Research

11 respiratory medicine research grant winners revealed by NHMRC


Respiratory medicine clinician researchers have been awarded almost $15 million by the NHMRC for research projects according to its list of outcomes for the 2021 NHMRC Grant Application Round.

  • Professor Shyamali Dharmage of Melbourne University receives $2.89 million for a longitudinal study from the 1st to 7th decade of life that aims to provide translatable evidence to advance prevention and management of COPD. According to the grant proposal, the project will investigate the reasons why people are more likely to get COPD from the age of 60 years. “Our study will develop tools to identify early who will develop COPD by 60 years. We will also develop a tool to identify 60-year-old individuals whose lung function is declining faster than normal. These findings will help us to better prevent and manage COPD.”
  • Also at Melbourne University, Dr Dinh Bui receives $650,700 to fund research into reducing the burden of COPD with a focus on novel phenotypes, risk factors and biomarkers. “At present, the only known way to prevent COPD and lessen its severity is tobacco smoking avoidance. However, not everyone who gets COPD smokes and patients with COPD often have different forms of the disease. I will determine the different types and causes of COPD and develop tools to identify who is most at risk. My research will help develop interventions to prevent and better treat COPD.”
  • Similarly with asthma, Associate Professor Caroline Lodge at Melbourne University receives $1.57 million from the NHMRC for a project to identify and address preventable causes of asthma over the lifespan. “Little is known about what causes asthma so there are few preventive measures and resources are aimed at treating established disease. I aim to discover potential causes of asthma by investigating specific types of asthma (phenotypes) and to translate findings clinical practice and public health guidelines,” she says.
  • At the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, Adelaide, Dr Steven Taylor has won a NHMRC grant of $650,700 for research into achieving precision care in chronic lung disease. His proposal notes that current treatment guidelines poorly manage up to 30% of all patients with a chronic lung disease (CLD). “In order to improve this, we need to identify useful disease markers that inform treatment response. Using stored samples and data from thousands of CLD patients, I will meticulously measure markers of disease and identify patient characteristics that inform treatment response. This research will improve guidelines for the large number of patients with poor disease control.”
  • In Western Australia, Professor Stephen Stick of the University of WA will use a $1.9 million grant for a research program that will focus on children’s lung health. “I will measure how tissues in the nose fight viruses. These results will help develop new prevention methods and vaccines. Children with cystic fibrosis (CF), a genetic lung disease, often have difficult-to-treat lung infections. I will use friendly viruses to kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria causing these infections. We will investigate whether wearable devices can detect health changes so children with CF can receive treatment early.”
  • Along the same lines, Dr Ameneh Khatami of Sydney University receives $570,600 to fund research into phage therapy for infections, including antibiotic-resistant ones, in children. “This research aims to develop phage therapy as a treatment option for difficult-to-treat infections in children. It will combine the latest advances in bacterial genomics, rapid phage-bacteria matching and clinical trial methods to assess the value of phage therapy to treat serious infections in children with cystic fibrosis and other chronic debilitating infections.
  • Professor Malcom Sim at Monash University, Melbourne receives $994,600 to fund investigations into techniques for earlier diagnosis and assessment of severity and progression of artificial stone silicosis in stonemasons. “This research will use data from affected workers from Victoria, Western Australia and Queensland. The research will comprise a suite of projects to investigate many uncertainties related to radiological screening methods, as well as investigating new methods to assess disease severity and identify indicators of progression to inform future practice.”
  • Professor YC Gary Lee at the University of WA has received $1.1 million to fund the Australasian Malignant Pleural Effusion (AMPLE)-3 trial that will study alternatives to surgery for lung fluid drainage. “Indwelling pleural catheter (IPC) is a novel implanted device inside the chest that allows patients to drain fluid at home. AMPLE Trial-3 is the first multicentre randomised clinical trial to compare surgery vs IPC to provide fluid control and improve quality of life.”
  • In sleep medicine, Professor Peter Cistulli of Sydney University receives $2.43 million for research into the link between obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) and cardiovascular disease. “OSA directly affects the heart and increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, heart rhythm disorders, and stroke. This project aims to better understand this connection and to determine whether effective treatment of OSA improves heart health,” he writes.
  • The treatment of OSA in primary care receives $1.44 million in NHMRC research funding for Professor Robert Adams of Flinders University. “This novel partnership study represents a major step towards improving management of sleep disorders in primary care using new, evidence-based, models of care for insomnia and OSA, designed specifically for primary care,” he says.
  • And Professor Juha Toyras of the University of Queensland has received NHMRC funding of $500,000 to study the role of artificial intelligence in sleep diagnostics. “Unfortunately, the current [OSA] diagnostic metric relates poorly to the symptoms and comorbidities of sleep apnoea merely measuring the frequency of breathing cessations. We aim to develop machine learning techniques to better estimate sleep apnoea severity. These techniques are implemented to high-end wearables developed in this project. Finally, we aim to design a digital diagnostic platform and create new standardised guidelines for sleep medicine.”

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