UON researchers shine in 2017 NHMRC funding

Wednesday, 11 October 2017


University of Newcastle researchers have secured more than $6 million in the latest round of National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funding, including almost $2.5 million for a world-first research centre to test the effectiveness and safety around medicinal applications of a range of cannabinoids.

Set to undertake vital work coordinating formulation and dose studies in humans suffering health problems, the Australian Centre for Cannabinoid Clinical and Research Excellence (ACRE) will be led by University of Newcastle (UON) clinical pharmacologist Professor Jennifer Martin with co-director Professor Nadia Solowij from the University of Wollongong and in partnership with the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI), Hunter New England Health and interdisciplinary teams across multiple Australian universities.

UON Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Innovation), Professor Kevin Hall, said the NHMRC funding outcome was a wonderful acknowledgement of world-class research being undertaken in Newcastle, as well as a crucial step forward for the management of chronic illness.

“I would like to congratulate all the recipients on this great outcome for the future of health research in Newcastle. I look forward to their vital work delivering tangible outcomes for the community on both a local and global scale,” he said.

HMRI Director, Professor Michael Nilsson, added that the funding would enable Hunter researchers to deliver patient-focused translational research across all stages of life.

“Fellowship funding, in particular, allows researchers to dedicate time and energy to their respective projects, expanding knowledge and building collaborations rather than continually seeking grants,” he said. “It’s a well-earned reward for hard work, which I’m sure will reap dividends for the entire nation.”

The NHMRC funding outcomes also include:

  • $1,060,745 Partnership Project led by Professor Ronald Plotnikoff who, in collaboration with local councils, will investigate strategies to promote aerobic and resistance-based physical activity in parks. With physical inactivity the fourth leading cause of non-communicable deaths worldwide, Professor Plotnikoff’s work incorporating public gym equipment, a smartphone app, education and social support will aim to influence future outdoor fitness parks and improve community health.
  • $876,005 Research Fellowship for Laureate Professor Roger Smith AM to further research on human pregnancy and contributions to Indigenous maternal health, focusing on optimising the health of newborns and subsequently the long-term health of all Australians. Laureate Professor Smith aims to better understand and prevent premature birth, reduce low birth weight and prevent stillbirth, of which Indigenous Australians are at increased risk. The Fellowship will also undertake research to understand why pregnant women are vulnerable to certain viral infections and identify strategies to reduce maternal infection at the time of viral epidemics.
  • $431,000 Career Development Fellowship for Dr Flora Tzelepis to prevent chronic diseases in priority populations who have poorer health outcomes, including disadvantaged groups, those living in regional and remote areas and people born overseas. Dr Tzelepis will lead a randomised trial that investigates the effectiveness of online and telephone support in socially disadvantaged groups and real-time video counselling to assist long-term smokers in regional and remote areas to quit smoking.
  • $431,000 Career Development Fellowship for Dr Andrew Bivard to advance knowledge in the delivery of safer and more effective stroke therapies. Dr Bivard has developed software to better select patients for stroke therapies and, by identifying patients most likely to benefit, hopes new technology will avoid unnecessary treatment and maximise cost effectiveness and benefits for survivors.
  • $408,768 Early Career Fellowship for Dr Elizabeth Bromfield, who will focus on male infertility, specifically looking at why sperm cells die. Defective sperm function is the largest single, defined cause of human infertility and poor sperm quality may be predictive of major systemic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. Dr Bromfield will investigate new ways to limit cellular stress in order to develop therapies in male reproductive health.
  • $318,768 Early Career Fellowship for Dr Kate Bartlem to explore approaches to address chronic disease health behaviour risks among people with a mental illness. By evaluating strategies currently in place to assist those with mental illness, Dr Bartlem will test a tailored intervention in community mental health services and evaluate the effectiveness of existing telephone services for people with mental illness. She aims to contribute to an overall reduction in the chronic disease burden.

The outcome is a wonderful addition to the recent $3.2 million NHMRC funding awarded to UON researchers to improve the wellbeing and outcomes of people living with dementia.

*HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.