News / 15 December 2022

Researchers from the EMBL Australia Partner Laboratory Network were awarded approximately $6.27m across six projects in the highly competitive National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Ideas Grant scheme.

The NHMRC Ideas Grant scheme funds world-class research with a focus on discovery and innovation and provides opportunities for researchers at all career stages.

The 2022 round provided $241 million in funding for 232 research projects – from basic science to clinical medicine, public health and health services research – to advance understanding of a wide range of health and medical issues faced by Australians.

Congratulations to EMBL Australia group leaders Professor David Lynn, Professor Eduardo Eyras, Associate Professor Chen Davidovich, Associate Professor Mikaël Martino, Associate Professor Max Cryle and postdoctoral fellows Dr Julien Legrand and Dr Stephen Blake for their success in obtaining these competitive grants.

Details of the funded projects relating to EMBL Australia researchers are below:

‘A human experimental model to assess whether the gut microbiota regulates specific and non-specific immune responses to vaccination’

Professor David Lynn – Flinders University/SAHMRI

Project description: Our hypothesis is that the gut microbiota is a critical and targetable factor regulating specific and non-specific immune responses to vaccination. To assess this, we will investigate the impact of depleting the human gut microbiota on protection mediated by the BCG vaccine against microbes specifically targeted by the vaccine and unrelated infections. This study will lead to new interventions to maximise vaccine mediated protection in vulnerable populations worldwide.

Funding total: $1,579,475

‘Engineered Amphiregulin: A Novel Growth Factor to Promote Tissue Regeneration’

Associate Professor Mikaël Martino (with postdoctoral research fellow Dr Julien Legrand) – Monash University (the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute)

Project description: Tissue regeneration is facilitated by key proteins that are released by immune cells in injured tissues. These proteins include growth factors, which are promising drugs for regenerative medicine. However, growth factors have found limited clinical success due to poor efficacy and/or side effects. We have developed a novel engineered growth factor that shows significant promise in promoting tissue healing. This project will confirm its safety and efficacy for regenerative medicine applications.

Funding total: $652,046

‘RNA-mediated regulation of chromatin compaction in development and disease’

Associate Professor Chen Davidovich – Monash University (Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute)

Project description: Polycomb repressive complexes are enzymatic complexes that safeguard the genome by preventing repressed genes from becoming active. The proposed study aimed at identifying how RNA regulate certain types of polycomb repressive complexes to maintain genes in a compacted state that prevent their expression. The project aims to determine how RNA regulates the formation of compact chromatin structure and to visualize this process in high resolution.

Funding total: $774,339

‘Accelerating messenger RNA (mRNA) therapeutics by cracking the epitranscriptomic code’

Professor Eduardo Eyras – The Australian National University

Project description: The remarkable efficacy of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines based on messenger RNA (mRNA) has highlighted the extraordinary potential of mRNA technologies and has secured the promise of mRNA as a therapeutic modality for multiple diseases. This research project builds on a recent breakthrough from my research that enables an unprecedented characterisation of the chemical composition of individual mRNA molecules to uphold this promise and accelerate mRNA exploration and design for therapeutic development.

Funding total: $1,556,956

‘Dissecting the regulatory mechanisms controlling antigen processing and presentation in dendritic cells’

Associate Professor Max Cryle as a chief investigator, led by Associate Professor Mireille Lahoud – Monash University

Project description: Dendritic cells of the immune system utilise specific receptors to sense danger signals from their environment. We identified a DC danger receptor, Clec9A, which recognizes and induces immunity to “dangerous” dead cells eg. infected cells. We will investigate how dendritic cells regulate their responses to “dangerous” dead cells, and the checkpoints that control immune responses. We will use this knowledge to develop novel approaches for vaccines and immunotherapies for improved health outcomes

Funding total: $1,482,413

‘Engineered tumour-homing bacteria that safely turn up the heat on immunologically cold colorectal cancers’

Dr Stephen Blake (postdoc in Lynn Group) – SAHMRI

Project description: The most prevalent colorectal cancer subtype has a low mutational burden and does not respond well to immunotherapies. The immune agonist anti-CD40 can drive immune infiltration into this cancer subtype and can reduce tumour burden in a mouse model that faithfully recapitulates the disease, however induces severe toxicity. This project will determine if expressing CD40 agonists in probiotic bacteria can be used to reduce this toxicity and effectively suppress colorectal cancer growth.

Funding total: $808,254


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