Image: Dr Paul Gilson, Co-head Malaria Virulence and Drug Discovery Group
Burnet Institute research into malaria, hepatitis, adolescent menstrual health and the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on people who use drugs will benefit from National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Ideas Grants for 2021 valued at more than AUD $3.5 million.
Dr Paul Gilson has been awarded AUD $1,035,623 for the development of novel anti-malaria drugs that block parasite invasion.
“Malaria is a devastating parasitic disease that kills over 400,000 people a year,” Dr Gilson, Co-head of Burnet’s Malaria Virulence and Drug Discovery Group, and Head of Burnet Cell Imaging Facility, said.
“Antimalarial drugs play a crucial role in helping eradicate malaria but of great concern is that parasites are becoming resistant to current drugs.
“We are developing drugs that prevent parasites from invading and proliferating in human blood which causes malaria and discovering how the drugs work with the aim of greatly improving their performance towards clinical uptake.”
Dr Hayley Bullen receives AUD $672,971 for research into a novel family of anti-malarial compounds that are highly effective at killing parasites.
“We aim to discover exactly how these compounds kill the parasites so effectively and use this information to improve their safety and activity which is essential for their future development into antimalarial treatments,” Dr Bullen said.
Funding valued at AUD $986,023 will support Burnet Co-Head of Adolescent Health, Associate Professor Peter Azzopardi’s work to co-design a strategy to address menstrual health through schools in Myanmar.
“Menstrual health is an under-addressed but globally recognised health priority, and many girls in resource-limited settings face considerable challenges managing menstruation, particularly in school,” Associate Professor Azzopardi said.
“Our study will be the first in the region to measure adolescent menstrual health needs and co-design an intervention package with adolescents to improve menstrual health in school settings.”
Determining the impacts of COVID-19 restrictions on people who use drugs is the focus for Professor Paul Dietze, whose grant is valued at AUD $429,228.
“COVID-19 has resulted in unparalleled government interventions to close borders and restrict social interactions which have major implications for illicit drug supply, procurement and use practices, as well as responses,” Professor Dietze said.
“People who use drugs will be profoundly impacted by COVID-19 and so our study will leverage existing data collections to compare drug use practices and consequences before, during and after the COVID-19 interventions to determine COVID-19 impacts on people who use drugs.”
NHMRC Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, Dr Jessica Howell will have $AUD 381,947 to support The Rapid B Study, involving the use of novel pint-of-care diagnostic tests and mathematical modelling to achieve the elimination of hepatitis B.
Azzopardi P, Kennedy E, Weiss H, Than K, Vaughan C, Hunter E, Bohren M, Win T, Grover S, Oo W. Optimising measurement and response to adolescent menstrual health: co-design of an acceptable and scalable strategy to address menstrual health through schools in Myanmar
Bullen H, Ashton T - Discovering how a novel antimalarial drug series rapidly kills parasites
Dietze P, Maher L, Hickman M, Doyle J, Stoove M, Ward B, Sutton K, Wilkinson A, Quinn B - Determining the impacts of COVID-19 restrictions on people who use drugs
Gilson P, Nguyen W - Development of novel anti-malaria drugs that block parasite invasion
Howell J, Abeysuriya R, Anderson D, Bhat P, Pham M, Van Gemert C, Doyle J - Using novel point-of-care diagnostic tests and mathematical modelling to achieve hepatitis B elimination: The Rapid B Study.
El-Hayek C - Application of machine learning techniques to disease surveillance to identify risk groups for blood borne viruses and sexually transmissible infections
Lopes R - Sexual & Reproductive Health and Rights in the Asia-Pacific Region - Impact Evaluation of Interruption of Services during the Pandemic.
A total of 283 Ideas Grants projects will receive funding totalling AUD $260 million from the NHMRC following a competitive process.