age 6 to 49. Our research extended the findings of earlier work by suggesting that efforts to prevent adult obesity should ideally begin before age 6, with a second chance among teens and young adults. Buscot et al, ‘BMI trajectories associated with resolution of elevated youth BMI and incident adult obesity’, published in Pediatrics. This paper was a winner of a Menzies Ten of the Best award.

Breastfeeding and healthy growth Babies who are fed only breastmilk for the first three months of life appear to be much more likely to maintain a healthy weight trajectory, with the benefits possibly lasting through to early adulthood. This study pooled weight and height data from 6,708 babies in four cohorts – three in Europe and one in Australia – who were measured either once or twice a year until they were six. The collection of data used in the Australian part of the study began more than 20 years ago, which enabled researchers to follow up more than 1,000 children as young adults. The observations indicate that, if full breastfeeding stops before three months of age, children are at greater risk of becoming overweight, even through to 20 years of age. This adds to the evidence behind the World Health Organization recommendation that, if possible, mothers should aim to fully breastfeed their baby beyond three months and, ideally, until six months of age. Oddy et al, ‘Infant feeding and growth trajectory patterns in childhood and

HEALTH ECONOMIST: Dr Barbara de Graaff.

body composition in young adulthood’, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. This paper was a winner of a Menzies Ten of the Best award.

After-hours medical care The rollout of after-hours GP-type home visits, introduced to relieve pressure on hospital emergency departments, is linked with as much as a tenfold increase in Medicare claims for after-hours consultations. Researchers reviewed 2010-11 data, when these after-hours services first began, and compared it with 2015-16 data. They focused in particular on after-hours services that were defined as urgent, which had increased by 170%. The findings question whether these convenient house calls are having the desired benefits for hospital emergency departments and are the best use of taxpayers’ money. De Graaff et al, ‘Up, up and away: The growth of after-hours MBS claims’, published in Australian Family Physician.

Workplace stress A broad range of childhood factors are associated with job stress in adulthood. In a unique 25-year follow-up study, we compared data on a range of childhood factors – including school enjoyment, socioeconomic position, and some markers of physical and mental health – with the development of job stress later in life. The study was part of the larger Childhood Determinants of Adult Health study (CDAH). Our results show that healthy childhood experiences contribute to a healthy, productive work life into adulthood. The findings highlight that the Continued on page 12


University of Tasmania

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characteristics of the job itself should not be viewed in isolation. Rather, job stress in adults is complex and multifactorial and associated with a range of individual factors across the life course. Wang et al, ‘Association between childhood health, socioeconomic and school-related factors and effort-reward imbalance at work: a 25-year follow-up study’, published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Lifestyle habits and weight gain Simple lifestyle changes are effective in reducing weight gain. We surveyed a cohort of 1,155 people at two points five years apart about four behaviours: eating breakfast, limiting takeaway food to no more than once per week, taking at least 10,000 steps per day and watching no more than two hours of television per day.

Cardio-Metabolic Health and Diseases

We found that the healthy behaviours paid off – those who met the guidelines at both survey times had lower weight gain than those who didn’t meet the guidelines. The study also showed that it’s never too late to change – those who didn’t meet the guidelines in the first survey but did five years later had a similar weight gain to those who met the guidelines in both surveys. Participants who met none or only one guideline gained on average 3.8 kilograms more over the five years than those who met all four guidelines.

Blood pressure measurement This paper won the 2017 Menzies Best of the Best Award for outstanding research achievement evidenced through publication in a scholarly journal. The international study led by Menzies found that the most common method for measuring blood pressure (BP) – the upper arm cuff method – is often inaccurate. BP is the strongest risk factor for cardiovascular disease and inaccurate measurement could result in misdiagnosis and inappropriate medical intervention. It had long been uncertain whether cuff blood pressure accurately reflects the pressure in the arteries of the arm or in the major artery just outside the heart, the aorta, which is a better indicator of pressure. By analysing almost seven decades of international data on 2,500 people, the study found that cuff BP was systematically inaccurate, particularly for people with mid-range BP. The study provides the basis for work by Menzies (with industry and clinical collaborators) to improve the accuracy of cuff BP measurement.

Smith et al, ‘Lifestyle behaviours associated with five-year weight gain in a prospective cohort of Australian adults aged 26-36 years at baseline’, published in BMC Public Health.

Picone et al, ‘Accuracy of cuff-measured blood pressure: systematic reviews and meta-analyses’, published in Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Peter Mathew

LEADING BY EXAMPLE: Professor James Sharman’s Blood Pressure Research Group published globally significant research in 2017.

Job stress in adults is complex and multifactorial and associated with a range of individual factors across the life course.

Menzies Institute for Medical Research Annual Report 2017


SCHOOL BREAKFAST BENEFITS GO FURTHER THAN FOOD Menzies research looking at school breakfast programs has shown that the benefits may be broader than expected. Michelle Kilpatrick

HELPING HAND: Breakfast club at Moonah Primary School in Hobart.

Menzies is involved in work by the Artery Society Task Force aimed at setting industry standards for determining the accuracy of new blood pressure devices that measure the pressure in the aorta (central blood pressure). This is the most clinically important place to measure blood pressure, but up until the publication of this paper, the approach to testing the accuracy of new devices to measure central blood pressure was unregulated. The paper provides clear guidance and recommendations on how to test device accuracy. Sharman et al, ‘Validation of non-invasive central blood pressure devices: ARTERY Society task force consensus statement on protocol standardization’, in the European Heart Journal.

Understanding stroke About a third of the cases of stroke are cryptogenic, meaning that the cause is unknown. However, a known risk factor for stroke is atrial fibrillation, a type of abnormal heart rhythm, and atrial fibrillation may also be associated with recurrent strokes. Our research showed that an analysis of the mechanics of cardiac function can be used to predict which patients who have had a cryptogenic stroke will develop atrial fibrillation and thus increase their chances of having another stroke. By using cutting-edge echocardiographic imaging techniques to analyse the mechanics of the left atrium – one of the chambers of the heart – and comparing this with clinical risk scores, we were able to create a sensitive and specific algorithm which predicts atrial fibrillation following cryptogenic strokes. As well as identifying a new imaging biomarker,

Researchers looked at five primary schools in different parts of Southern Tasmania (some rural, some urban) and with different demographic profiles. They spoke to parents and carers, students, teachers and volunteers. The lead researcher on the study, Dr Kylie Smith, said the common assumption was that breakfast programs were a good idea for nutritional reasons, but in fact it was social benefits that were consistently named as a major benefit of offering breakfast at school.

“These social benefits included the chance for children to interact with children from different grades as well as the adults involved in running the program, engagement between the school and the community, and an opportunity for the school to provide early intervention and support for families,” Dr Smith said. The breakfast programs differed depending on the food available, how the program was funded, availability of volunteers, facilities, staffing, food donations, community partnerships and how often breakfast was provided, but all five schools reported social benefits.

