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Yolande Hutchinson
UNSW Sydney External Engagement
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Using gene therapy to uncover a cure for HIV, helping to tackle hospital-acquired infections and restoring hearing loss are some of the UNSW Sydney projects to receive funding in the latest National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) grants announced by federal Health Minister Greg Hunt

UNSW was awarded $33 million for 38 projects – 30 Ideas Grants, three Postgraduate Scholarships, two Clinical Trials & Cohort, a Partnership Project, a Synergy Grant and an Equipment Grant across the faculties of Medicine, Science and Engineering.  

UNSW Scientia Professor Gary Housley received two grants, one of which is the largest Ideas Grant awarded to UNSW. Professor Housley received $1.4 million to research vulnerability to noise-induced hearing loss, and an additional $480,000 grant to investigate ways to restore hearing.  

Researchers from UNSW Faculty of Medicine’s Single Molecule Science unit were collectively awarded over $4 million in Ideas Grant funding, accounting for almost one-quarter of the Ideas Grant funding awarded to UNSW. Funding will be used for research including how the T cell receptor generates signals that encode fate decisions, and the mechanical properties of cells in cancer.

Professor Sally Dunwoodie, an internationally renowned biomedical researcher from the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, received a $5 million Synergy Grant for research into the causes and outcomes of congenital heart disease. 

UNSW Pro Vice-Chancellor, Research Professor Ana Deletic said this new funding exemplified the dedication and ingenuity of UNSW’s researchers and their teams to improve the lives of people in Australia and around the world. 

This is the first round of Ideas Grants run under the revised NHMRC grant program. Despite uncertainties that every new scheme brings, our researchers have done exceptionally well. The funding announcement highlights the quality and depth of research undertaken by our staff. UNSW researchers continue to show that they are deeply committed to tackling the major health problems facing society,” said Professor Deletic. 

Some of the other UNSW recipients include: 

  • Professor Katharina Gaus, from UNSW Medicine, received $1.3 million to research how the T cell receptor generates signals that encode fate decisions. 
  • Dr Kathryn Poole, from UNSW Medicine, was awarded $1.1 million for examining the mechanical properties of cells in cancer. 
  • Dr David Tsai, from UNSW Engineering, received $1 million to examine transparent, soft arrays for closed-loop, cellular-resolution brain recording and stimulation. 
  • Associate Professor Stuart Turville, from the Kirby Institute, was awarded over $800,000 for research into gene therapy methods for an HIV cure. The research is based on the idea of using the “nuts and bolts” of the HIV virus in a safe and effective way to genetically modify immune cells to enable a functional cure for HIV. 
  • Professor Mark Willcox, from UNSW Science, received $1 million to research tackling hospital-acquired infections with peptide mimics.