Research For Life awards $72,000 to Medical Researchers
Nine Wellington-based medical researchers received grants in the second funding round of the year from the Research For Life. Three research grant applicants received a total of $62,914.00 to undertake innovative medical research and three travel grants totalling $8,812.00 were approved to assist local researchers meet the cost of presenting their research findings at international conferences.
Research For Life funds innovative quality research undertaken by researchers in the early stages of their careers who, through their work, will advance the quality of healthcare in the Wellington region and beyond.
The successful applicants for research grants were:
Dr Mickey Fan received a $14,000 Research for Life grant to investigate the role of the kidneys in the development of acute mountain sickness. Acute mountain sickness affects as many as half of the mountaineers in the Mount Cook region, while 2,500 New Zealanders travelled to the Himalayas in 2016 alone, a region with high prevalence of acute mountain sickness. Dr Fan’s research will explore novel ways to identify individuals who are susceptible to developing acute mountain sickness. This will ensure preventative measures can to taken to minimise their risk. Dr Fan is a New Zealand Heart Foundation research fellow at the Centre for Translational Physiology at the University of Otago, Wellington.
Dr Ana Holley received a $24,214 Research For Life grant to support research examining inflammatory molecules in patients suffering from heart attacks. Neutrophils are immune cells in the blood that are thought to drive the initial inflammatory response, however very little is known about the role of these cells in patients throughout the acute phase of a heart attack. Dr Holley’s research focuses on examining the changes in neutrophil function to better understand those patients who might experience excessive or prolonged inflammatory responses following their heart attack. This research aims to be a stepping-stone to better understand inflammatory processes that would allow for the development of targeted interventions to reduce pathological inflammation in heart attack patients and improve their clinical outcomes. Dr Holley is a postdoctoral fellow in the Cardiovascular Research Group at the University of Otago, Wellington.
Dr Michelle Thunders received a $27,700 research grant to undertake research to help identify cardiac biomarkers in young patients presenting with myocardial infarction (MI). Typically, 10% of MI patients have further cardiac events. The identification of specific cardiac biomarkers could be used to aid patient management and rehabilitation. Dr Thunders is a senior lecturer in the Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine at the University of Otago, Wellington.
Travel Grants were awarded in this round to the following:
Carl Beyers, a PhD student in the School of Biological Sciences at Victoria University of Wellington, received a travel grant of $1,500 to present his research findings to the 46th Australasian Society for Immunology’s annual conference in Brisbane in November. Carl’s research interest lies in studying new therapies for progressive multiple sclerosis (MS), and in profiling the human immune system. He aims to present data in Brisbane that contrasts the immune system of healthy people with those who suffer from MS to highlight the differences as a way to study MS pathology.
Dr Mark Calcott, a postdoctoral fellow at the School of Biological Sciences at Victoria University of Wellington, received a $1,000 travel grant to present his research findings at the conference “Natural Products and Synthetic Biology: Parts and Pathways” in the USA early next year. Dr Calcott’s research involves searching for new bacterial natural products. The aim of this research is to identify new natural products with antibiotic activity.
Dr Lisa Connor, a senior research fellow at the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research received $1,500 Research for Life travel grant to present her research at the 46th Australasian Society of Immunology Conference in Brisbane in November. Lisa’s research interests involve elucidating the immunological events that lead to the development of allergic disease. Exposure to allergens (i.e. House dust mite) initiates a cascade of signalling events within dendritic cells, which result in the production of factors that instruct adaptive immune responses to become inappropriately activated and cause disease. Her goal is to identify what the driving factors are, and provide targets for therapeutic interventions.
Kathryn Hally, a PhD student at the School of Biological Sciences at Victoria University of Wellington, received a travel grant of $1,312 to present her research findings at the Australasian Society for Immunology’s Annual Scientific Meeting in Brisbane this year. Kathryn’s research has focussed on platelet immunology in patients with acute myocardial infarction (heart attacks). In particular, she is interested in determining how platelets may be alternatively activated by immune mediators in heart attack patients, and how this may relate to patient outcome.
Johannes Mayer, a postdoctoral research fellow from the Ronchese laboratory at the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research, received a travel grant of $1,500 to present his research findings at the Australasian Society for Immunology Conference 2017 in Brisbane, Australia. His research interest focuses on dendritic cells, which are instrumental in driving the appropriate differentiation T cells. The correct development of specific effector T cells with characteristic cytokine profiles is essential to mount a robust immune response against a wide variety of pathogens, ranging from single-cell microorganisms to large parasitic worms. Thus, dendritic cells play an important role in pointing the immune system in the right direction and Johannes’ work focuses on deciphering the signals dendritic cells produce to accomplish this task.
Abigail Sharrock, completing a PhD in biotechnology in the Ackerley Lab at Victoria University of Wellington, received a travel grant of $2,000 to spend two months conducting research at the Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, USA in 2018. Abigail’s research seeks to identify and engineer bacterial nitroreductase enzymes that will be used to create models of retinal degenerative disease – a major cause of human blindness. The aim of creating such models is to aid researchers in finding new approaches to cure the disease or improve existing treatments.
Last year, Research For Life approved 12 research grants and nine travel grants constituting a total of $173,609 available to researchers.
Research For Life chairman Professor John Nacey said, “Research for Life congratulates the successful applicants of this round of funding. The research they are undertaking is innovative, well-conceived and vital to achieving continuing improvements in health outcomes in the community.
The closing date for the next round of Research for Life grant applications - including travel grant applications – is Wednesday, 7 March 2018.
About Research For Life
Research For Life is the public face of the Wellington Medical Research Foundation.
Supporting innovative quality research with a focus on funding those researchers in the early stages of their careers, who – through their work – will advance the quality of healthcare in the Wellington region and beyond.
Role of the Foundation
Research For Life (Wellington Medical Research Foundation) is dedicated to supporting and encouraging young, talented people to engage in medical and biomedical research.
The Foundation considers appropriate applications from all individuals and research groups in the Wellington region. We currently lend our support, in particular, to the School of Medicine, Wellington Hospital, Victoria University of Wellington and the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research.
The need for medical research
Major discoveries in medicine have been made and continue to be made through fundamental and applied research. By funding such research, we aim to be at the forefront of medical knowledge and technical ability.
Achievements of the Foundation
The Foundation has funded work in many areas, including research into the basic understanding of cancer, kidney disease and conditions of particular concern in the Wellington region, such as asthma.
The Wellington Medical Research Foundation is a registered charity, registration number: CC10659