These results have immediate application to clinical monitoring. our research also found limitations in the imaging biomarkers that had previously been used (left atrial volume and diastolic function). These results have immediate application to clinical monitoring and could help to prevent recurrent strokes. Pathan et al, ‘Use of atrial strain to predict atrial fibrillation after cerebral ischemia’, published in JACC: Cardiovascular Imaging. This paper was a winner of a Menzies Ten of the Best award. Women are reported to have greater mortality after stroke than men, but the reasons are uncertain. This work examined sex differences in mortality at one and five years after stroke and identified factors contributing to these differences. Greater mortality in women is mostly because of age but also stroke severity, atrial fibrillation and pre-stroke functional limitations. Lower survival after stroke among the elderly is inevitable, but there may be opportunities for


intervention, including better access to evidence-based care for cardiovascular and general health. Phan et al, ‘Sex differences in long-term mortality after stroke in the INSTRUCT (International STRoke oUtComes sTudy. A meta-analysis of individual participant data’, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. This paper was a winner of a Menzies Ten of the Best award.

Echocardiography in reducing heart failure Stage B heart failure is an early stage of heart failure with no symptoms but evidence of cardiac impairment. The recognition of this could be helpful because early treatment could delay or prevent progression of disease. However, current clinical guidelines do not support using echocardiography (imaging) in asymptomatic patients. Our world-first Continued on page 14

University of Tasmania

Studies such as this are critical to distinguish between true causal mutations, as opposed to statistical association. Continued from page 13

clinical study of advanced imaging in urban and rural areas across the State confirmed that the use of imaging screening was useful in identifying patients likely to progress to heart failure. We were unable to show that imagingguided management improved the outcome of people with Stage B heart failure, and are proceeding to study that in a new trial. Yang et al, ‘Imaging-Guided Cardioprotective Treatment in a Community Elderly Population of Stage B Heart Failure’, published in JACC: Cardiovascular Imaging.

Cancer, Genetics and Immunology Genes involved in leukaemia Rare genetic variants are suspected to play a significant role in the development of familial haematological malignancies (HMs), which are cancers that affect the blood and lymph system, such as leukaemia and lymphomas. The advent of whole genome and exome sequencing is now allowing us to properly study genomes to identify the variants involved. We applied this technology to the Tasmanian Familial Haematological Malignancy cohort to test a recent proposal that a rare genetic variant in the ITGB2 gene was associated with risk of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL). Our study was unique in that it allowed us to evaluate the contribution of the variant to different subtypes of HMs in a familial cohort. Our work found no evidence to suggest that this ITGB2 genetic mutation contributed to a risk of familial HMs in our dataset.

Studies such as this are critical in this field to distinguish between true causal mutations, as opposed to statistical association. Blackburn et al, ‘Evaluating a CLL susceptibility variant in ITGB2 in families with multiple sub-types of hematological malignancies’, published in Blood. This paper was a winner of a Menzies Ten of the Best award.

Prostate cancer We know that inherited changes in our genes help determine the risk of developing many diseases, but they also determine how the disease progresses and how we respond to therapies. Our study examined genetic changes associated with prostate cancer, and how one change in particular, that can be inherited by some men, contributes to development of tumours of the prostate. Fitzgerald et al, ‘Impact of the G84E variant on HOXB13 gene and protein expression in formalin-fixed, paraffinembedded prostate tumours’, published in Scientific Reports.

Genetic determinants of keratoconus Keratoconus is a disease of the eye in which the cornea thins out and bulges causing vision to become blurry and distorted. The disease affects about one in 2,000 people and has a clear genetic component. The possible role of one gene, known as ZNF469, was controversial, with several conflicting reports, primarily from small, poorly designed studies. We conducted detailed genetic sequencing research

Menzies Institute for Medical Research Annual Report 2017


and statistical analysis to thoroughly evaluate the possible role of ZNF469 in keratoconus using the largest cohort studied to date. The research clearly showed that variants in this gene are no more common in people with the disease than in the general population and that the gene is just as variable in people without the disease. This finding unequivocally shows that the gene should not be used diagnostically for keratoconus and it will allow researchers to focus on other possible genes involved in the disease. Lucas et al, ‘Potentially pathogenic variants in ZNF469 are not enriched in keratoconus in a large Australian cohort of European descent’, published in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science. This paper was a winner of a Menzies Ten of the Best award.

Stem cell therapies in eye disease This research used induced pluripotent stem cells from people with a variety of inherited retinal diseases to study the cells at the back of the eye (the retinal pigment epithelium), which are responsible for vitamin A cycling and removing the debris produced by light-sensing cells. We found that dysfunction of these cells alone is sufficient to cause the accumulation of drusen, a precursor for age-related macular degeneration. Hewitt et al, ‘Drusen in patient-derived hiPSC-RPE models of macular dystrophies’, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of The United States of America.

Immunotherapy for Devil Facial Tumour Disease This study showed that immunotherapy can cure Tasmanian devils of the transmissible cancer called devil facial tumour disease (DFTD). Normally, animals show no evidence of antibody or immune cell response against DFTD and usually die within a few months. We used immunotherapy on devils with tumours the size of golf balls and then observed the tumours gradually shrink and disappear over three months.

This breakthrough builds on earlier work that showed the devil’s immune system was capable of mounting an immune response to DFTD. It therefore demonstrates the feasibility of a vaccine for DFTD. Tovar et al, ‘Regression of devil facial tumour disease following immunotherapy in immunised Tasmanian devils’, published in Scientific Reports.

Neurodegenerative Diseases/ Brain Injury Motor Neurone Disease Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is the most common adult-onset motor neurone disease. It has traditionally been viewed as a disease affecting motor neurones extending from the spinal cord to the muscle. However, a growing body of evidence suggests that inhibitory circuits in the brain may

be key to understanding and treating ALS, but the exact cell type/s responsible had not previously been identified. Our research has identified two distinct cell sub-types, of the inhibitory interneuronal class, that are progressively altered in the primary motor cortex of the brain even before symptoms are seen. These alterations may drive the motor neurone vulnerability typical of ALS. This work has the potential to change the way ALS is viewed and treated in the medical and scientific community. For people living with ALS, it broadens the understanding of the underlying pathology central to this devastating disease and offers potential new avenues for the effective prevention and treatment. Clark et al, ‘Calretinin and Neuropeptide Y interneurons are differentially altered in the motor cortex of the SOD1G93A mouse model of ALS’, published in Scientific Reports. This paper was a winner of a Menzies Ten of the Best award. Continued on page 16

MAKING PROGRESS: Pollen work under way by some of the AirRater team.


In recognition of the importance of demonstrating the impact of our research, in 2017 Menzies introduced an annual Research Impact Prize. The inaugural winner is the AirRater smartphone app team. AirRater is an app that enables people to monitor and improve their health conditions and learn how they respond to specific environmental triggers. It does this by providing real-time, location-specific information on key environmental triggers and by allowing users to log symptoms and identify which conditions have an impact on their health.

After two years of operation in Tasmania and three months in the ACT, by December 2017 the AirRater data platform and smartphone app had reached almost 5,500 users and had generated more than 15,000 symptom reports. Data collected through the app shows that it is reaching its target population: people who have (or are caring for someone who has) allergies, asthma or other respiratory conditions. Many people are using AirRater to actively develop health protection strategies by becoming more aware of, and protecting themselves from, environmental health hazards.


