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Sydney researchers awarded $22 million for medical research

1 July 2021

Funding success for 14 projects

The University of Sydney has received funding for 14 projects from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) to improve health outcomes for Australians.

The Minister for Health and Aged Care, the Hon Greg Hunt, has announced $180 million in funding for 105 medical research projects, to improve health outcomes for Australians.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Duncan Ivison welcomed the funding announcement which awarded $22.3 million to the University of Sydney for 14 projects.

 “The funding of these 14 projects will support the important work our researchers do in improving the lives of Australians – from screening and early detection for common cancers to evaluating novel drugs for stroke patients.”

Sydney researchers were awarded funding under 8 MRFF grant opportunity categories:

Genomics Health Futures Mission 

  • Professor Anne Cust, Deputy Director of the Daffodil Centre, was awarded $3 million to deliver improved practice and policy-relevant genomic risk prediction and increase the effectiveness of cancer screening and early detection services for the four most common cancers in Australia –breast, prostate, melanoma and colorectal cancers. Working directly with consumers, health professionals and policy stakeholders, the team aim to reduce the cancer burden and help Australians live longer and healthier lives.

Childhood Cancer Research

  • Associate Professor Hilda Pickett was awarded $1.4 million for her project Alternative Lengthening of Telomeres (ALT): Target discovery to treatment. Osteosarcoma is the most common type of primary bone malignancy, with the highest incidence in adolescence. Survival has shown little improvement over the last three decades. The majority of osteosarcomas activate the ALT pathway. The team have discovered a weakness of ALT cells that they aim to exploit through the development of chemical inhibitors that are rapidly toxic to ALT cells. This approach will offer improved treatments for adolescent osteosarcomas.

Improving Diagnosis in Cancers with Low Survival Rates

  • Dr Nicole Rankin has been awarded $2 million for her project which will test ways of inviting and educating high-risk people about lung cancer screening. Lung cancer is the number one cause of cancer death worldwide. A screening test using low dose CT could save thousands of lives. The study will invite people, aged between 50 and 80 years and who smoke cigarettes daily or quit less than 15 years ago, via their family doctor.

Cardiovascular Health

  • Professor Shaun Jackson was awarded $2.7 million for Safety and Tolerability of AZD6482 in Reperfusion for Stroke (STARS). Stroke is a leading cause of death/disability worldwide. Identification of novel drugs that can improve clot lysis without causing bleeding would represent a major advance in stroke treatment. The study describes a Phase 2a, dose escalation study evaluating safety/tolerability of a novel anti-clotting drug (AZD6482) with promising preclinical safety/efficacy data, in adults with acute ischaemic stroke.
  • Professor Alistair McEwan was awarded $1.1 million for LesioLogic. Heart rhythm disorders are common worldwide, with 240,000 people suffering from atrial fibrillation (AF) alone in Australia and doubling by 2034. Radiofrequency (RF) catheter ablation has become the standard of care but many surgeries fail due to a lack of real-time monitoring. A team of cardiologists at Westmead Hospital and Biomedical Engineers at the University of Sydney have solved this problem by creating LesioLogic, a non-invasive system to visualise cardiac RF ablation in real-time.
  • Professor Anthony Keech has been awarded $943,000 in funding for digital solutions for heart failure best practice care. Care of heart failure in Australia remains patchy and varies widely between localities. The team’s digital solution will provide doctors and their patients with a confidential personalised recommendation for treatment consistent with each individual's needs and clinical circumstances. Allowing both patients and doctors access to the recommendations from international guidelines will provide patients with the confidence that they are receiving optimal treatment and best outcomes.
  • Professor Julie Redfern has been awarded $656,000 for the implementation of a peer support program for people with heart disease. Heart disease causes nearly 20 percent of deaths around the world. Sadly, the ongoing care people receive after they leave hospital has not kept up with medical advances. The team will evaluate the implementation of a program via a phased roll-out in 25 local areas across Australia. The project will empower survivors to harness their lived experience to support others in similar situations thereby reducing the escalating heart disease burden.

Indigenous Health Research

  • Professor Kirsten Howard was awarded $998,000 for the implementation of the What Matters 2 Adults (WM2Adults) wellbeing measure. The WM2Adults measure is a new wellbeing measure grounded in the values and preferences of Australia’s First Peoples. The team will implement WM2Adults, with the Cancer Institute NSW and cancer services, to determine the best way of using WM2Adults in clinical care to measure and address patients’ wellbeing needs. The project will guide broad, evidence-based implementation of WM2Adults and improve understanding of the contribution of culture and health to wellbeing.
  • Associate Professor Megan Passey was awarded $1.4 million for a patient reported experience measure for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people accessing primary health care. With strong Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership in all stages of development and implementation, the project will develop and validate an Indigenous-specific Patient Reported Experience Measure for the primary health care (PHC) sector that is suitable for use in comprehensive PHC services, reflects the values and world views of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and is consistent with the principles of Indigenous Data Sovereignty.

International Clinical Trial Collaborations

  • Professor Judith Trotman awarded $1.4 million for RADAR – a randomised PET-adapted study of bleomycin-free treatment of early stage Hodgkin lymphoma. RADAR is a phase III randomised trial in patients with untreated, early stage Hodgkin Lymphoma. It will test if bleomycin (B) can be replaced by an antibody treatment called brentuximab vedotin (A) combined with the standard chemotherapy ‘AVD’. Patients with an early complete response on PET scan will need fewer total chemotherapy cycles and no radiotherapy, reducing the toxicity of treatment including future heart disease and secondary cancer while maintaining excellent control of the lymphoma.

Traumatic Brain Injury Mission

  • Dr Leanne Hassett was awarded $407,000 to develop physical activity clinical practice guidelines for services working with children and adolescents, adults, and older adults with moderate-to-severe traumatic brain injury across Australia, and to plan for implementation of these guidelines for testing in a future implementation trial.

Stem Cell Mission

  • Associate Professor James Chong was awarded $5 million for induced pluripotent stem cell derived cardiomyocytes: a new therapy for no-option end stage heart failure. The outcome of this research could one day provide a "cure" for chronic heart failure preventing lost quality of life, premature death, costly drug treatments and hospital readmissions.
  • Associate Professor Wendy Lipworth has been awarded $800,000 for ethics and evidence in stem cell medicine. This research will generate principles, guidelines and recommendations for determining when access should be confined to clinical trials, when interventions should be offered as a type of clinical innovation, and when they should be offered as standard clinical practice.
  • Dr Anai Gonzalez Cordero has been awarded $498,000 for stem cell derived-retinal organoids to test genetic therapies. The majority of inherited retinal conditions leading to total blindness are due to loss of the light-sensing cells of the eye, the photoreceptor cells. Harnessing researcher expertise in human stem cell biology, genetics, ophthalmology and gene therapy to test efficacy of new therapies, research output aims to overcome the leading cause of blindness in the working-age population.

These grants are part of the Morrison Government’s $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund.

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