RMIT University researchers have been awarded more than $1.6 million in the latest round of National Health and Medical Research Council grants.
Professor Leslie Yeo, Director of the MicroNanomedical Research Centre, received $524,000 for the development of a portable, needle-free, DNA-based flu vaccine delivery system while Associate Professor Toby Allen will use his $592,000 grant to aid his work in developing safer general anaesthesia.
Dr Zhen Zheng, program coordinator for the Master of Applied Science (Acupuncture) and Master of Applied Science (Chinese Herbal Medicine) degrees, will receive $175,303 to investigate how acupuncture can be used to alleviate post-operative nausea and vomiting.
Yeo said his NHMRC grant was one more step toward making a low-cost and portable handheld device allowing a vaccine to be inhaled – something that if successful, could revolutionise vaccination in the developing world.
“DNA vaccines can be produced very fast, unlike conventional protein subunit or whole live micro-organism vaccines, therefore enabling fast response to pandemic outbreaks,” he said.
“They can also be stored for long periods of time without refrigeration, something that can be especially useful in third world countries where there may not be such facilities available.
“Doing away with needles doesn’t just address the issue of patient compliance and comfort, but also reduces the risk of disease transmission.
“So we're absolutely thrilled to be able to do this work as a step closer towards hopefully making the world a safer place through more effective and safer immunisations.”
Fellow grant recipient Allen said general anaesthetics were a mainstay of modern medicine, but had a small safety margin, requiring skilled anaesthetists for their safe use.
He said the NHMRC grant would fund a project to provide fundamental understanding of how general anaesthetics work at the molecular level, leading to new and safer anaesthetics.
“This project will provide a detailed molecular description of anaesthetic action and specificity. It will help uncover the hidden secrets of the brain and advance modern medicine,” Allen said.
“We are very happy to win this grant because it solidifies important new connections across Australia and overseas with researchers who are tackling the big questions associated with brain activity.
“It is a big step forward in establishing RMIT as a home for groundbreaking biomedical science.”
RMIT will also administer a $314,644 NHMRC grant to develop computer programs that reliably, rapidly and cheaply determine HIV drug-resistance in patients, potentially greatly improving access to certain anti-HIV drugs across the world.
The NHMRC grants were selected by independent expert panels which drew on the expertise of thousands of researchers to assess applications across a range of fields.
Story: Greg Thom