National funding boost for UniSA research

Bright lights INSIDE UNISA

An influx of recent funding announcements has seen UniSA researchers secure more than $12.9 million towards their work through the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the Australian Research Council (ARC).

UniSA Vice Chancellor Professor David Lloyd congratulated the UniSA researchers who have been successful in their grants.

The successful ARC projects include:

Professor Nico Voelcker, Strand Leader for the Future Industries Institute, will lead a project which aims to harness high-precision silicon nanofabrication methods to create the next generation of bio-inspired sensors for virus contamination. The new technology would enable prompt, cost-efficient and accurate detection of harmful pathogens of our water and food supplies.

Professor Cheri Ostroff from the Centre for Human Resource Management has secured funding to explore workplace change. The project plans to examine three different types of change – human resource management practices, team composition, and daily work environment pressures – to determine their impact on organisational processes and effectiveness, team adaptability and performance, employee wellbeing and performance, and service to clients.

Professor John Rose, Director of the Institute for Choice, along with Professor Joffre Swait, and Discovery International Award recipient Professor William Greene, will develop a micro-economically consistent framework for demand forecasting and analysis. The project is set to lead to an improved understanding of consumer behaviour as well as demand forecasting, with benefits to studies involving the need for benefit cost comparisons.

Professor Anthony Elliott, Director of the Hawke Research Institute will lead a project which aims to generate new and powerful understandings of the social consequences of robotics and artificial intelligence. It will develop an understanding of technologically-mediated mobility processes and test their capacity to address such issues as social futures and the sorts of digital skills that Australians will require for future jobs.

Emeritus Professor Phil Howlett from the School of Information Technology and Mathematical Sciences will lead a project which seeks to deepen understanding of how complex systems may be significantly changed by incremental changes to ambient conditions.

Last week the NHMRC announced the 2016 Project Grant recipients.

Centre for Cancer Biology (CCB) researchers won four grants, with Dr Michael Samuel winning funding for two projects.

Dr Samuel’s first project will investigate how a protein known as ROCK promotes cancer tumours; while his second project will look at wound healing. He says wounds that remain unhealed can require surgery and limb amputations, leading to disability and premature death and costing the health system $3 billion a year.

Other CCB researchers receiving funding were Associate Professor Claudine Bonder and CCB co-director Professor Sharad Kumar.

Assoc Prof Bonder is investigating a novel lifeline to treat Type 1 diabetes, for which the only treatment involves the transplantation of pancreatic islets; while Prof Kumar’s project focuses on Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD), a life-threatening disorder affecting more than 12 million people worldwide.

Dr Siobhan Banks from the Centre for Sleep Research has won funding to investigate altering meal times to reverse the metabolic consequences of shift work. Dr Banks says shift work disrupts the internal body clock, which increases the risk for obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

Professor Leonie Segal from the School of Health Sciences will investigate the health and social consequences of child abuse and neglect. Prof Segal says child maltreatment can result in a range of poor health, social and economic outcomes.

Also announced last week were the NHMRC Research Fellowships which were awarded to:

Professor Allison Cowin, Research Professor with UniSA’s Future Industries Institute, who is investigating new approaches for improving wound repair. Her program of research brings together cell biologists, biomaterial scientists and nanotechnology experts as well as wound practitioners and clinicians to develop new therapeutic approaches for healing wounds.

Professor Sharad Kumar, Co-Director of the Centre for Cancer Biology for his research which explores the underlying mechanisms of disease and aims to define therapeutic targets by studying the functions and regulations of specific biological pathways.

Associate Professor Leanne Dibbens, Head of the Epilepsy Genetics Research Group in the Sansom Institute for Health Research, who is at the forefront of identifying the genetic causes of epilepsy. The identification of the gene pathways and underlying biology in epilepsy will reveal new targets for the future development of improved treatments for patients with epilepsy.

Professor Libby Roughead, Director of the Quality Use of Medicines and Pharmacy Research Centre, who is using big data to improve medication use and safety. Her research will assess data driven methods to monitor the safety of medicines post market.

Professor Michael Roberts, Research Chair: Therapeutics and Pharmaceutical Science who focuses on improving therapeutic and toxicological outcomes, will use his Research Fellowship to underpin a program on the safety and efficacy of medicines toxins and nanosystems.

The two NHMRC Early Career Fellowships were awarded to:

Dr Ashleigh Smith, from the School of Health Sciences, who is investigating exercise prescription for brain health in older adults at risk of dementia. Working with aged care providers and peak bodies, her research will enable the development of targeted and sustainable exercise programs to improve the health of older adults with mild cognitive impairment, who are at risk of developing dementia.

Dr Anna Cifuentes-Rius, from the Future Industries Institute, who is developing next generation therapies for the most common form of brain cancer, Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). She has developed a novel porous silicon nanocarrier platform with tuneable shape that can efficiently deliver chemotherapy drugs to cancer cells.

Under the NHMRC Dementia Research Development Fellowship Scheme, three researchers were awarded funding recently.

Dr Ashleigh Smith who was awarded the fellowship for her exercise research says the benefits of exercise on brain health and cognition have been widely reported but she wants to develop an accurate measurement of how much exercise is useful and how it is working to help reduce the progress of dementia.

UniSA’s two other fellowship awardees, Dr Lisa Kalisch Ellett and Dr Tuan Anh Nguyen will focus on medications.

Dr Kalisch Ellett will be searching for a better understanding of the risk of incident dementia associated with anticholinergic (or sedative) medicines and the risks of worsening the condition in patients who already have dementia; while Dr Nguyen will focus on the possible links between some medications and the onset of dementia and related neurodegenerative disease.