News / 16 December 2020

Three EMBL Australia group leaders have been awarded Ideas Grants to the collective value of $3.86 million to expand their research in their respective areas of malaria, cancer cell biology and antibiotic resistance. 

Dr Michelle Boyle, Dr Maté Biro and A/Prof Max Cryle will each lead their respective projects, which will be funded from 2021 under the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)’s Ideas Grants scheme.

Summaries of the three projects are below:

Host targeted adjunctive therapies to boost antimalarial immunity

Dr Michelle Boyle (an EMBL Australia group leader based at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute) and A/Prof Bridget Barber have been awarded a $2,060,188 grant to host targeted adjunctive therapies to boost antimalarial immunity.  

Malaria caused 200 million cases and 400000 deaths in 2018. One problem in developing new control strategies for malaria is that following a malaria infection, individuals develop disruptive immune responses that block vaccines. Our project investigates the ability of a repurposed drug to prevent the development of disruptive immune responses during malaria in humans. Results of our studies will inform the development of new malaria control tools.

Harnessing extracellular matrix remodelling by cancer-associated fibroblasts to increase T Cell infiltration of solid tumours

Dr Maté Biro (an EMBL Australia group leader based at University of New South Wales), Dr Daryan Kempe and Dr Szun Tay will receive $923,407 in funding to harness extracellular matrix remodelling by cancer-associated fibroblasts to increase T Cell infiltration of solid tumours.

The ability of killer T cells to find and eliminate tumour cells is the basis for adoptive transfer immunotherapies, which thus far only work well with blood-borne cancers. There is limited success with solid tumours, which T cells do not readily infiltrate, notably because of remodelling by fibroblasts. We have discovered that T cells migrate in tunnels dug in the tumour matrix by fibroblasts. Here, we will harness this discovery to improve tumour infiltration and rejection of solid tumours.

Novel antibiotics that harness innate immunity to overcome multi-drug resistant S. aureus

A/Prof Max Cryle (an EMBL Australia group leader based at Monash University) and Dr Jennifer Payne have been awarded a $872,354 to create novel antibiotics that harness innate immunity to overcome multi-drug resistant S. aureus.

Controlling infection with antibiotics is essential in medicine. However, bacterial resistance to antibiotics is growing rapidly. Here, we propose new strategies to treat multi-drug resistant Staphylococcus aureus by combining existing clinical antibiotics with either a targeted immune response or by removing the ability of bacteria to hide from our immune system. These novel approaches will allow us to overcome infections caused by resistant bacteria, which are a serious and growing problem.

The NHMRC will spend almost $260 million funding 283 Ideas Grants from January 2021.

The Ideas Grants outcomes were announced this week. Less than 10 per cent of the 2889 applications for the competitive grants were successful.

The objective of the Ideas Grant scheme is to support innovative research projects led by early and mid-career researchers that address a specific question or questions.

Congratulations, Michelle, Maté and Max!

More information on the grants can be found on the NHMRC website.