NHMRC reveals latest respiratory research projects funded by Ideas Grants

The NHMRC has announced new funding for several respiratory and sleep medicine research projects, including studies into COVID-19 and chronic lung disease, bronchiectasis progression and asthma management in pregnancy.

Respiratory medicine studies were among 248 innovative research projects to receive a share of $239 million from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Ideas Grant scheme.

Prof Warwick Britton

Professor Warwick Britton, head of the Tuberculosis Research Program at Sydney University’s Centenary Institute, receives $896,784 for a project to investigate the impact of COVID-19 on people with chronic inflammatory lung disease.

Professor Britton will use the funding to determine how COVID-19 affects patients with conditions such as COPD. The project will also try identify effective drugs that suppress COVID-induced inflammatory damage to the lung.

Associate Professor Christopher Grainge at Newcastle University, NSW receives $909,817 to fund research into impaired mucociliary clearance as a driver of bronchiectasis progression.

He says the inability to clear mucus from the airways in bronchiectasis leads to mucus stagnation. “We have a identified a defect in production of the cells critical to moving mucus in the airways in samples taken from patients with bronchiectasis. By identifying the causes of this defect we may be able to reverse it and restore healthy mucus clearance in patients that suffer with bronchiectasis.

At Sydney University, Associate Professor Craig Phillips receives $658,234 to fund research into understanding ‘Brain Cleaning’ in Obstructive Sleep Apnoea. The project will focus on how sleep and blood pressure disturbances affect the removal of toxins from the brain in people with OSA.

Professor Avril Robertson of the University of Queensland receives $1,061,883 to fund a project that will investigate the inhibition of inflammasomes with small molecules to potentially develop new treatments for inflammatory lung diseases.

“We will develop these [small] molecules so they can become future drugs and explore their use in flu models combined with either asthma or obesity as these people are particularly vulnerable to the deadly effects of flu,” her proposal states.

Associate Professor Luke Grzeskowiak of Flinders University, Adelaide, receives $979,886 for a project that will use population-based data to improve maternal asthma management and offspring health and development.

“Asthma affects more than 30,000 Australian pregnancies each year and has been associated with a range of adverse pregnancy outcomes,” his proposal states.

“This project will utilise population-based data to examine the effects of maternal asthma, as well as the use of individual asthma treatments during pregnancy, on child health and development from birth to 14-years of age and will provide direct evidence to support improvements in policy and practice related to optimising asthma management during pregnancy.

A/Prof Daniel Steinfort

Associate Professor Daniel Steinfort, a respiratory physician at Melbourne University receives $1,235,060 for a project that will investigate the use of novel minimally invasive bronchoscopic techniques to achieve tumour destruction via bronchoscopy for non-surgical cure of early stage lung cancer.

“I will explore the immune system response to tumour destruction, and determine the efficacy of combining tumour ablation (to enhance immune system recognition of tumour cells) with immunotherapy in patients with metastatic lung cancer to increase the proportion of patients who respond to immunotherapy, and increase the duration that responses are maintained,” he says.

Also in the treatment of lung cancer, Associate Professor Therese Becker of the University of NSW receives $1,356,197 to fund the study of immunotherapy response prediction in NSCLC.

The project will use longitudinal single-cell proteomic analysis of liquid biopsy derived cancer and immune cells to test novel biomarkers for lung cancer patients, predicting response to immunotherapy, improving treatment and preventing deadly side-effects.

Full details of all grant results are available at the NHMRC website.

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