UWS awarded outstanding health and medical research funding

Camp campus

The University of Western Sydney has confirmed its place within the top 20 of Australian universities for National Health and Medical Research Council(NHMRC) funding with the announcement of the 2014 NHMRC Funding and Fellowship Scheme.

The Minister for Health, the Hon Peter Dutton MP has announced that UWS has been awarded $1,353,775 over three grants and equipment funding in the School of Medicine and the MARCS Research Institute.

A novel electrical device to restore sensory feeling lost due to disease and ageing

Dr Paul Breen, Dr Klaus Stiefel, Dr Ingvars Birznieks, Dr Stefania Penkala, MARCS Research Institute

$308,247 - biomedical engineering

The elderly and patients with diabetes are at high risk of losing sensation in their feet and currently no treatment for this condition exists. This loss of feeling leads to falls, fractures and foot ulcers, which in many cases result in amputation. We have developed a new subsensory stimulation technique, which for the first time restores lost sensation. Development of this novel treatment is made possible by a multi-disciplinary team of engineers, neuroscientists, physiologists and podiatrists. 

Membrane attachment and components of the Ca2+ -triggered release mechanism

Prof. Jens Coorssen, School of Medicine, Molecular Medicine Research Group

$373,447 - biochemistry and cell biology

Understanding and harnessing the fundamental cellular process of secretion will provide a wealth of new approaches to addressing problems associated with aging and disorders that are major health care burdens (e.g. neurodegeneration and diabetes). Understanding the vesicle docked state, and the contributions of different molecular components to the release process provides for unique insights into the underlying molecular mechanisms, thereby enabling safe, targeted control of this critical process.

Seeding success: identifying factors that contribute to positive early childhood health and development in Aboriginal children

Prof. Louisa Jorm, Dr Kathleen Falster, Prof. Sandra Eades, Prof. John Lynch, Prof. Emily Banks, A/Prof. Marni Brownel, Prof. Rhonda Craven, Dr Kristjana Einarsdottir, Ms Deborah Randall, School of Medicine  

$672,081 - public health and health services

This study will identify the key drivers of positive early childhood health and development in Aboriginal children, and the features of local communities and early childhood service provision that make a tangible difference, using a large population-based cohort of children in NSW. We will apply novel methods for using linked population data that can be used to inform program planning and evaluation nationally, and will advance theory, research and practice to "seed success" for Aboriginal children.


In addition, newly recruited UWS researchers have also been successful with NHMRC grants totalling $1.46 million.

Novel interplay of oestrogen and growth hormone in regulating lipid metabolism

Dr Vita Birzniece from the UWS School of Medicine via The Garvan Institute of Medical Research

$650,892 - clinical sciences

These studies provide insights into the mechanisms and role of oestrogen in regulating whole body and liver fat metabolism. Oestrogen-related medications that modify the action or tissue availability of oestrogen are widely used therapeutics and can predispose to obesity and fat accumulation in the liver. Whether the effect is direct or through interplay with other metabolic hormones is unknown. This proposal examines their metabolic consequences and impact on obesity and liver health. 

Understanding persistent low back pain where it resides, in the brain

Dr Siobhan Schabrun from the UWS School of Science and Health, Dr James McAuley, Prof. Thomas Graven-Nielsen, Prof. Michael Nicholas, Dr Nicholas Henschke, Dr Asad Khan via The University of Queensland

$814,825 - clinical sciences

Low back pain is a leading cause of disability amongst Australians. A critical question is why some people get better after hurting their back while others do not. This project examines whether changes in the brain predict low back pain outcome. This information will rapidly advance our understanding of low back pain and has the potential to facilitate the development of novel therapies.


UWS researchers have also achieved success in collaboration with colleagues at other universities.

Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus and Vascular Brain Ageing

A/Prof. Velandai Srikanth, A/Prof. James Sharman, Prof. Thanh Phan, Dr Amanda Wood, Prof. David Bruce, Prof. Gerald Muench (UWS School of Medicine) via Monash University.

$863,538 - clinical sciences

Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus is associated with stiffening of major blood vessels which may allow the transmission of harmful pressure to the small vessels of the brain. This may in turn be responsible for damage to brain cells and a greater risk of dementia. This study will use state-of-the art techniques to test this theory. If true, it may open opportunities to reduce the risk of brain disease in diabetes by using therapies to reduce arterial stiffening. 

Electric field manipulation for targeted neural excitation

A/Prof. Gregg Suaning, Prof. John Morley (UWS School of Medicine), Prof. Nigel Lovell, Dr Paul Matteucci via University of NSW

$527,734 - biomedical engineering

The aim of this study is to investigate innovative techniques for steering current to enhance existing and assist in the development of new neurostimulation strategies.

Long term impact of a community-based cluster randomized controlled trial of peer counselling to improve infant feeding on growth and cognitive function of children up to 5 years in urban Bangladesh

A/Prof Michael Dibley, Dr Sabrina Rasheed, Dr Jena Hamadani, Dr Kingsley Agho (UWS School of Medicine), Dr Seema Mihrshahi, Dr Alison Hayes  via University of Sydney 

$815,691 - public health and health services

Bangladesh still faces high levels of inappropriate infant feeding leading to child undernutrition and delayed development. Effective programs are urgently needed to help reduce undernutrition and improve child development. This study in poor urban communities in Dhaka, Bangladesh, will see if long-term counselling provided by local women to mothers about appropriate infant feeding can improve child’s nutritional status, growth and cognitive function in their children at 5 years.

hSSB1: A key regulator of genome stability and potential cancer therapeutic target

Dr Derek Richard, Dr Emma Bolderson, Prof. Kenneth O'Byrne, Dr Liza Cubeddu (UWS School of Science and Health) via Queensland University of Technology

$599,222 - biochemistry and cell biology

Maintaining genetic stability is essential to protect us from disease such as cancer. It is also clear that once a cancer does form, it changes the genetic code to allow it to grow and evade drugs. This project will help us understand how these processes occur, providing insight into new ways to tackle cancer.


Preventing depression and reducing the impact of aphasia in stroke patients and their caregivers a year post onset via a brief early intervention: a cluster randomised control trial of the Action Success Knowledge (ASK) program.

Prof. Linda Worrall, Dr Ian Kneebone (UWS School of Social Sciences and Psychology), Prof. Nina Simmons-Mackie, Dr Asad Khan, Dr Kyla Brown, A/Prof. Tammy Hoffmann, Dr Emma Power, Prof. Leanne Togher, Dr Miranda Rose via University of Queensland

$1,270,185 - clinical sciences

Loss of language after stroke (aphasia) leads to problems with understanding, talking, reading and writing. Aphasia often leads to depression and poorer wellbeing for the person with aphasia and the caregiver. Our research has a) identified what it takes to live successfully with aphasia, b) translated the results to a program called ASK, and c) piloted ASK with promising outcomes in reducing symptoms of depression. We will measure the impact of ASK at 12 months post stroke.