AirRater has also had a substantial impact at the community level through being incorporated into public health response strategies. AirRater contributed to a new early warning system to alert Tasmanians to short episodes of increased smoke levels. On 15 November 2017, the Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services issued the first thunderstorm asthma alert in Tasmania on the basis of AirRater data and advice. AirRater’s contribution to public health has been recognised by winning a Tasmanian State Emergency Service Resilience Award and achieving national runner-up in the Australian Information Industry Association’s iAwards in the Community Services category.

University of Tasmania

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Traumatic brain injury It is clear that even mild forms of traumatic brain injury (TBI) can have lasting cognitive effects; however, the specific cellular changes responsible for the functional deficits remain poorly understood. Previous studies suggest that not all neurons respond in the same way and that changes to neuronal architecture may be subtype-specific. This work characterised the response of interneurons to TBI. Brizuela et al, ‘Mild traumatic brain injury leads to decreased inhibition and a differential response of calretinin positive interneurons in the Injured cortex’, published in Journal of Neurotrauma.

Musculoskeletal Health and Diseases Age-related muscle loss Age-related muscle loss is a major cause of disability and loss of independence in the elderly. Our research has shown for the first time that, in addition to differences between individuals, changes in serum Vitamin D, physical activity, knee pain and dysfunction over time within the same individual is associated with muscle loss. The study applied new and sophisticated statistical methods to data collected from a relatively large sample of communitydwelling older adults over four time points during 10 years of follow-up. Loss of muscle mass is inevitable as a person ages. However, this study shows that some preventative measures can be taken to slow this decline.

This study shows preventative measures can be taken to slow this decline.

Menzies Institute for Medical Research Annual Report 2017

Maintaining balance in middle age Poor balance is a risk factor for falls and fractures in older adults, but little is known about modifiable factors affecting balance in younger women. This study aimed to examine whether lower limb muscle strength in young women and changes in this strength are independent predictors of balance in middle age. This was an observational 10-year followup study of 470 women aged 25 to 44 at baseline. The findings suggest that both improvement of muscle strength in younger age and prevention of agerelated loss of muscle strength could be potentially useful strategies to improve balance and reduce falls in later life. Wu et al, ‘Both baseline and change in lower limb muscle strength in younger women are independent predictors of balance in middle age: A 12-year population-based prospective study’, published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research.

Peter Mathew

INSPIRED: Rosie Clark’s research received a Ten of the Best award.

Balogun et al, ‘Longitudinal associations of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D, physical activity, and knee pain and dysfunction with muscle loss in community-dwelling older adults’, published in The Journals of Gerontology: Medical Sciences. This paper was a winner of a Menzies Ten of the Best award.



Professor Tania Winzenberg was appointed the Australian and New Zealand Bone and Mineral Society’s representative on the International Federation of Musculoskeletal Research Societies’ Future Global Leaders group. Dr Catherine Blizzard was named Tasmanian STEM Young Researcher of the Year. Dr Quan Huynh received an Emerging Health Researcher Commendation Award from the Bupa Health Foundation.

Professor Tania Winzenberg was awarded the Peter Mudge Medal for Best Research in General Practice Presentation at the Royal Australian College of GPs’ (RACGP) annual conference in Sydney. The medal is awarded to a presenter who has advanced the discipline of general practice and the goals of the RACGP and whose original research has the most potential to significantly influence daily general practice.

WINNING MOMENT: The RACGP President, Dr Bastian Seidel, the RACGP Foundation Patron, Emeritus Professor Peter Mudge, and award winner Professor Tania Winzenberg.

A journal publication by the Menzies health economics team was named as the inaugural winner of the “Michael P. O’Donnell Paper of the Year” by the American Journal of Health Promotion. The authors are Dr Siyan Baxter, Professor Kristy Sanderson, Professor Alison Venn, Associate Professor Leigh Blizzard and Professor Andrew Palmer and the paper is titled “The relationship between return on investment and quality of study methodology in workplace health promotion programs”. Several members of the Blood Pressure Research Group were selected to give oral presentations at prize-winning sessions of the ARTERY Society Conference in Pisa, Italy. Dr Martin Schultz was invited by the Executive Committee of the Society to deliver a Career Development Lecture.

Dr Feitong Wu was awarded the 2017 Australian and New Zealand Bone and Mineral Society Kaye Ibbertson Award at the 2017 ANZBMS-IFMRS-JSBMR Joint Meeting. The award is based on the applicant’s best five papers in the past five years.


Menzies multiple sclerosis researchers (Professor Bruce Taylor, Associate Professor Ingrid van der Mei, Dr Kaylene Young, Professor Andrew Palmer, Dr Jac Charlesworth and Associate Professor Leigh Blizzard) won the award for Outstanding Research Program in the University of Tasmania Vice Chancellor’s Awards. Continued on page 18


University of Tasmania

WINNER: Carol Hurst has made a notable contribution to Menzies research.

will undertake a PhD in cardiovascular disease prevention at Oxford University.

Peter Mathew


Carol Hurst, a research officer with the Australian Multiple Sclerosis Longitudinal Study (AMSLS), is the winner of the 2017 Menzies Professional Staff Award. Ms Hurst’s main role with the study involves overseeing the set-up of the surveys and transferring the results to databases. Ms Hurst has worked with the MS group for more than 10 years after starting at Menzies as a volunteer in the early days of the Institute. She has worked across all areas

of the MS group’s work and has contributed significantly to the success of a number of studies, including AUSIMMUNE, AUSLONG, the Tasmanian Genes and Prevalence Study and the AMSLS. Ms Hurst has a great depth of knowledge from years of experience and has been invaluable to Menzies, not only through her professional contribution to pivotal studies, but also personally through her ability to connect with study participants, researchers and fellow staff.

Continued from page 17

Research nurse Kristyn Whitmore, who works in cardiovascular disease prevention, won the Vice Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Community Engagement.

HIGH ACHIEVERS: The Multiple Sclerosis research group won a prestigious University of Tasmania award.

STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT Former Menzies student and Best of the Best award winner in 2016, Henry West, was named as a Rhodes Scholar. Mr West completed Honours with Dr Costan Magnussen in 2015 and also undertook the Menzies’ Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program while a student in the University of Tasmania’s School of Medicine. Her Excellency Professor the Honourable Kate Warner AC, Governor of Tasmania, announced Mr West as the Rhodes Scholarship winner at a ceremony at Government House. Having completed his medical training, Mr West

Menzies Institute for Medical Research Annual Report 2017


PhD student Saliu Balogun won the ESCEO-IOF Young Investigator Award for his abstract entitled “Longitudinal associations of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin-D, physical activity, and knee pain and dysfunction with muscle mass, strength and muscle quality in community-dwelling older adults”. The prestigious award is given to young investigators for their contributions in the field of bone and mineral research. Mr Balogun presented the work at the 2017 World Congress on Osteoporosis, Osteoarthritis and Musculoskeletal Diseases in Florence, Italy. Hoang Phan, a PhD student with Seana Gall, received a Junior Investigator Travel Award to attend the International Stroke Conference 2017 in Houston, Texas. Ms Phan also received a Travel Award from the Ho Chi Minh City Stroke Association, and was selected as one of 12 mentees of the 2017 L’Oréal Australian Women in Science mentoring program. Larissa Bartlett was awarded the Student Researcher Award at the 2017 American Psychological Association International Conference on Occupational Stress and Health held in Minneapolis. Ms Bartlett’s work on workplace mindfulness was chosen after five finalists were shortlisted from the 32 countries represented at the conference.

