Australian researchers at Monash University have been awarded $488,125 in development grants by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) for projects exploring new vaccines for HIV, the development of medical diagnostic devices and the development of drugs to treat metastatic cancers.
Of the 14 grants announced today, three will fund Monash University research. The NHMRC’s Development Grants Scheme provides financial support in the early ‘proof of concept’ stage, allowing researchers to translate the results of their research into products.
Deputy vice-chancellor (research) Professor Edwina Cornish said the grants demonstrated the innovative approaches taken by Monash researchers across a range of areas.
“These scientists are pursuing research that has the potential to significantly improve the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of a range of medical conditions,” Professor Cornish said. “They are to be commended on their achievements to date and their commitment to making the practical outcomes of their research available to the general public.”
In the grants, Dr Martin Lackmann, a senior research fellow in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, received $204,125 to refine and improve the effectiveness of two proteins to selectively target, and potentially kill, tumour cells from a number of cancers, including melanoma.
“In many aggressive cancers, tumour cells spread into surrounding tissue and eventually colonise other organs of the body,” Dr Lackmann said. “We are developing agents that bind to a cell surface protein which seems to guide the location of tumour cells. In animal studies these agents are selectively taken up by cancer cells of certain tumours. By refining their tumour targeting and killing properties these agents might form the basis for new anti-cancer/anti-metastatic agents.”
Dr Lisa Martin, a senior lecturer in the School of Chemistry, will use her $144,500 grant to develop a new medical diagnostic device that could help detect a range of medical conditions. Dr Martin’s development of the device is based on using biosensors to measure the concentrations of biomolecules – proteins that are found in the human body.
“Biosensors use biomolecules to detect a chemical event,” Dr Martin said. “They are becoming important for the rapid and reliable measurement of the concentrations of molecules in fluids. In human medicine they will be of great use to general practitioners and patients for instantaneous read outs of concentrations of many different biological molecules.”
Dr Hans Netter and Dr Rod MacFarlan from the Department of Microbiology received a $139,500 grant to further their development of a vaccine for human immunodeficiency virus 1 (HIV-1).
“We hope our research will lead to the development of a therapeutic and/or prophylactic HIV-1 vaccine, which could be used either for mass immunisation or in support of combination drug therapy and would have all the cost and production advantages of the widely-used hepatitis B vaccine,” Dr Netter said.