Major cash boost for crucial ANU medical research

4 November 2021

Researchers from The Australian National University (ANU) have been awarded nearly $5 million in grants to carry out six projects that could help solve major health challenges, including offering more effective treatments for cancer, kidney disease and depression. 

The research will be funded through the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Ideas Grant scheme. 

Dr Tatiana (Tanya) Soboleva has been awarded more than $2 million in total for two research projects.  

The first could lead to a more effective and less toxic treatment for the rare form of cancer, Hodgkin Lymphoma. 

Her second study will look to provide new clues about the causes of male infertility by studying the processes that drive sperm production.  

"We have the funds now to do experiments that hopefully can answer some very important biological questions and even maybe result in a novel treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma," Dr Soboleva said. 

"This funding is absolutely vital for us. It gives us more confidence and reassurance that our work is important not only for our group but for Australian society. "

Other successful ANU researchers include Professor John Bekkers, Associate Professor Anselm Enders, Dr Simon Jiang and Dr Ashley Schram.  

Professor Bekkers' research will help guide the development of new NMDA receptor-targeting drugs with fewer side effects. 

NMDA receptors are a key player in subtle brain circuit changes that are linked to major psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and depression.  

A study led by Associate Professor Enders will investigate how different mutations in the molecule IRF4, which is essential to the function of the immune system, alter the interaction with DNA to create different tumours.  

Dr Jiang and his team have identified six gene variants in a gene likely to be important in controlling the progression of kidney disease. 

Their project could offer a novel treatment for Tiwi Islanders, who have the highest reported rates of kidney disease worldwide. 

Dr Schram's project will focus on building new resources to evaluate the impact of policy reforms on health inequality.  

Her research team will study Australia's COVID-19 response to gather new evidence to help target the roots of health inequality both in Australia and abroad. 

Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, said the projects give us insight into leading-edge Australian research.  

"These projects demonstrate the outstanding innovation of the health and medical research sector in Australia and offer great promise for future advances in our understanding and management of health challenges," Minister Hunt said. 

The scheme awarded $239 million dollars to 248 projects in total, with funding to commence in 2022.