HONOURED: PhD students Hoang Phan (above) and Dean Picone (left) both received accolades for research excellence in 2017. Peter Mathew

This award is given annually to about 500 students to recognise academic excellence. Dr Shannon Melody was awarded the TC Butler & FRT Stevens Prize by the Royal Australian College of Physicians for the Best Written Submission from an Advanced Trainee on a Medical or Clinical Condition or Illness which Impacts upon a Vulnerable Group in Society. Dr Melody wrote about the disproportionate density of tobacco retail outlets in remote and regional Tasmania, as well as in areas of socioeconomic disadvantage, and the impact of this on tobacco control efforts.

Yuan Zhou, Feitong Wu, Zhaohu Zhu and Weiyu Han all received the Chinese Government Award for Outstanding Students Abroad. This award is given annually to about 500 students across the world to recognise academic excellence. Dean Picone was the winner of the Australian Society for Medical Research Week Postgraduate Student Award. Other Menzies finalists were Hoang Phan, Megan O’Rourke, Emily Handley, Alok Paul and Patricia Graham.

MANY YEARS OF SERVICE Emeritus Professor David Small officially retired from full-time work after an illustrious career in neuroscience. Professor Small is well known internationally for his work on Alzheimer’s disease, particularly on the molecular mechanisms that underlie changes in acetylcholinesterase expression in the brain, and on the structure and metabolism of the amyloid precursor protein.


Chris Crerar

The leader of the Tasmanian devil facial tumour disease vaccine research group, Emeritus Professor Greg Woods (pictured), retired from full-time work after being with the University of Tasmania since 1978. Professor Woods made major contributions to research, teaching and the community. In keeping with his dedication to community engagement, Professor Woods presented the 2017 Stanhope Oration at the Australian Science Teachers Association annual national conference in Hobart in July.

University of Tasmania


three months per year allows Professor Korner to advise students interested in working in Tasmania and to support Menzies staff in selecting suitable candidates.

HIGHER DEGREE RESEARCH (HDR) Our HDR students make an enormous contribution to Menzies’ research output, rewarding the Institute’s strong focus on research productivity and the training of tomorrow’s researchers. In December 2017, Menzies had 101 HDR students, with the majority of these coming from overseas, in particular China. We also welcomed international students from Africa, South and Central America, Europe and throughout South Asia. In 2017, we continued our important relationship with Anhui Medical University (AMU) in Hefei. AMU is a middle-sized Chinese University with a focus on medical training and research. The University of Tasmania and, in particular, Menzies have a strong, ongoing scholarship program with AMU which has brought four to six Chinese PhD students to Menzies every year since 2012. Menzies immunologist Professor Heinrich Korner is a part-time Visiting Professor (Research and Teaching) at AMU. His role is to foster and intensify the academic collaborations between the two institutions. Being present at AMU for

ACHIEVEMENT: Dr Ruth Pye, who works in the Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumour Disease vaccine research team, receives her PhD.

STUDENT COMMITTEE The 2017 Student Committee welcomed all Menzies staff to a number of successful social events. The 2017 student committee was Brooklyn Fraser, Kate Memish, Quynh Le, Ishanka Munugoda, Matthew Armstrong, Ayame Ochi, Fateme Zabetiantarghi and Loic Auderset. STAFF TRAINING Menzies, with assistance from the Office of Research Services, conducted two workshops to assist students and academic staff on writing with impact in academic journals. Numerous other staff development courses were held throughout the year to support professional and academic staff.

Our HDR students make an enormous contribution to Menzies’ research output.

Menzies Institute for Medical Research Annual Report 2017

In 2017, we hosted the following Visiting Fellows from China: ■ Dr Liudan Tu, 3rd Affiliated Hospital, Sun Yat-Seng University, Guangzhou ■ Associate Professor Jun Chang, 4th Affiliated Hospital, Anhui Medical University, Hefei ■ Associate Professor Zetao Liao, 3rd Affiliated Hospital, Sun Yat-Seng University, Guangzhou ■ Professor Yi Zhao, Xuanwu Hospital, Capital Medical University, Beijing


MENZIES AND SCHOOL OF MEDICINE SEMINAR SERIES The Institute combined with the University of Tasmania School of Medicine to hold academic seminars in the Medical Science Precinct. There were 42 seminars held in 2017 with topics ranging across all Menzies research themes. Special sessions included the Three-Minute Thesis competition, a session on implementation science,

MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS WORKSHOP Menzies hosted a two-day workshop for 16 multiple sclerosis researchers from the University of Tasmania and collaborating institutions to discuss developing an MS Translation Centre to ensure impact in the community from laboratory, clinical and population health research. a grant review Q&A and Women in STEM. Nineteen sessions were final PhD seminars and 11 sessions featured external speakers, many of them visiting academics from interstate or overseas.

BLOOD PRESSURE DEVELOPMENT The Blood Pressure Research Group hosted Dr Eric Stohr (Columbia University, New York) as a Visiting Scholar for three weeks. During his visit, Dr Stohr met with students to discuss career development and presented his research to Menzies staff and students, the Royal Hobart Hospital cardiology department and the School of Health Sciences in Launceston. One of the key objectives of the visit was to lay the foundations for ongoing collaborations with the blood pressure researchers and other Menzies staff, and to provide technical assistance to students on performing cardiac and vascular ultrasound.

DATA LINKAGE COURSE The Tasmanian Data Linkage Unit held an Introductory Analysis of Linked Health Data training course in Hobart. The course was an intensive five-day unit on the theory and practice of analysis of large sets of linked administrative health data at an introductory to intermediate level. Professor David Preen from the University of Western Australia led the course, which was completed by 22 people.

THREE-MINUTE MAESTRO Genetics student Patricia Graham received first place in the University of Tasmania Three-Minute Thesis (3MT) competition. Mrs Graham’s presentation was titled “Gene hunting: Unravelling the causes of glaucoma blindness”. Menzies multiple sclerosis student Yan Zhang won the People’s Choice Award for her presentation “Better understanding of progressive Multiple Sclerosis (MS)”.

GETTING TOGETHER: The Taste of Menzies student lunch (left) and multiple sclerosis researchers (above) meeting to discuss better research translation.

covering the arts as well as the sciences,” Mrs Graham said.

Mrs Graham represented the University of Tasmania at the Asia-Pacific 3MT event at the University of Queensland, where the 3MT concept was created. There were 55 competitors, all individual university winners, from around Australia and other Pacific countries including New Zealand, Malaysia and Japan. “My talk, ‘Gene hunting: Unravelling the causes of glaucoma blindness’, was one of several medically themed talks. But there was a huge variety of topics


“One of my favourites was a talk using coffee spilling out of a take-away cup as an analogy for the problem of fuel sloshing inside tanks in rockets as they take off. Although my talk was not selected as one of the 10 finalists, the experience of participating was really enjoyable and highly motivating. Preparing a three-minute talk for a lay audience is not easy, but it is a great way to become a better communicator of science.”

