SAHMRI NHMRC Investigator Grant Success

12 Oct 2022
SAHMRI NHMRC Investigator Grant Success

SAHMRI researchers have been awarded three NHMRC investigator grants to further their projects with potential for major translational impact.

SAHMRI Deputy Director and Women and Kids Theme Leader, Professor Maria Makrides, has been awarded $3.5 million, administered by the University of Adelaide, to fund her research focusing on utilising precision nutrition to prevent premature birth and enhance cognitive development of very preterm children.

Preterm birth is the major cause of death for children aged under five years and responsible for 85% of perinatal morbidity. Preterm children are also more likely to have cognitive impairment, intellectual disability and academic underachievement with life-long consequences.

“My work has shown that 17% of pregnant women are depleted in omega-3 fatty acids and that correcting this depletion will reduce their risk of early birth by more than 70%,” Prof Makrides said.

Prof Makrides vision is to transform perinatal care and this grant will go a long way towards achieving that goal.

Postdoctoral Fellow, Dr Feargal Ryan, has received $655,000, administered by SAHMRI, to develop microbiome-based interventions aimed at improving the effectiveness of vaccines.

For reasons that are poorly understood, vaccine immunogenicity is highly variable between individuals and populations.

Recently it’s been discovered one reason for this variability is disrupted gut microbiome, but science is yet to identify which microbial strains contribute to this, which immune pathways are in control and what the best strategy is to address the issue.

Dr Ryan’s proposed research program will evaluate multiple vaccine types in clinical and pre-clinical data, examine the capability of microbiome-wide interventions to modulate vaccine responses and develop innovative new microbiome-based interventions based on specific strains which target precise immune pathways.

“Identifying these mechanisms will require a multi-disciplinary approach incorporating microbiology, immunology, systems biology and bioinformatics,” Dr Ryan said.

“This program will identify novel interventions that enhance vaccine responses, refine our understanding of host-microbiome interactions and empower host-microbiome research through developing new bioinformatic tools.”

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Senior Research Fellow, Dr Janet Sluggett, has secured $1.2 million, administered by UniSA, for her work with ROSA focusing on leveraging big data to maximise the impact of pharmacists on medicines safety in aged care.

The project is being undertaken in response to the recent Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety that recommended urgent action be taken to improve medicines use in aged care services.

“This project will tell us more about the effects of medicines when they are used by people receiving aged care services, so that health professionals can make improvements,” Dr Sluggett said.

Dr Sluggett will also establish a system to guide best practice for pharmacists who work in aged care settings and monitor improvements in medicines use and health and wellbeing among people who receive aged care services.

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