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Robinson Institute Newsletter Issue 4, October 2009

In this issue: ★ Young Investigator Awards ★ NHMRC 10 of the Best ★ SRB & IFPA ★ National PCOS Alliance ★ Launch of the Robinson Institute Foundation


From the Director Affirmation, acclamation & celebration Members of the Institute have been very successful over the past few months in a number of areas including prizes, awards, fellowships, mention in media and appointment to key committees. As clinicians and scientists we have a tradition of being very muted about the way we acknowledge success. While we get very excited about achievements in sport and business, we do not appear to be as good at celebrating our achievements in science and research as I would expect. Achieving a publication in a high ranking journal such as the New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of American Medical Association or Science should be cause for great celebration because it means achievements against all odds. Receiving a Fellowship with a success rate of around 20% is also outstanding and being recognised by getting prizes or being appointed to important positions is also worthy of recognition.

So why are we reticent about congratulating each other and celebrating? Part of the issue is that naturally we tend to be afraid that celebration will be equated with self promotion, arrogance and pride - characteristics that are not commonly admired in many of our

Robinson Institute Newsletter, Issue 4, Oct 09

colleagues. Another reason is that we feel that achieving these things is expected of us and therefore is merely part of our job. We are used to not receiving grants or not achieving some of the things that we want to, so when we do finally succeed we are just relieved rather than wanting to celebrate. When we succeed, others may not have done so leaving us muted about celebration. There is so much to be proud among members of the Robinson Institute and their constituent centres. So many individuals have done fantastically well and it is important that we recognise them without them feeling embarrassed or without members of the Institute claiming that we are just involved in self promotion. I would appreciate any discussion you might have on how to affirm others and to celebrate our achievements in science without contradicting the fundamental principles in which many of us operate, namely that we are often part of a large team, that we owe much success to the efforts of others and that pride is not a common characteristic we like among scientists. Please email me if you have any ideas about what we should do and if you think that any of the things that we are doing at the moment are not appropriate. Professor Robert Norman, Institute Director


Left: Young Investigator Award winner, Alison Care.

Young Investigator Award Winner 2009 PhD student, Alison Care of the Robinson Institute’s Research Centre for Reproductive Health has been named the 2009 Young Investigator Award winner for shedding new light on why some women are infertile, and why some pregnancies end in miscarriage. Alison’s research has examined the role of a type of immune cells known as macrophages (white blood cells) within the ovary, which are found in abundance around developing eggs and in hormone-producing structures within the ovary. Her research, conducted in mice, shows that when these cells are depleted there is a significant reduction in the amount of progesterone the ovary produces. Progesterone is a hormone produced by the ovary which is essential for the maintenance of early pregnancy. "We know that the ovary requires a vascular network in order to deliver the high levels of progesterone the body requires to maintain early pregnancy. The formation of this network occurs very quickly following ovulation, and macrophages may be involved in establishing that blood supply," Alison says. "It appears that the ovary has its own specialist pathway to achieve this, and that macrophages have an essential role in building the blood supply that we hadn't previously appreciated. "This research identifies immune system cells as critical determinants of normal ovarian activity and the maintenance of early pregnancy. This might be a

Robinson Institute Newsletter, Issue 4, Oct 09

key to helping prevent early pregnancy loss, such as recurrent miscarriage." Alison says a number of factors - such as smoking, obesity, poor nutrition and stress - could all alter the way macrophages behave and may provide reasons for infertility or miscarriage in some women. Alison won the Young Investigator Award after presenting her research to a general audience and media panel at the final event, held at the Royal Institution of Australia. She was one of three finalists. As the winner of the Award, Ms Care receives The Hon Carolyn Pickles Award of $10,000. Prizes of $3,000 each were awarded to the two runners up, Kathryn Gebhardt (also of the Robinson Institute) and Roger Yazbek. The Young Investigator Award, now in its 10th year, is a highly successful event rewarding excellence in South Australia's young researchers in both science and their ability to communicate and 'sell' that science. The Award is an initiative of the Children, Youth and Women's Health Service and the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Adelaide. The University of South Australia and Flinders University are also partners in the Award together with the Women's and Children's Health Research Institute, the Royal Institution of Australia, Medvet and the Women's and Children's Hospital Foundation. For more information visit the website:


Launch of the Robinson Institute Foundation A Steering Group of high-profile external representatives has been established to develop the business plan for the operations and identify patrons for the Robinson Institute Foundation.