University of Tasmania

Menzies continued to pursue global collaboration opportunities in 2017 and was actively involved in the following international consortia.


Peter Mathew

FOCUS ON EYES: Associate Professor Kathryn Burdon and Associate Professor Alex Hewitt.


The International Consortium for Prostate Cancer Genetics (ICPCG): Focusing on the genetic causes of familial and hereditary prostate cancer.

PRACTICAL consortium (the Prostate Cancer Association Group to Investigate Cancer Associated Alterations in the Genome): The PRACTICAL consortium aims to combine data from many studies to provide a reliable assessment of the risks associated with genes that may be related to prostate cancer, and to validate new findings.

Menzies Institute for Medical Research Annual Report 2017

International Glaucoma Genetics Consortium (IGGC): This consortium has members from Australia, North America, Asia and Europe and uses population-based studies to map genes for clinical traits that lead to glaucoma, and family and case control studies to look at how those genes influence glaucoma risk.


EXPERT: Dr Costan Magnussen’s primary research interest is the early life origin of cardio-metabolic diseases.

Peter Mathew

This consortium uses population-based studies to map genes for clinical traits that lead to glaucoma. The Prostate Collaborative Cancer Research Alliance: A group of scientific and clinical prostate cancer experts focusing on advancing and translating prostate cancer research.

generally healthy people. The study is run from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and Yale University.

GeFOS: Studying genes for osteoporosis. The International Age-Related Macular Degeneration Gene Consortium: Includes multiple groups from all over the world and has assembled the largest collection of Age-related Macular Degeneration cases ever studied.

Consortium for Refractive Error and Myopia (CREAM): Aims to identify genetic risk factors for refractive error and the overlap with related eye diseases using multi-ethnic population cohorts. GOBS (Genetics of Brain Structure Study): This multi-centre study uses large families to study the genetics of MRI-measured traits and cognitive phenotypes in

Multi-ethnic genetics study of Diabetic Retinopathy: Looks for genes that lead to diabetic eye disease.

TREATOA: Studies genes for pain and osteoarthritis.

Consortium. ANZgene is a collaboration between a team of neurologists, geneticists, bioinformaticians and molecular biologists. It comprises eight geographical nodes and has stewardship of over 3,500 DNA samples for use in MS research.

International MS Genetics Consortium: Uses large-scale whole genome association studies to identify the genes that play a part in the development and progression of multiple sclerosis.

Multiple sclerosis (MS)

MSBase: An international online registry and platform for collaborative research in multiple sclerosis.

ANZgene consortium, coordinated by MS Research Australia: Menzies is a key contributor to this investigator-led consortium across Australia and New Zealand. The consortium is aligned with the International Multiple Sclerosis Genetics

International Progressive MS Alliance: A collaboration of 15 MS organisations and other stakeholders that brings together researchers from around the world.


University of Tasmania

Continued from page 23

Cardiovascular disease

early nutrition programming and lifestyle factors affect rates of obesity and related disorders.

The International Childhood Cardiovascular Cohort (i3C) Consortium: This consortium was established by former Menzies Director Professor Terry Dwyer in 2002, initially with three cohorts (Australia, Finland and the US). It has grown to include seven cohorts, with five from the US. The study pools data on cardiovascular risk factors in childhood, following participants over several decades into adulthood. Menzies’ involvement is through the Childhood Determinants of Adult Health study, which in 2017 began the third follow-up on adults who initially took part in a 1985 school health survey.

SUCCOUR: An international multi-centre randomised controlled trial attempting to demonstrate that the use of strain imaging can alter heart function in patients with breast cancer and haematological malignancy.

INternational STRoke oUtComes sTudy (INSTRUCT): A consortium of 14 population-based stroke incidence studies with long-term follow-up data. The study is being used to explore the reasons for differences in outcome between men and women after stroke.

The Long-Term Effects of Early Nutrition on Later Health Project: Researchers from 35 institutions in 12 European countries, the United States and Australia are studying how

i24ABC The International 24 hour Ambulatory Aortic Blood Pressure Consortium.

The study is being used to explore the reasons for differences in outcome between men and women after stroke.

Peter Mathew

FITNESS FOCUS: Dr Michele Callisaya.

Menzies Institute for Medical Research Annual Report 2017


Healthy ageing ASPREE (ASPirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly): Menzies is a critical part of the ASPREE randomised controlled trial of aspirin, the largest primary prevention aspirin study ever undertaken in healthy older people. This collaboration is through Monash University and the Bermann Center in Minneapolis, and is investigating whether taking daily low-dose aspirin extends healthy active life in those aged over 70. The ASPREE study concluded at the end of 2017 and is being followed by ASPREE-XT in 2018.

ON THE MOVE: Researchers with the ‘biobus’ used during May Measurement Month.

MENZIES JOINS GLOBAL CAMPAIGN ON HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE In May 2017, Menzies took part in one of the biggest public health screening exercises the world has ever seen, when blood pressure researchers in 100 countries joined forces to raise awareness of the seriousness of this problem.

STAREE (Statin use in the elderly trial): A community-based public health trial which is not sponsored by pharmaceutical industries. It will determine whether statins maintain and improve quality of life in the elderly population.

During ‘May Measurement Month’, our staff went out into the community to conduct 23 days of blood pressure testing at various locations around Hobart, including the Elizabeth St Mall, the Glenorchy City Council building and the Royal Hobart Hospital. More than 400 people had their blood pressure taken during the month. The results of this testing are being pooled with millions of other tests carried out around the world to give a global picture of the seriousness of high blood pressure.

GOOD (Gait, cOgnitiOn & Decline consortium): An international collaboration investigating the interplay between gait and cognition/dementia in older people.

Raised blood pressure causes approximately 9.4 million deaths each year worldwide. In Tasmania, we have the highest prevalence of high blood pressure among all Australian states and territories.

ISN iNET-CKD (International Network of Chronic Kidney Disease cohort studies): Includes the Tasmanian Chronic Kidney Disease Study.

Raised blood pressure is the biggest single contributing risk factor for global death. Sometimes there are no symptoms of high blood pressure and people only find out after suffering a heart attack or stroke, or after being diagnosed with something else, such as heart or kidney disease.

CHARGE (Cohorts for Heart and Aging Research in Genomic Epidemiology Consortium): Facilitates genome-wide association study meta-analyses and replication opportunities among multiple large and well-phenotyped longitudinal cohort studies.

Two major factors that contribute to high blood pressure and cardiovascular risk are body weight and ageing. The good news is that simple lifestyle changes – such as regular exercise and reducing salt in the diet – can be very effective in reducing this risk.


University of Tasmania


WINNING TRIO: 2017 NHMRC Grant recipients (from L to R) Dr Seana Gall, Dr Dawn Aitken and Dr Kaylene Young.

inflammatory knee osteoarthritis. The drug is registered in some European and Asian countries and the trial will help determine whether it becomes available in Australia.

