12 cardiology research projects win $23 million NHMRC funding

Cardiology researchers have won over $23 million in NHMRC grants to grow their understanding of heart disease and improve patient care. Here are some highlights from the September 2021 NHMRC Grant Application Round.

  • Dr Jiawen Li of the University of Adelaide will use $588,308 to develop a cellular-resolution imaging catheter that can “detect high-risk plaques and [help] cardiologists determine the most efficient treatment on an individual basis”. “The imaging device will be the first-of-its-kind worldwide, holding great hope of significantly reducing cost and complications in cardiovascular diseases,”
  • A team led by Professor Mark Parsons of the University of New South Wales has won $1.165 million to develop “Australia’s first national tele stroke framework and communications platform”. The technology will help “close the gaps in critical patient care”, particularly for regional stroke patients who “are twice as likely to suffer significant disability” than their inner-city counterparts. The team will also create a national tele stroke policy framework to support implementation.
  • Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute Professor David Kaye’s HFpEF research got a $2.742 million injection to improve patient care through “integrated basic, clinical and translational research”. His program will assess the underlying cause of HFpEF and develop effective treatments.
  • Professor Thomas Marwick, also of the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, has been awarded $1.944 million to develop a cardiovascular disease (CVD) screening and risk-based prevention program in cancer survivors. “This is important because survivors are at risk of CVD, both because of their cancer therapy and because the risk factors for cancer are shared with CVD.” Early detection by screening “will enable targeted prevention efforts to reduce incident CVD in cancer survivors”.
  • Associate Professor Enzo Porrello of Murdoch Children’s Research Institute has earned $2.549 million to “unlock the regenerative potential of the newborn heart for cardiac repair in children and adults with heart failure”. His team previously found that, while the adult heart has “extremely limited regenerative capacity”, newborn mammalian hearts retain “a robust capacity for regeneration after birth”.
  • Continuing the regenerative medicine theme, Professor Bob Graham at the University of New South Wales will use $2.352 million to stimulate heart muscle cell division and thereby, build heart muscle, to improve cardiomyopathy patients’ heart function, well-being and survival.
  • University of Tasmania’s Dr Rachel Climie has been awarded $650,740 to “identify factors contributing to cardiovascular health in childhood, establish new ways to detect children at risk of developing CVD and develop strategies to improve cardiovascular health in children that can be easily implemented into policy and practice”.
  • Professor Sally Dunwoodie at the University of New South Wales will use $2.992 million to identify the gene mutations and other factors contributing to congenital heart disease and use experimental models to understand why babies don’t develop normally. “This research will help families understand why birth defects occur and will help to prevent some cases in the future.
  • Dr Aiden Burrell of Monash University will use $450,370 to launch a new ECMO clinical trial. Over the last seven years, Dr Burrell has built a “leading” research program, which “has led to a national ECMO registry and a large RCT of ECMO for cardiac failure”. He hopes the new trial will generate high-quality evidence that fills “major evidence gaps” and leads to improved patient outcomes.
  • University of Sydney Professor Julie Redfern has won $2.873 million to modernise cardiac rehabilitation and secondary prevention of heart disease. Outpatient care post hospitalisation has “not kept up with medical advances”. “To fix this, I will lead a team of researchers and clinicians who will unite and join with people with heart disease to change care so it becomes more effective and efficient. I will set up and test tracking and monitoring systems, develop new ways to reach and support more people and improve clinician and researcher training.
  • A $2.299 million grant will spur Murdoch Children’s Research Institute Professor Andrew Steer’s research into scabies and rheumatic heart disease. “First, I will test new vaccines using a human model of Strep A infection and in a large clinical trial. Second, I will investigate how mass treatment for scabies can impact Strep A skin infection and rheumatic heart disease, and I will test new drugs and diagnostics.”
  • Professor Peter Cistulli of the University of Sydney will use $2.427 million to unpack the relationship behind “deadly duo” obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) and CVD. “This project aims to better understand this connection and to determine whether effective treatment of OSA improves heart health.”

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