$26m funding injection for cardiovascular and cancer research

29 June 2020
The University of Sydney has been awarded more than $26m for critical research into cardiovascular disease, brain cancer, autism, and to trial a vaccine for zoonotic disease, Q fever.

The funding, all announced in June, was awarded under several schemes of the Australian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund and the New South Wales Government’s Cardiovascular Research Capacity Program.

Sydney academics were also awarded $12.4m for stroke and heart disease research earlier in June and $62m for 43 medical research projects, including transforming the treatment of osteoarthritis, in late May.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Duncan Ivison said the funding success highlighted the University’s enduring strength in medical research, with more than half of the awarded cardiovascular grants going to Sydney academics.

Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death globally. I’m proud that Sydney has some of the best researchers in Australia, and the world, working not only to understand the biology of these diseases, but to develop exciting new treatments using precision medicine, gene therapy, and biomedical devices.
Professor Duncan Ivison, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research)


The University is ranked first in Australia and 7th in the world for oncology (US News rankings 2019) and second in Australia and 18th in the world for medicine (QS Subject rankings 2020).

Fast-tracking safer implants

Associate Professor Steven Wise (pictured right) is leading a team of bioengineers, biologists, physicists and surgeons to establish a new centre to test the safety and efficacy of new cardiovascular implants, such as stents.

Current implants are typically made from metal alloys, such as stainless steel, or hydrophobic plastics, which are used to make Gore-Tex (rain jackets) or PET (water bottles).

Professor Wise says these materials are chosen for their durability and ease of mass manufacture, however, they promote blood clots, drive chronic inflammation, and commonly fail when inserted into the heart and legs.

“Metal stents have serious shortcomings when deployed in the legs and we urgently need alternatives. Many researchers, including those at Sydney, are working on new biomaterials that have the potential to revolutionise the treatment of cardiovascular disease.”

“Our new centre aims to test these new devices to ensure they are safe and effective. This is the first centre of its kind in New South Wales and we hope that it will mean Australians have quicker access to new and better technologies for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases.”

World-first trial of Q fever vaccine for young people

Associate Professor Nicholas Wood (pictured above) will lead a team to conduct the first clinical trial of a vaccine for Q fever in young people.

Q fever is a bacterial infection found in cattle, sheep, and goats. However, like other zoonotic diseases, such as COVID-19, it can jump to humans. Symptoms can be mild and flu-like, however serious cases can lead to a weakened immune system, with increased risk of other infections such as hepatitis, and damage to the heart, liver, brain and lungs.

Professor Wood, who is affiliaed with the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, says the disease is highly preventable, with a vaccine produced in Australia and made available for those aged 15 years and older since 1989. However, young people are currently excluded from being inoculated.

“Adolescents with Q fever are at increased risk of developing persistent bone infections, which are very difficult to treat,” Professor Wood said.

"Our aim is to conduct the first prospective, multi-centre study which will systemically and comprehensively measure the safety of the Q fever vaccine for young people aged 10-15 years."

“If the results show the vaccine is safe and effective in young people, it will lead to a change in the national vaccine recommendations and enable younger Australian adolescents to receive Q fever vaccine and be protected against this serious disease.”

Improving the lives of those with brain cancer

Associate Professor Haryana Dhillon (pictured right) will lead a $4.97m comprehensive research program to improve the lives of people with brain cancers and their families.

The program of work includes ongoing assessment of a patient and caregiver needs, from referral to treatment, rehabilitation, and community support, to systematically identify and intervene in areas of need.

Professor Dhillon and her team will also create a national repository of information resources, a national care coordination service and develop and roll out interventions to address gaps in care, including a collaboration with CanTeen to support young adult brain cancer survivors to re-engage with life.

“Our program of work recognises the complex and varied needs of people with brain cancer. Our collaboration brings together clinicians, researchers, and four cooperative cancer trials groups with the aim of personalising care and support for these people and their families.

“Our innovative approach taking services and support to where people need them, through tele-health, web-based interventions and improved linkage to local services, will help to overcome inequities of distance and limited healthcare services in rural and remote Australia.”


All awarded projects

Associate Professor Haryana Dhillon
Brain cancer survivorship grant
Brain cancer rehabilitation, assessment, intervention of survivor needs

Associate Professor Nicholas Wood
Clinical trials activity – Rare cancers, rare diseases and unmet need grant
Optimising Q fever vaccination in Australia: Protecting our rural adolescents

Professor Allison Tong
Clinical trials activity – Rare cancers, rare diseases and unmet need grant
Structured exercise program to reduce fatigue in patients receiving dialysis: a preference-stratified adaptive trial

Professor Mark Dadds
Clinical trials activity – neurological disorders grant
Evaluation of a new brief intervention for childhood autism spectrum disorders

Dr Rhonda Farrell
Clinical trials activity – Reproductive cancers grant
A randomised pilot study comparing chemotherapy treatments for stage 3 epithelial ovarian, fallopian tube and primary peritoneal cancer

Professor Linda Mileshkin
Clinical trials activity – Reproductive cancers grant
Treatments for pelvic chemoradiation in high risk endometrial cancer

Associate Professor Chee Khoon Lee
Clinical trials activity – Reproductive cancers grant
Treatments for women with hormone receptor positive recurrent/metastatic gynaecological neoplasms

Professor Nehmat Houssami
Preventive and public health research initiative – Targeted health system and community organisation grant
Evidence on the clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of digital breast tomosynthesis in identifying breast cancer compared to standard imaging in populations at risk of breast cancer

Associate Professor Hasantha Gunasekera
Indigenous health grant
Aboriginal community controlled ear health support system: developing, embedding and evaluating best practice models of care

Professor David Celermajer
Improving health outcomes in congenital heart disease for young adults, their families and the health system

Professor Stuart Grieve
Enabling precision medicine by “deep phenotyping” cardiovascular disease with imaging

Professor Phillip Hogg
Redefining protein function in thrombosis: Implications for pro-thrombotic states and anti-thrombotic drug resistance in patients with cardiovascular disease

Professor Shaun Jackson
Investigation of a new prothrombotic mechanism linking diabetes to cardiovascular disease

Associate Professor Simone Schoenwaelder
Towards the development of safer anticoagulants for the treatment of stroke

Associate Professor Steven Wise
Establishing a centre for pre-clinical evaluation of cardiovascular devices

Dr Paul Coleman
Redox control of VWF processing and activity during thrombotic diseases

Dr Kristina Cook
Starving for oxygen: The role of hypoxia inducible factor in the development of heart failure

Dr Karice Hyun
eGuardian Angel: Interactive peer support based on the concept of emotional contagion

Associate Professor Eddy Kizana
Overcoming the barrier to human cardiac gene therapy

Associate Professor Saurabh Kumar
Standard care or a rapid early invasive management approach to patients with life-threatening heart rhythm disorders

Dr Renjing Liu
Targeting Tet2 as a therapy for vascular calcification

Associate Professor Ricky O'Brien
Developing radiation-ablation techniques to treat ventricular tachycardia and atrial fibrillation

Dr Stephanie Partridge
Preventing obesity in adolescents using a co-designed and interactive text message program

Dr Freda Passam
Targets for the prevention of cardiovascular thrombosis in metabolic syndrome

Associate Professor Sanjay Patel
Colchicine cardiovascular outcomes in acute Coronary syndrome study

Dr Faraz Pathan
The impact of obesity on cardiovascular hemodynamics - a life span study

Dr Yanfei (Jacob) Qi
Targeting blood vessel cells to treat atherosclerosis

Dr Pierre Qian
Microwave ablation system for treating hypertension

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