Dr Dawn Aitken DICKENS - A randomised controlled trial of DIaCerein to treat KneE osteoarthritis with effusioN-Synovitis $1,309,503, National Health and Medical Research Council

Dr Kaylene Young Using non-invasive magnetic stimulation to promote remyelination $664,868, National Health and Medical Research Council

Almost 60% of people with knee osteoarthritis have joint inflammation and are likely to experience pain and rapid destruction in the joint. This multi-centre clinical trial, led by Menzies’ Dr Aitken, will test whether diacerein reduces pain and joint damage in patients with

Menzies Institute for Medical Research Annual Report 2017

Research led by Dr Young at Menzies has identified a non-invasive method of


Miranda Harman

DEVIL OF A JOB: Dr Andy Flies (left), who received two Australian Research Council grants, with other members of the Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumour vaccine team.

magnetic stimulation that increases the number of new insulating cells added to the brain. The new project will determine whether this new treatment can promote insulation repair in a pre-clinical model of multiple sclerosis. This funding will further strengthen the large and integrated program of laboratory, clinical and population health research that continues 20 years of expertise in multiple sclerosis at Menzies. Dr Kaylene Young How do myelinating cells alter brain circuits to facilitate learning? $487,460, ARC Discovery Grant

Peter Mathew

This project aims to identify the brain circuits that receive new insulation and characterise the molecular mediators of this process. This project will apply innovative technologies to understand how the nervous system remains adaptable throughout life. This new knowledge of the cellular mechanisms that allow brain circuits to remain adaptable throughout life may have application in the development of interventions aimed at improving educational outcomes or counteracting

This new knowledge may have application in the development of interventions.


age-related memory decline. Potential future benefits include facilitating the development of drugs to circumvent memory loss resulting from brain diseases, and improving the design of neuromorphic hardware for computing. Dr Kimberley Pitman, Dr Kaylene Young, Professor Bruce Taylor, Dr Jac Charlesworth, Professor Alex Hewitt $448,999, Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation

Dr Pitman and colleagues are investigating how a particular genetic mutation can cause MS in a certain subset of people and whether this gene can be therapeutically targeted to treat MS. Dr Seana Gall REDucing Delays In aneurysmal Subarachnoid Haemorrhage: the REDDISH study $436,022, National Health and Medical Research Council

Aneurysmal subarachnoid haemorrhage (aSAH) is a rare but devastating form of stroke that kills at least 30% of sufferers within one month. This project will determine the optimal times for treatment to increase discharge home, reduce complications and improve survival for people who have suffered this type of stroke.

University of Tasmania

TACKLING MND: Neuroscientists Dr Catherine Blizzard and Professor Tracey Dickson.

Peter Mathew

Dr Andy Flies $365,058, ARC Discovery Early Career Research Award


This project aims to develop a single-shot vaccine for the Tasmanian devil facial tumour disease.

Almost $1 million from FightMND will flow to Menzies to fund research into a potential drug therapy for motor neurone disease (MND). The funding is supporting a three-year program of research conducted by Associate Professor Tracey Dickson.

Dr Kimberley Pitman $322,952, NHMRC Early Career Fellowship

Is kainate receptor dysfunction at the core of multiple sclerosis pathology?

“The funding will allow us to take the knowledge we have gained over 10 years of laboratory research into MND at Menzies and put that into the development of a drug for treatment and/or prevention of MND,” Associate Professor Dickson said.

Dr Lei Si $322,952, NHMRC Early Career Fellowship

The value of osteoporosis interventions: evaluating the cost effectiveness and incorporating patients’ preference.

In particular, the research will look at whether existing drugs that have already been approved for other conditions may be suitable for clinical trials to treat people with MND.

Major grants administered by other institutions

Until now, the focus of Associate Professor Dickson’s research group has been the mechanism in the central nervous system that underlies MND. The group is now poised to transition that research from determining the cause of MND to using this knowledge to develop a treatment.

Associate Professor Alex Hewitt is a chief investigator on a $9.46 million NHMRC program grant that aims to convert the genetic discoveries of primary open angle glaucoma into new clinical practices to reduce the disease expected to affect 80 million people worldwide by 2020. The project grant is being administered by Flinders University.

The funding from FightMND is part of a $7.8 million allocation for research that was announced by the Foundation’s co-founder and patron and former AFL footballer, Neale Daniher, who lives with MND. Philanthropic support from the Tasmanian community has also been crucial to Menzies’ MND research, with vital support from foundations, community groups, families and individuals. These donations have enabled the research to grow to the point where Menzies is now nationally competitive in seeking large grants that have the potential to change the course of the disease.

Professor Andrew Palmer is a chief investigator on the $2,498,606 NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Pulmonary Fibrosis, A comprehensive and integrated clinical research program for PF: transforming the approach to PF in Australia. The CRE is based at Monash University.

Menzies Institute for Medical Research Annual Report 2017


Philanthropic support from the community has been crucial to MND research. Continued from page 23

Professor Greg Woods, Dr Andy Flies Immunisation to protect against transmissible cancers in Tasmanian devils $303,931, ARC Discovery Project

This project aims to identify the immune escape mechanisms that the devil facial tumour disease (DFTD) uses to avoid being killed by the immune system. Since the discovery of the second transmissible cancer (DFT2), mystery surrounds whether the devil’s immune system can

Competitive Fellowships

respond to this cancer, hence this project will investigate the immune response to DFT2. The final aims are to develop a vaccine with the potential to protect healthy devils and cure devils with DFTD. The expected outcomes are to better understand cancer immune escape mechanisms and the development of a vaccine. The innovative aspects are combining immunological techniques with genetic analyses and novel in situ hybridisation technology.

Dr Michele Callisaya $533,118, National Health and Medical Research Council Fellowship

Dr Callisaya and colleagues will investigate the role of physical function and exercise in improving the health of older Australians at risk of dementia. Dr Kazuaki Negishi $519,752, National Heart Foundation Future Leader Fellowship

Clinical application of cardiovascular imaging for detection of subclinical cardiovascular dysfunction and establishing treatment.

PAIRED FOR SUCCESS: Dr Kaylene Young and Professor Bruce Taylor.

Dr Dawn Aitken $431,000, Medical Research Future Fund Career Development Fellowship

Miranda Harman

NEW FUNDING FOR MENZIES WILL ACCELERATE PROGRESS IN MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS RESEARCH New funding awarded to two Menzies multiple sclerosis researchers will help to speed up the translation of research into clinical practice.

will investigate how those mutations affect the health of cells and may help to identify drugs that could offset the effect of the mutation.

The recipients were Professor Bruce Taylor and Dr Kaylene Young. Their research will help expedite new treatments to protect and repair the nervous system.

In her research, Dr Young has discovered that non-invasive brain stimulation, known as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), can increase the ability of stem cells in the brain to generate new cells for nervous system repair. This fellowship will allow her to move her work into the early stages of clinical research, including by performing a safety trial

Professor Taylor and his team have identified genetic mutations that appear to increase a person’s risk of developing MS. The new research


Improving musculoskeletal pain by matching the right treatment with the right patient.

of TMS to ensure that this potential treatment can be safely administered to people with MS. The funding, totalling $750,000 over three years, comes from the inaugural MS Research Australia – Macquarie Group Foundation Paired Fellowship program, an innovative program that breaks down the barriers between the laboratory and the clinic to ensure faster translation of research discoveries into tangible health benefits for the community. The award was made through a competitive process and reflects Menzies’ long-standing focus on multiple sclerosis, with 20 years of research into the disease.