• Raise public awareness of the clinical and policy benefits from the work of the Robinson Institute in order to enhance the uptake of research findings from the Institute by the community.

The Foundation will be established in early 2010 and launched on 13th February at a Gala Ball on the grounds of Government House.

The Robinson Institute Foundation will



The establishment of the Robinson Institute Foundation has been identified as an important strategy for furthering the world class research of the Robinson Institute. The purpose of the Foundation will be to raise awareness and funds to conduct research into all areas of reproductive health, regenerative medicine and the health of women and babies in the Robinson Institute at the University of Adelaide. The Foundation is expected to become a key driver in improving the health and wellbeing of Australians.

The Foundation will: • Raise funds that cannot be raised through traditional research funding sources. These funds are needed to support the training of younger researchers, to seed fund new areas of research and to fund special equipment not provided through traditional funding. This will form an integral part in building the capacity of the Institute.

Robinson Institute Newsletter, Issue 4, Oct 09

exist to facilitate activities in regards • Building and encouraging philanthropy towards research at the Robinson Institute • Improve awareness of the Institute and its objectives and outcomes within South Australia and nationally • Facilitate and implement innovative models for fundraising and diversify our funding base • Assist in the development of strategic partnerships and relationships to enhance the research strength and reputation of the Institute • Implement community engagement activities to improve awareness and public understanding of the Institute’s research • To enhance the uptake of research findings from the Institute by the community, with the aim of improving health outcomes


Right: Dr Julia Pitcher

The Robinson Institute 2 Foundation NHMRC 10 of the Best Neurophysiologist Dr Julia Pitcher and her team’s research linking cognitive outcomes in children born preterm with impaired motor development has been named among the top 10 health and medical research projects in Australia by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). Dr Pitcher's four-year NHMRC-funded research project found evidence that even mild prematurity alters normal development of the motor cortex area of the brain which controls movement. In a study of 28 year olds, Dr Pitcher's team found that those who had low birth weights also had altered motor cortex function as adults, and that this predicted their educational achievement. "What most surprised us was that, unexpectedly in these individuals who were not technically preterm, or born earlier than 37 weeks gestation, we still saw an additional effect of shorter gestation on their motor cortex development." An ongoing follow-up study has confirmed this, examining motor and cognitive development in children aged 11-13 years and showing that every week of gestation lost results in altered motor cortex development. "These alterations in motor cortex development due to preterm birth are much stronger predictors of cognitive outcome, particularly language and processing of speech, than gestation length itself," Dr Pitcher says. "Babies from socio-economically disadvantaged homes tend to do the worst. The good news is that it Robinson Institute Newsletter, Issue 4, Oct 09

appears a stimulating post-natal environment can ameliorate many of the negative consequences of preterm birth on both motor and cognitive development." "This is the first physiological evidence that the motor and cognitive dysfunction commonly experienced by preterm children when they reach school age probably has a common underlying origin in the brain," Dr Pitcher says. One of the main impacts of her team's research relates to these late or mildly preterm children, born between 33-37 weeks of gestation. "Many of these babies present as normal at birth, but there is increasing evidence that these children experience significant motor, cognitive and behavioural difficulties at school age. It seems every week of gestation is important." Dr Pitcher's team hopes to develop early diagnostic markers and intervention strategies to minimise the impact of pre-term birth on a child's future development. The NHMRC awarded Dr Pitcher a $266,500 Peter Doherty Fellowship in 2004 to undertake postdoctoral research in this area. In late 2008 her team was awarded another $460,000 to fund the ongoing study. Since March 2009 Dr Pitcher has held an M.S. McLeod Research Fellowship in Paediatric Medicine at the Women's and Children's Hospital. Visit web site for further details.


The World Around Us National PCOS Alliance Forms Professor Helen Teede of the Jean Hailes Foundation for Women's Health, and Professor Rob Norman, of the Robinson Institute have led an Australian Initiative to form a National Alliance on Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and have successfully secured considerable government funding to support this initiative over the next 3 years. The initiative brings together multidisciplinary clinicians, women with PCOS, researchers and government. The PCOS Australian Alliance is designed to provide a single voice for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and has agreed on a vision to improve the lives of Australian women with PCOS through education, research and evidence based health care. The initiative worked closely with Minister Roxon and the Department, with the Australian Government committing to $1,134,000 over three years to fund the National PCOS Alliance, specifically for the development of national evidence based guidelines in PCOS and to support education/translation for consumers and health care professionals. Professor Teede, "applauds Minister Roxon's recognition of the important contribution the National PCOS Alliance can make to both women's health and preventive health agenda in Australia." Robinson Institute Newsletter, Issue 4, Oct 09

