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Curtin health research projects share in State Government funding

Thursday 06 June 2024 | By Samuel Jeremic
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Preventing hearing loss in children with cancer and revolutionising Multiple Sclerosis (MS) treatment are among the Curtin University health research projects awarded a combined total of $700,000 in WA Near-Miss Awards – Ideas Grants.

Seven Curtin projects will receive $100,000 from the State Government’s Future Health Research and Innovation (FHRI) Fund, which provides funding to WA researchers who miss out on National Health and Medical Research grants.

Curtin Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research Professor Melinda Fitzgerald said the broad scope of the projects receiving grants showed the breadth of health research being conducted at the University.

“Our researchers are at the forefront of discovering new treatments for a variety of health conditions,” Professor Fitzgerald said.

“These grants will allow these seven projects to continue Curtin’s search for new, innovative ways to improve people’s health and wellbeing domestically and globally.

“Curtin is proud to be involved with these important research projects which will have significant real-world impact.”

Curtin’s School of Population Health received funding for four projects, two of which are led by Dr Virginie Lam.

Also affiliated with the Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute and the Perron Institute for Neurological and Translational Science, Dr Lam is investigating an innovative remyelination therapy aiming to restore myelin – protective sheaths surrounding nerve fibres – in people with MS, potentially improving symptoms and slowing or halting the progression of the disease.

Dr Lam’s other project aims to prevent cognitive issues in breast cancer survivors caused by chemotherapy, such as memory lapses and difficulty concentrating, by using neuroprotective compounds developed by her team.

Also from the School of Population Health, Telethon Kids Institute Honorary Research Associate Dr Tasmin Symons will investigate how to improve malaria treatment to reduce the number of children dying from the disease in Africa, while Dr Ninh Ha will examine how community-based multidisciplinary team care can improve management of diabetes.

Associate Professor Laurence Cheung, from Curtin Medical School and Telethon Kids Institute, is aiming to find better treatments for children with high-risk leukaemia by investigating the role fat cells in bone marrow play in the disease’s progression.

Also from Curtin Medical School, Dr Hani Al-Salami is innovatively repurposing a cholesterol-lowering drug in a nanogel to find out if it can also prevent hearing loss in children with cancer, while Curtin School of Allied Health’s Dr Roslyn Ward will lead a team investigating how artificial intelligence can be used in the diagnosis of speech sound disorders in children.

Medical Research Minister Stephen Dawson said the grants were a great second chance for important research to receive funding.

“The Cook Government’s successful FHRI Fund targets funding to support local medical research organisations and position WA as a global leader in research and innovation,” Mr Dawson said.

“WA Researchers in the early-to-mid-stage of their careers can continue to make vast improvements to health and medical research happening in the State.

“This will ultimately lead to the improved health and well-being of the WA community.”