University of Tasmania


Funding Body


Menzies lead and other Menzies researchers

End Date


31/12/2020 Multiple Sclerosis FellowshipResearch Australia Postdoctoral


31/01/2020 National Health & Medical Research Council


Dr Fay Johnston, Maternal Exposure to Air Pollution Dr Shannon Melody and Perinatal Outcomes in Victoria, Australia


31/12/2018 Arthritis Australia


Dr Feitong Wu, Professor Graeme Jones

Early life strategies for improving fracture risk factors throughout life



31/10/2018 University of Tasmania Foundation Inc

Grant-Cancer Research

Dr Andy Flies

Investigation into an overlooked pathway towards anti-cancer immunity. Inhibitory motifs in the extracellular domains of immune checkpoint molecules




University of Tasmania Foundation Inc

Grant-Dr Eric Guiler Tasmanian Devil Research Grant

Dr Andy Flies, Professor Greg Woods, Dr Bruce Lyons

A live-attenuated vaccine (DFT-Off) to promote long-term anti-DFTD immunity




University of Tasmania Foundation Inc

Professor Greg Grant-Dr Eric Guiler Tasmanian Woods, Dr Cesar Tovar Devil Research Grant

Deciphering the cellular origin of the second devil facial tumour disease (DFT2)




University of Tasmania Foundation Inc

Grant-Dr Eric Guiler Tasmanian Devil Research Grant

Professor Alex Hewitt, Dr GueiSheung Lui, Professor Greg Woods, Dr Andy Flies

CRISPR screen to identify key genes driving DFTD



31/12/2018 Arthritis Australia


Dr Dawn Aitken, Professor Graeme Jones, Dr Michele Callisaya, Saliu Balogun

A randomised controlled trial evaluating community walking for knee osteoarthritis



31/12/2018 Brain Foundation


Dr Carlie Cullen, Dr Kaylene Young

Investigating ferroptosis as a novel mechanism of oligodendrocyte death



30/06/2018 University of Tasmania Foundation Inc

Professor Greg Grant-Dr Eric Guiler Tasmanian Woods, Dr Andy Flies Devil Research Grant

Evaluation of the role of natural killer (NK) cells in protection against DFTD



31/12/2017 Rebecca L Cooper Grant Medical Research Foundation

Dr Kimberley Pitman Building a new electrophysiology rig



31/12/2018 Multiple Sclerosis Grant-Incubator Research Australia

Dr Carlie Cullen


Menzies Institute for Medical Research Annual Report 2017

Dr Yuan Zhou



Value $

Start Date

Understanding the genetic architecture of multiple sclerosis onset and progression

Can cognitive training promote remyelination?



Funding Body


Menzies lead and other Menzies researchers

Value $

Start Date

End Date


31/12/2018 Multiple Sclerosis Grant-Incubator Research Australia

Investigating the role of short Dr Bennet tandem repeat sequence variation McComish, Dr in multiple sclerosis. Jac Charlesworth, Associate Professor Kathryn Burdon



Grant-Minor 31/12/2018 Royal Hobart Hospital Research Project Foundation

Childhood and adulthood Dr Benny Eathakkattu Antony, determinants of knee cartilage Professor Changhai health assessed using biomarkers Ding, Professor Graeme Jones, Professor Alison Venn



Grant-Minor 30/12/2018 Royal Hobart Hospital Research Project Foundation

The modulation of multiple Dr Yuan Zhou, sclerosis (MS) relapse risk by Professor Bruce genetic variations in the LRP2 gene Taylor, Dr Jac Charlesworth, Associate Professor Kathryn Burdon



31/12/2019 Cancer Council of Tasmania


Dr Liesel Fitzgerald, A clinical and biospecimens Associate Professor prostate cancer resource for biomarker research in Tasmania Jo Dickinson



31/12/2018 Cancer Council of Tasmania


Exposure to passive smoke in Dr Seana Gall, Dr Costan Magnussen, Tasmanian children: determinants, outcomes and changes over time Dr Amanda Neil



Grant-Minor 31/12/2018 Royal Hobart Hospital Research Project Foundation

Dr Liesel Fitzgerald, A clinical and biospecimens Associate professor prostate cancer resource for biomarker research in Tasmania Jo Dickinson, Mr Brian Stokes



31/12/2018 Tasmanian Community Fund


Dr Amanda Wheeler, Can portable air cleaners protect Associate Professor health? Fay Johnston



31/12/2018 Tasmanian Community Fund


Associate Professor Which pollen types matter? Towards better allergy diagnosis in Fay Johnston, Tasmania Dr Penny Jones, Dr Amanda Wheeler



Grant-Starter 31/12/2018 Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation

Dr Seana Gall, Dr Michele Callisaya, Dr Martin Schultz, Dr Berhe Sahle

CArdiac REhabilitation for the Secondary prevention of Stroke (CARESS)


15/03/2018 Multiple Sclerosis Travel Award Research Australia

Dr Kimberley Pitman

Developing a human oligodendrocyte culture model to study multiple sclerosis





University of Tasmania


WALKING AND TALKING: More than 500 people took part in the inaugural Menzies 5km Walk.

Menzies exists to advance the health of Tasmanians. In turn, we benefit from the support and participation of the community in our research studies, programs, activities and events.

and the latest advances in multiple sclerosis research. It was wonderful to see more than 500 people participate in the inaugural Menzies 5km Walk, which was part of Hobart Run the Bridge.

Almost 5000 people attended the events we hosted including presentations, talks, on-site tours and fundraising events. Our annual debate was again hosted by the ABC science communicator Bernie Hobbs. We had a learned and entertaining line-up of local and interstate debaters to discuss the contentious topic “Heart Disease, We Don’t Need to Worry About That Any More”. We held public talks on new technology helping pre-term babies, “Three Ways to Better Health”

Menzies research students met hundreds of school children by presenting activities at Agfest and the Festival of Bright Ideas, which is held in Hobart during National Science Week. Our philanthropy and community engagement program allows us to connect with the community. In 2017, $3.4 million was secured in philanthropic income including just under $1.2 million in Wills. We received 13 planned gifts and 2,961 individual donations.


In 2017, we reached 250 supporters who have advised of their interest or intent to leave a gift to Menzies in their Will. This information helps us to plan for the future

raised through community fundraisers

Menzies Institute for Medical Research Annual Report 2017


We owe a great deal to the hard work and support of our volunteers. In 2017, Menzies had 109 registered volunteers who worked on everything from assisting research participants, to painstaking data entry and collection, to filling envelopes.

$3 million Philanthropic income in 2017

and to track and estimate the value of philanthropic income in future years. Our 127 regular donors (the Everyday Angels), donated monthly and over $90,000 was raised Statewide through community fundraisers. All donations made to the Institute go directly to medical research and every dollar donated also attracts further funding to Menzies through the Australian Government’s Research Block Grant program. Investment Overview With an increasingly competitive national funding context, philanthropic funds are of vital importance to the Institute. Philanthropic funds allow us to invest in

HOT TOPIC: Moderator Bernie Hobbs (left) and the expert line-up at the Menzies debate.

priority projects, to stimulate new projects and investigations, purchase equipment, develop our future medical researchers through scholarships and attract the best researchers internationally through competitive salaries and fellowships. Strategic Priorities Our fundraising efforts reflect our strategic priorities. In 2017, $523,000 was pledged towards the MS Flagship Research Program including from the IOOF Foundation and the MPST Foundation.