PCOS is a debilitating condition affecting 11% of Australian women of reproductive age and 21% of indigenous women. Australian research shows that 89% of women with PCOS saw more than one health professional before their diagnosis was made, 49% took greater than six months to have a diagnosis confirmed and 41% were very dissatisfied with the manner in which they were informed of their diagnosis. Although the answers about PCOS are emerging from research, they have not yet been translated into practice. International consensus and guidelines on PCOS are limited. The first task for the National PCOS Alliance is the development of the first national, and in many areas, first international evidence-based guidelines for diagnosis and care of women with PCOS. Professor Norman says, "this is the first time the federal government has recognised the importance of the condition. The Alliance will promote collaboration between researchers and clinicians to ensure we work together to solve many issues surrounding this common disease." For more information about the Alliance please visit:


Left: Researcher Michael OʼCallaghan with Jacqueline Pearce & her daughter Amy who signed up as volunteers for the study.

Under the Microscope The Robinson Institute 2 Cerebral Palsy Group Foundation The Cerebral Palsy Research Group is leading the world in research to better understand the links between an extremely common health disorder and our genetic susceptibility to environmental hazards. Many human diseases are now thought to be linked to a genetic vulnerability that can be triggered by environmental factors, such as diabetes and obesity, cardiovascular disease and smoking, breast cancer and alcohol, osteoporosis and premature menopause. Gene mutations increasing the risk of these diseases may have their effect magnified by other risk factors for the same disease. Cerebral palsy, which affects one in every 500 children born in Australia, may also be caused by genetic vulnerability. Cerebral palsy is a childhood disorder where the control of body movements is impaired. Its incidence has not changed in the last 50 years despite improved medical care and a six-fold increase in caesarean section rates. The old assumption that cerebral palsy must have been due to complications at birth has now been replaced in medical science with the realisation that most cases have their origins during pregnancy – in other words, before the child is born. A new hypothesis, now being tested in South Australia, is that cerebral palsy may be associated with fetal or maternal genetic susceptibility to infection during pregnancy or other environmental hazards. In pregnancy, anti-inflammatory agents (called cytokines) are produced to help protect the fetus against exposure to viruses, among other things. However, if there is a genetic mistake (mutation) in the genes controlling the fetal inflammation response, this can be either excessive or inadequate. Too great a response to infection or inflammation, with overproduction of the protective cytokines, not only destroys the invading and multiplying infective organism, but they can also attack the immature and developing brain cells at the nerve centres that control body movement. Similarly, too little cytokine production, due to a genetic mutation causing an inadequate fetal or maternal inflammatory response, may leave the fetus vulnerable to viruses or other agents that preferentially attack the developing brain, such as the rubella virus. Robinson Institute Newsletter, Issue 4, Oct 09

When the pregnancy is exposed to adverse environmental conditions, gene mutations affecting the normal inflammatory response in pregnancy may predispose the child to brain damage. As well as exposure to infection, other risks factors for cerebral palsy may compound the risk, such as preterm birth, intrauterine growth restriction and placental bleeding, creating double or triple jeopardy for cerebral palsy. Over the last decade, work by the South Australian Cerebral Palsy Research Group has led to the development of a genetic susceptibility hypothesis. This group has analysed dried blood spots, taken soon after birth, in children diagnosed in later years with cerebral palsy and compared these with newborn blood from healthy (control) children. These studies show increased numbers of genetic mutations in infants with cerebral palsy both for genes that alter the normal fetal inflammatory response and for genes that increase clotting and the risk of fetal or infant stroke and specific types of cerebral palsy. Increased exposure to herpes viruses was also seen in the blood samples from babies who were later diagnosed with cerebral palsy. The research team, lead by Professor Alastair MacLennan, has been funded by Australia's National Health and Medical Research Council and the Cerebral Palsy Foundation to conduct a world-first study to understand the genetic causes of cerebral palsy. This ambitious Australia-wide study started last year and aims to collect cheek swabs from thousands of mothers and children with cerebral palsy throughout Australia together with swabs from “control” families without cerebral palsy. Currently there are no ways to prevent pregnancyacquired cerebral palsy. With the help of cerebral palsy families and ‘control’ families it may be possible to better identify genetic susceptibility to cerebral palsy and some of the environmental triggers that initiate the brain disorder that leads to cerebral palsy. Such knowledge may lead to preventative strategies, such as gene therapies to replace the aberrant gene, immunisation against toxic viruses, drugs to modify an excessive inflammatory response, or public health measures to help avoid environmental hazards.

