Funding boost for early career researchers

More than $3.5 million has been awarded to eight researchers in medicine, nursing and health sciences in the latest round of funding announced by the Australian Research Council.

Australian Research Council (ARC) Chief Executive Office (CEO) Judi Zielke PSM welcomed the decision by the Minister for Education, Hon Jason Clare MP, to award US$85 million for 200 new research projects under the 2023 ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher awarded award program (DECRA).

Funding was awarded to a variety of MNHS projects spanning neuroscience, discovery research, modeling and women’s health.

Associate Dean of Research Professor James Whisstock said the funding recognizes the wide range of research being conducted within the MNHS.

“Our brilliant young researchers continue to be at the forefront of discovery and blue sky research. Congratulations to all recipients,” said Professor Whisstock.

The awarded MNHS projects are:

dr Aurina Arnatkeviciute, Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health
Project: Mapping the genetics of brain connectivity.
Awarded: $453,868

The brain is a complex biological system that creates our consciousness, thoughts, and experiences, but we still don’t understand how this complexity arises. This project aims to comprehensively study the genetics of brain connectivity by combining state-of-the-art techniques in neuroimaging, genomics, mathematical modeling and cognitive neuroscience, with a specific focus on the connectivity of functionally important nodes of the brain network. Findings will provide a mechanistic understanding of the genetic origins of brain network formation and an explanation of how genetic influences on brain organization shape human behavior, thereby expanding fundamental knowledge of brain complexity.

dr Meiling Han, Biomedicine Discovery Institute
Project: Bacterial membrane remodeling and interaction with peptides
Awarded: $450,241

This project aims to elucidate the fundamental mechanism of lipid remodeling in the gram-negative outer membrane, which is crucial for both preventing harmful compounds and evading host immune defenses. For the first time, the complex interactions between bacterial cell metabolism and membrane remodeling are defined by systems pharmacology and the precise membrane-peptide interaction is investigated by computational and biophysical approaches. Novel knowledge is being generated to improve our understanding of how bacteria remodel their outer membrane in response to environmental stress. This will benefit the future development of much-needed antimicrobial strategies, including products and technologies that target bacterial membranes.

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dr Rachael Lappan, Biomedicine Discovery Institute
Project: Microbial Life in the Atmosphere
Awarded: $454,741

This project aims to elucidate the nature and basis of microbial life in the atmosphere, the largest but least understood potential ecosystem on Earth. The atmosphere plays a role in microbial transport, but our understanding of resident atmospheric microbial communities and their role in global atmospheric processes is minimal. Using state-of-the-art molecular and biogeochemical approaches, this project aims to identify true microbial inhabitants of the atmosphere, understand their survival mechanisms in this environment, and explore their role in seeding newly formed environments. Expected outcomes include fundamental knowledge of atmospheric microbial ecosystems and their impact on global atmospheric processes.

dr Christopher Stubenrauch, Biomedicine Discovery Institute
Project: A novel bacterial secretion system for applications in nanobiotechnology
Awarded: $429,449

This project aims to characterize a new molecular machine called S-Pump. Molecular machines drive the complex biology in all cells and are an exciting area of ​​translational research with broad potential for industrial applications. This project aims to provide fundamental insights into how bacterial S-pumps contribute to antimicrobial resistance and improve food production. Expected results include new tools for molecular machine discovery and identification of ways to adapt molecular machines for biotechnological applications. This work should strengthen Australia-UK ties through collaboration, provide benefits for nanobiotechnology and economic benefits through more efficient food production.

dr Praveena Thirunavukkarasu, Biomedicine Discovery Institute
Project: Molecular insights into lipid-mediated T-cell immunity
Awarded: $421,485

This project involves the discovery of novel lipids produced by the microbiome that play an important role in T cell-mediated immunity. Using a combination of cutting-edge technologies such as mass spectrometry, protein crystallography, immunology and biophysics, this project will elucidate the molecular factors that control the interaction between the identified lipids and T cells. This innovative research will provide fundamental insights into how T cells recognize lipids at the molecular level, thus advancing our knowledge in the field of life sciences. The expected research results will strengthen Australia’s international research stand in this burgeoning area of ​​lipid-mediated T-cell immunity.

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dr Pirooz Zareie, Biomedicine Discovery Institute
Project: Redefining how T cell recognition drives T cell activation
Awarded: $470,789

This proposal aims to define the key mechanisms that determine how T cells recognize and respond to foreign antigens; a critical trait that defines effective immunity. To achieve this goal, this proposal will leverage multidisciplinary collaborations and innovative methods to understand how structural and biochemical features of T cell receptor recognition affect T cell-mediated immunity and development. This project, in turn, will facilitate further research and development in the burgeoning field of T cell biology and advance life sciences research in Australia. As T-cell biology is relevant to all vertebrates, this research will also benefit endangered species conservation and agriculture.

Associate Professor James Tragedy, School of Public Health & Preventive Medicine
Project: Strategies to minimize the societal impact of zoonotic pandemics.
Awarded: $448,000

The ongoing pandemic is having an unprecedented impact on society. Restrictions on population mobility have been effective in slowing transmission, but are only effective while they exist and have dramatic adverse effects. Despite Australia’s relative success, we lacked a clear national strategy to guide the optimal use of such restrictions. During this fellowship, I will apply robust software development practices to develop a unified software platform that integrates semi-mechanistic, particulate filter, and agent-based methods. I will then use this platform to quantify the impact of mobility limitations and define the optimal strategic response that should be selected based on the characteristics of an emerging pathogen.

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dr Briony Hill, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine
Project: Reshaping the Knowledge of Preconceived Lifestyles: A Socioecological Approach
Awarded: $426,816

This project aims to redefine our understanding of women’s lifestyle preconceptions using a novel, socio-ecological approach. This project aims to generate new knowledge about societal views on the weight stigma for women with prejudice and to identify the views of political stakeholders on the integration of prejudice into strategies for a healthy lifestyle. Expected outcomes of this project include a new theory- and evidence-based conceptual model for preconceived lifestyle health that goes beyond the current focus on personal responsibility. This should provide significant benefits such as: B. Informing policymakers to drive systemic change related to Australians’ preconceived lifestyles and health, with simultaneous cultural benefits, resulting in improved population health.

A complete list of the 2022 ARC DECRA recipients and their projects is available on the ARC website.

About Monash University

Monash University is Australia’s largest university with more than 80,000 students. In the 60 years since its founding, it has built a reputation for world-leading, high-impact research, quality teaching, and inspiring innovation.

With four campuses in Australia and a presence in Malaysia, China, India, Indonesia and Italy, it is one of Australia’s most internationalized universities.

As a leading international medical research university with the largest medical faculty in Australia and integrated with leading Australian teaching hospitals, we are consistently ranked among the top 50 universities worldwide for clinical, pre-clinical and health sciences.

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