We invested existing funds from gifts made in Wills to our strategic research priority areas, including the interest from $2.6 million bequest received in 2009 from the Estate of the Late Henry Baldwin. Investment returns have grown this gift over time to $3.9 million and, in 2017, the Henry Baldwin Senior Research Fellow in Multiple Sclerosis was awarded to Dr Jac Charlesworth for a five-year term. Stimulus Funds We established the Philanthropic Fund and Panel, making philanthropic funds competitively available internally to stimulate new projects and to provide development funding for projects that will

go on to apply for nationally competitive funding. More than $840,000 was distributed from the Philanthropic Fund in 2017. Scholarships and Fellowships We distributed more than $1 million of philanthropic funds to scholarships and fellowshipsw, growing capacity and the future of medical research in Tasmania. Thank you We acknowledge and appreciate the generosity of all supporters who made a philanthropic contribution to the Institute in 2017.

Bequests We acknowledge the following individuals for their generosity through gifts made in Wills: ■ Estate of the late Patricia Glasser ■ Estate of the late Joy Merlene Bender ■ Estate of the late Barbara Joan Pettit ■ Estate of the late Margaret Anne Maddock ■ Estate of the late Dorit Helga O’Donnell ■ Estate of the late Swinton Leslie Brown ■ Estate of the late Betty June Smith ■ Estate of the late Georgine Mavis Davies ■ Estate of the late Valerie A. Davenport

Peter Mathew


University of Tasmania

RESEARCH THANKS TO YOU: Yvonne and Alan Bottomley with liver cancer researcher Dr Barb de Graaff.


Miranda Harman

Sefton Bottomley was 35 years old when he died of liver cancer in 1950, leaving Josephine, his wife of just seven years, and their three boys aged 6, 5 and 3 on their picturesque Bruny Island farm, Lauriston. In 2017, almost 70 years after his death, a gift to medical research was made in honour of Sefton Bottomley from the Estate of the late Josephine Denne.

We acknowledge and appreciate the generosity of all supporters.

The Sefton Bottomley Liver Cancer Research Bequest will contribute $300,000 to the funding of a new project at the Institute being led by health economist Dr Barbara de Graaff. Dr de Graaff is looking into the establishment of a more streamlined approach to screening for liver cancer, with the aim of allowing the disease to be detected and treated earlier.

Continued from page 23

Estate of the late Josephine Marie Denne ■ Estate of the late Dawn Merle Juodvalkis ■ Estate of the late Leslie Charles Adams ■ Estate of the late Nathalie Phoebe Little ■

Major Donors Fifty donors who made individual gifts of $5,000 or more and contributed $1,701,096 in donations. We acknowledge the following fellowship supporters: ■ Select Foundation Research Fellowships in Medical Research ■ Farrell Family Research Fellowship in Medical Research ■ Broadreach Holdings Early Career Research Fellowship

We acknowledge the following scholarship supporters: ■ Ashdown Family Elite Postgraduate Scholarship in Medical Research ■ Cuthbertson Elite Postgraduate Scholarship in Medical Research ■ Diabetes Tasmania Postgraduate Scholarship in Medical Research ■ Diagnostic Services Honours Scholarship in Medical Research ■ Doctors Tasmania Honours Scholarship in Primary Care Research ■ Farrell Family Elite Research Scholarship in Medical Research ■ Fred Binns Parkinson’s Foundation Honours Scholarship in Medical Research ■ Hobart Cancer Auxiliary Honours Scholarship in Medical Research ■ Heart Foundation/Menzies Institute for Medical Research Honours Scholarships ■ Helene Matterson Honours Scholarship in Medical Research ■ Merle Weaver Postgraduate Scholarship in Medical Research ■ Moonah Navy Club Honours Scholarship in Medical Research ■ Morrell Family Trust Postgraduate Scholarship in Medical Research

MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Professor Mark Nelson (on right) receives a donation at the Rotary Club of Moonah’s Festival of Wheels

Menzies Institute for Medical Research Annual Report 2017


About 2,000 people in Australia are diagnosed with liver cancer each year and, compared to other cancers, five-year survival rates are low. However, the chances of successful treatment are improved if the cancer is detected early. We thank and acknowledge the Bottomley family and executors of the Estate for their generosity.

Pennicott Foundation Postgraduate Scholarship in Medical Research ■ Patricia F Gordon Postgraduate Scholarship in Medical Research ■ Staples Australia/Konica Minolta Postgraduate Scholarship in Medical Research ■ Tasmanian Masonic Medical Research Foundation Postgraduate Scholarship ■ Tasmanian Police Charity Trust Honours Scholarship in Breast Cancer Research ■ TasNetworks Postgraduate Scholarships in Mental Health Research ■


2017 Actual

Income Commonwealth Government Research Support







Commonwealth Government Research Grants



Tasmanian Government grants



Other Contracts and Agreements









Investment Income






Other Income



Teaching Income Menzies Foundation

UTAS Contributions







Expenses Salaries and On-Costs Depreciation, Equipment and Infrastructure



Medical and Laboratory Materials



Travel and Training Related Costs














Research Sub-Contractors and Consultants Other Expenses


Notes 1 Trust Funds As at 31 December 2017, Menzies held Trust Funds valued at $19,377,956. The capital amount of this trust was valued at $13,643,716. Interest distributions provide a source of research income for Menzies. The non-capital component of these trust funds is available for use in accordance with the benefactor’s instructions. The University Foundation manages a number of trusts on behalf of Menzies. As at 31 December 2017, the value of these trusts was $849,885. Distributions are made by agreement between the University Foundation and Menzies in accordance with the benefactor’s instructions.


University of Tasmania

BOARD AND MANAGEMENT The 2017 Menzies Board Mr Bruce Neill (Chairman) Professor Alison Venn (Director) Professor Moira Clay Professor Denise Fassett Mr Bob Gozzi Professor Brigid Heywood Professor Bob Williamson

The 2017 Menzies Senior Management Team Professor Alison Venn (Director) Associate Professor Tracey Dickson (Deputy Director) Professor James Sharman (Deputy Director) Mr Mark Bennett (General Manager) Associate Professor Jo Dickinson Professor Changhai Ding Ms Miranda Harman Professor Heinrich Korner Professor Graeme Jones Ms Magdalena Lane Professor Andrew Palmer Dr David Steele Professor Bruce Taylor

Menzies Institute for Medical Research, University of Tasmania, is proudly supported by:

If you would like more information about our research programs, collaborations or education opportunities, please contact us.

Menzies Institute for Medical Research ❙ Medical Science Precinct 17 Liverpool Street (Private Bag 23) ❙ HOBART TAS 7000 Phone: +61 (0)3 6226 7700 ❙ Email: @ResearchMenzies

ABN 30 764 374 782 – University of Tasmania

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