Dr Darryl Russell awarded ARC Future Fellowship In September, five researchers at the University of Adelaide were among the first of the prestigious Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellowships announced by the Federal Government.

opportunities for mid-career researchers in Australia, which forced many of our talented researchers to search for work overseas", said the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr.

The Future Fellows will conduct research into areas of national priority and will advance Australia's international research and innovation standing.

As well as supporting researchers already based in Australia, the Future Fellowships will give Australian researchers working overseas the opportunity to return to Australia, as well as attracting a number of overseas researchers to the country.

Under the scheme, the Future Fellows will receive up to $135,000 each year for four years, while the host University will receive up to $50,000 a year for associated infrastructure and other costs. The Federal Government established the ARC Future Fellowships scheme "to address the gap in

We would like to particularly congratulate Dr Darryl Russell of the Robinson Institute’s Research Centre for Reproductive Health for his research on the regulation of tissue morphogenesis in reproductive function and metastatic cancer.

Researcher Achievements ESA-SRB Conference:

Other Achievements:

2009 SRB RCRH Award for Excellence in Reproductive Biology Research: Dr Robert Gilchrist

Kathryn Gebhardt won the Adelaide Research and Innovation Pty Ltd (ARI) Poster Prize for the best Commercial Research Poster at the Faculty of Health Science Postgraduate Research Expo.

Oozoa Student Award for best presentation: Hassan Bakos

IFPA Conference:

Dr. Nicolette Hodyl’s project entitled "Defining innate immune deficiencies in the pre-term neonate that lead to increased susceptibility to infection and inflammation" has been funded as part of the Thrasher Research Fund's Early Career Award Program.

IFPA Award in Placentrology: Associate Professor Claire Roberts

Ashleigh Smith was awarded first prize for the most innovative research at the Healthy Ageing Research Cluster poster expo.

The SRB New Investigator Award: Alison Care Best Poster Presentation Award: Izza Tan

YW Loke New Investigator Awards: Leigh Guerin, Himawan Harryanto, Nicolete Hodyl, Wee-Ching Kong, Lachlan Moldenhauer, Michael Stark, Ang Zhou. ANZPRA Award: Prabha Andraweera & Denise Furness

Robinson Institute Newsletter, Issue 4, Oct 09

ARCH has been successful in securing a further three years funding from the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing to help support the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Australian Review Authors Group. Cochrane Reviews in maternal and perinatal health have major impact by providing evidence for clinical practice, health care policy and identifying new research



Research Support Update The Robinson Institute’s Research Support Officer, Julie Wood has been with the Institute for 4 months, and during this time Julie has: •

Assisted various researchers enter CV information on NHMRC’s RGMS (Research Grant Management System).

What support do I need to assist me in preparing my next grant? • Grant guideline information • Preparation of dates and useful timeframes • Coordination of peer review

Format CV’s for researchers.

• Templates

Arranged peer review process for the Institute’s internal funding scheme, the Visiting Professor’s Program.

• Document management

Kept members informed by distributing grant opportunities that are only relevant to Robinson Institute members via the Institute updates and other mechanisms.

• Formatting, data entry

Been instrumental in determining researcher

Support is only a phone call or email away. Please contact:

support needs via a brief but comprehensive survey. •

Assisted in management of documentation in preparation for grants.

To enhance this role, Julie is working closely with Simon Kalucy, Senior Learning, Teaching and Research Support Officer SPRH to combine resources and expertise to better assist members. So, when considering research support, perhaps ask yourself the following:

Robinson Institute Newsletter, Issue 4, Oct 09

• Meeting co-ordination and minuting

• Analysis of publication history, citations, h index • Publication listing

Julie Wood: 8313 1335 or

Simon Kalucy 8313 0633 or


8 10

Research Support Update Research Support Survey Results


A Research Support Survey was conducted by the

Have you registered for ResearcherID yet?? It’s really simple, read on...

