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Research on the role of the microbiome in health problems affecting the Australian population has received an injection of almost $1 million from the St George and Sutherland Medical Research Foundation.

The foundation (SSMRF) has been awarded $4 million from the Federal Government to establish the Microbiome Research Centre (MRC) at St George Hospital.

On Friday it announced its inaugural MRC research grants – five two-year capacity grants and one 12-month seed grant – totalling almost $1 million.

UNSW’s Professor Emad El-Omar, inaugural Director of the MRC, said the grants would get the new centre off to a flying start.

"These grants will provide vital funding to support important research programs that cover four important pillars of research including cancer, maternal and foetal health, infection, immunity and inflammation, and mental health and neuroscience over the next two years," he said.

SSMRF Chair Professor John Edmonds said improved understanding of the microbiome was one of the most exciting developments in medicine over the past decade as it impacted on all aspects of health and disease.

"These grants were highly sought after," he said.

"Applications went through a rigorous process firstly with the SSMRF’s Scientific Advisory Committee and then the final seven applicants were interviewed by a distinguished MRC review panel."

Once fully established, the MRC will be engaged in cancer control, obesity, diabetes, mental health, cardiovascular health, arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions, asthma and dementia.

The grant winners were:

  • Dr Amanda Henry and team "The microbiome in pregnancy and infancy"

  • Professor Michael Grimm and team “The longitudinal course of inflammatory bowel disease”

  • Dr Peter Wu and team “Oro-Pharyngeal dysbiosis in head and neck cancer”

  • Dr Bill Giannakopouulos and team “Murine and human studies SLE APS”

  • Professor Beng Chong and team “Role of microbiota dysbiosis in immune thrombocytopenia and thrombosis”

  • Dr Winston Liauw and team “Anti-cancer therapy on the gut microbiome in gastrointestinal cancer” (12-month seed funding).