NHMRC funding success for QBI

24 Oct 2013

Prime Minister the Hon Tony Abbott MP announced the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) is to receive $11.865 million from a total of $559.1 million in funding awarded to Australian health and medical researchers to generate new health discoveries.

With 17 projects submitted by QBI receiving funding, the Institute’s 45% success rate is much higher than the 16.7% average achieved among close to 4000 applicants.

Funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) includes the promotion of two faculty members – Professor Joe Lynch and Associate Professor Fred Meunier – within the research fellowship scheme.

Professor Perry Bartlett, Director of QBI, congratulates QBI researchers on their success.

“The scientists work incredibly hard to secure these highly competitive grants.”

“Their success, well above the national average, is worthy of congratulations.”

Professor Bartlett says the Federal Government’s support for fundamental neuroscience research into the mechanisms regulating brain function and disease resonates with the national health priorities.

“These grants, along with philanthropic and additional Federal and State Government support, provide us with a real opportunity to gain a deeper knowledge of the underlying mechanisms and develop new therapeutics to treat mental and neurological diseases, which account for a staggering 40 per cent of the disease burden in Australia.”

Associate Professor Helen Cooper’s recent award of an NHMRC Project grant totalling just over $1 million will fund research into understanding the role of the gene RYK in schizophrenia.

One of the focus areas of A/Prof Helen Cooper’s laboratory is to understand the molecular mechanisms underpinning correct formation of the cortex during embryonic development, as incorrect formation can result in developmental defects linked to schizophrenia, autism and epilepsy.

A/Prof Cooper has recently identified that RYK has a critical role in the defining the architecture of the cortex, a process essential for advanced cognitive functions.

In collaboration with Professor Bryan Mowry, A/Prof Cooper will investigate the mechanisms by which RYK regulates cortical neuron production and whether changes to RYK disrupts the establishment of cortical neuronal networks.

The potential association between the cause of schizophrenia and RYK is exciting, as it will add to our current understanding of a very complex disease.

Professor Bryan Mowry and Professor Peter Visscher will use their $1.3 million in NMHRC Project grant funding to approach schizophrenia from another angle.

Together with Prof Mowry’s long-standing collaborators in Chennai, they will study genetic mutations that affect proteins in the entire genome of 400 schizophrenia families from India.

They will then combine these results with those from thousands of families worldwide, in conjunction with leading international collaborators.

In doing so the team hopes to be able to identify specific genes that play an important role in schizophrenia.

Dr Massimo Hilliard was awarded $632,562 in NHMRC Project grant funding to support his research into motor neuron disease (MND) and the role of TDP-43.

TDP-43 is a protein found in large clumps in patients with MND, and dysfunction in this protein is thought to cause abnormal processing of RNA.

Correct processing of RNA molecules is important for the accurate production and function of specific proteins.

Dr Hilliard will use the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans to test if and how the mutated form of TDP-43 disrupts RNA processing of molecules necessary at the neuromuscular junction.

The NHMRC grants are awarded following a rigorous, competitive and open peer review involving 170 Assigners Academy members, over 7,800 written peer reviews and more than 600 grant review panel members.

For more information visit: http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/