Robinson Institute & School of Paediatrics & Reproductive Health of which 50% of targeted researchers participated. Results have now been compiled and below is a snapshot of the support found to be useful. •

Links to useful sites for obtaining statistics

Important dates and useful timeframes (included internal peer review programs)

Examples of previous applications

Customised Reports on projects listing and student supervision listing

ResearcherID is a free, online community where authors receive a unique identifier to eliminate author misidentification, increase recognition of an author's work, and facilitate global collaboration among researchers. is easy to use and can be accessed by anyone around the world. When you register on, you create and manage your own publication list.* This is the information others will look at when they are seeking relevant citations, collaborators, speakers, reviewers, and more.

Assistance in compiling and updating CVs

Professional development on educating HDRs and media liaison

But only registered members will have their profile and publication information available for searching, linking, and tracking.

Structured mentoring program

ResearcherID Assistance:

The response was very positive and informative and will be of particular benefit to you as researchers to better assist you in your future research achievements.

Robinson Institute Newsletter, Issue 4, Oct 09

If you would like one of the Research Support staff to give you a brief tutorial on how to register and add your publications to ResearcherID, please contact Simon Kalucy (30633) or Julie Wood (31335).


Upcoming Events The 13th Australasian Autoimmunity Workshop

RSVP by Monday 2nd November to

When: October 30 - Nov 1 Where: National Wine Centre, Adelaide

Robinson Institute Roadshow at the QEH

Professor Stephan Rossner

Where: Seminar Room, Ground Floor, Basil Hetzel

Obesity in perspective after 40 years in the field Northern Community Health Foundation Inc When: Monday 2nd November, 5:30-6:30pm Location: Florey Lecture Theatre, Medical School North, Frome Road RSVP by 29th October 2009 to

Healthy Development Adelaide Thematic Evening “Fertility & Infertility - trials & tribulations” When: Thursday, Nov 5th, 4:15 - 7pm Where: Union House (Level 4, Eclipse Room)

When: Tuesday 10th November Institute for Medical Research Time: 12 - 1:30pm RSVP by Friday October 30th to

CSCR Annual Meeting When: Wed 11th November Where: National Wine Centre, Adelaide Time: 9-5 RSVP to

More events can be viewed at:

Opportunities Upcoming grant opportunities

Awards / Prizes

Please click the links for further information or contact Julie Wood, Research Support Officer.

Bio Innovation SA (BioSA) invites you to apply for the 2010 Bioscience Achievement Awards.

• Go8 European Fellowships – call for applications Internal Deadline: 30th October 2009

Nominations close Friday 13th November 2009 at 5pm

• National Health & Medical Research Council: Equipment Grants Internal Deadline: 3 November 2009

The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research (MJFF) - Rapid Response Innovation Awards

• ARC College of Experts 2010: Call for Nominations Internal Deadline: 30 October 2009

Ongoing - no deadline

International Grants Consortium for Industrial Collaboration in Contraceptive Research (CICCR) - Call for Proposals

Robinson Institute Newsletter, Issue 4, Oct 09

Vacant Positions Stem Cell Research Position of Grant Funded Scientist-1 level 4 to 6 For more information please visit:


Meet the Board Professor Mike Brooks Professor Mike Brooks BSc, MSc, PhD, FACS

Framework Board, where he played a major part in

Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President

auditing the University's research capability.

(Research) University of Adelaide Professor Brooks is Research Leader of Video Professor Mike Brooks was appointed to the position

Surveillance within the Australian Centre for Visual

of Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President

Technologies at the University of Adelaide and is a

(Research) in July 2008. Professor Brooks is a

former Head of the School of Computer Science,

leading international researcher in computer vision

where he holds the Chair in Artificial Intelligence. He

and image analysis.

has published numerous influential papers in the field

His work has seen wide commercial use in the

of computer vision, image analysis and surveillance and has won many Australian Research Council

security and defence industries and has resulted in

(ARC) Discovery Grants for his research. Professor

international awards. At the time of his appointment,

Brooks is a Fellow of the Australian Computer

Professor Brooks held the position of Pro Vice-

Society, Co-Investigator with the ARC Research

Chancellor (Research Strategy), following on from

Network for a Secure Australia, Associate Editor of

his successful role as Chair of the Research Quality

the International Journal of Computer Vision

The Robinson Institute Research for Life For further information please contact: The Robinson Institute The University of Adelaide Ground Floor, Norwich Centre 55 King William Road North Adelaide SA 5006 Australia Telephone: +61 8 8303 8166 Fax: +61 8 8313 1355 Email:

Robinson Institute Newsletter  

Issue 4, October 2009

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