Sydney scholars win $32m in NHMRC funding

12 December 2018
University of Sydney scholars have received $32 million in NHMRC funding for research to improve the lives of Australians.
Researcher injecting liquid into test tubes

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has awarded University of Sydney scholars $32.1 million for new research projects to test treatments for bladder cancer, improve the quality of life of people on kidney dialysis and evaluate whether stem cell therapy for knee osteoarthritis really works, among major projects to improve health.

The University of Sydney was awarded 36 Project Grants and one Translating Research into Practice (TRIP) Fellowship, bringing the amount of NHMRC funding awarded to Sydney scholars this year to $50.3 million. Three SOAR Fellows – Dr Mac Shine and Associate Professors Anne Cust and Ollie Jay – received project grant funding.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Duncan Ivison said the funding was critically important to improve the health and wellbeing for millions around the world and reflected the University's strength in medical science.  

“We are proud to support more than 2,000 of the best health and medical researchers in the world. It is through their hard work and dedication that the University continues to be ranked in the top 20 in the world for medicine,” he said.

“Over the past seven years, we have committed more than $1.5 billion to multidisciplinary research, including establishing the Charles Perkins Centre and the Brain and Mind Centre, which have become internationally recognised hubs for ground-breaking medical research in areas such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and dementia.”

“We have also invested heavily in world-class faculties, such as Sydney Imaging, which launched earlier this year to support researchers to lead discoveries in patient diagnosis and treatment.”

Nearly half of the newly-awarded funding (48.6 percent) went to female scholars, including Associate Professor Rachael Morton, from the NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre, who will lead a team on a $1.7 million Project Grant over five years to improve the lives of 13,000 Australians on kidney dialysis.

Current dialysis care focuses solely on improving biomarkers, such as urea, potassium, phosphate, whereas Associate Professor Morton’s team will focus on monitoring and improving symptoms, such as severe pain, fatigue, nausea, itching and depression.

“New data from other areas suggest symptom-monitoring may not only improve quality of life but improve overall survival, which is currently quite poor – 45 percent at five years, which is lower than all cancers combined,” Associate Professor Morton said.

Results from this registry-based randomised trial will likely change care for more than one million dialysis patients globally.

Professor Dickon Hayne will lead a $1.5 million Project Grant study to test a new treatment for bladder cancer, while Professor David Hunter was awarded more than $1.9 million to test whether stem cell therapy for knee osteoarthritis, which is increasingly used in clinics without definitive evidence of benefit, actually works.

Dr Leanne Hassett was also awarded $181,000 for a TRIP Fellowship focused on supporting physiotherapists in South Western Sydney to provide physical activity counselling within routine practice to reduce chronic disease.

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