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December 2010 Issue
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Life impact - $45 million for new research


More than $45.7 million has been awarded to University of Adelaide researchers for new projects that aim to make a major difference to people's lives.

Recent funding announcements from the Australian Research Council (ARC) and National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) will support 101 new research projects starting next year, including a number of research fellowships.

University of Adelaide researchers and affiliates secured $20.8 million in ARC grants and $24.9 million in NHMRC grants, making this one of the University's best funding results on record.

National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)

The NHMRC funding includes $22.8 million to launch 45 new research projects, helping to tackle some of the country's most serious health problems, including breast cancer, stroke and diabetes.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice President (Research) Professor Mike Brooks said the NHMRC funding announcement was an outstanding result for the University, which is now rated among the top 50 health research institutions in the world.

"This funding demonstrates the depth and quality of our health and medical researchers, and the commitment they have shown over many years to finding breakthroughs for some of society's most critical health problems," he said.

Some key projects include:

  • $1.3 million to Professor David Callen (School of Medicine) for three separate projects investigating the role of Vitamin D in breast cancer, as well as developing new pathways to stop the spread of tumours. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in Australia, with 13,600 new cases diagnosed each year, claiming the lives of around 2800 women annually.
  • $1.08 million to Professor Caroline Crowther (School of Paediatrics and Reproductive Health) for two individual projects: $632,979 to investigate whether the right diet and lifestyle can help treat borderline gestational diabetes in pregnant women; and $447,281 to review the link between corticosteroids and improved health in pre-term babies;
  • $891,732 to Professor Julie Owens (Head, School of Paediatrics and Reproductive Health) for a project investigating the link between growth-restricted babies and diabetes and obesity in later life.
  • $744,021 to Professor Wayne Tilley (School of Medicine) to research the role that male hormones play in protecting women from developing breast cancer and improving treatment options;
  • $662,065 to Associate Professor Kaye Roberts-Thomson (School of Dentistry) to test a non-invasive treatment for dental decay in young children;

Three researchers have also won NHMRC Research Fellowships totalling $2.1 million over five years - awarded to Associate Professor Allison Cowin (Women's and Children's Health Research Institute and Discipline of Surgery), Professor Sharad Kumar (Centre for Cancer Biology, SA Pathology, and Professor of Medicine), and Professor Ray Rodgers (School of Paediatrics and Reproductive Health and the Robinson Institute).

Their research includes, respectively: new technologies to promote healing of chronic wounds, such as burns and ulcers; the functions of cell death and inactivating proteins, and their roles in diseases such as cancer, hypertension, lung inflammation and anaemia; and prevention and treatment of ovarian diseases, which are a major cause of infertility.

Australian Research Council (ARC)

More than $14.6 million in ARC funding has been awarded to University of Adelaide researchers for 43 new Discovery and Linkage projects that could lead to breakthroughs in areas such as health, the environment, engineering, technology, mathematics, the arts and social sciences.

Some key Discovery Projects include:

  • $710,000 to Associate Professor Frank Grützner (School of Molecular & Biomedical Science) for a study of evolution and function of sex chromosomes and genes in mammalian reproduction;
  • $710,000 to Professor Graeme Hugo (School of Social Sciences) to study climate change and migration in China;
  • $330,000 to Professor Peter Dowd (Executive Dean, Faculty of Engineering, Computer and Mathematical Sciences) to better understand fractures in crystalline rock masses, which are crucial to geothermal energy production;
  • $155,000 to Associate Professor Rachel Ankeny (School of History and Politics) to explore Australians' understanding of food ethics and to further public participation in policy-making around ethical food choices.

Linkage Projects involve external partners, such as government and industry. Some key Linkage Projects include:

  • $610,000 to Dr Carl Howard (School of Mechanical Engineering) to develop novel vibro-acoustic technologies for detecting bearing and wheel defects in rail vehicles;
  • $410,000 to Professor Andy Lowe (School of Earth and Environmental Sciences) to develop a new method to assess ecosystem resilience for use in national biodiversity corridor planning;
  • $90,586 to Dr Susan Oakley (School of Social Sciences) to create better pathways into civic participation for young homeless people through sustainable accommodation and support programs.

Associate Professor Jennifer Baker (School of Population Health and Clinical Practice) has also been awarded $105,756 under the ARC's Discovery Indigenous Researchers Development Fund. Her work aims to improve the way in which organisations and institutions in the South Australian town of Port Augusta can better address the social determinants of health as they affect Aboriginal people.

Meanwhile, eight new ARC Future Fellowships worth more than $6.2 million in total have been awarded to researchers for studies at the University of Adelaide, into areas such as child health, communications, climate change, ancient DNA, fish populations, space science, particle physics and chemistry.

Six recipients of the fellowships are all current staff members, with another two being won by Adelaide graduates who will return home to Adelaide for their fellowships.

"The Future Fellowships are extremely important for attracting and retaining the best researchers," said Professor Mike Brooks.

"Giving top researchers the opportunity to return to Adelaide is an outstanding win for our State and the nation."

For more information about research at the University of Adelaide, go to:

Story by David Ellis and Candy Gibson

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