Florey research awarded $3.5m in new funding

Researchers at The Florey will embark on novel scientific investigations to improve our understanding of the brain, thanks to $3.5 million in new funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

The NHMRC’s Ideas Grants are awarded to innovative and creative research addressing specific health and medical questions. The successful projects at The Florey will look at the impact of environmental pollutants on Parkinson’s disease, the anti-inflammatory effects of vagus nerve stimulation, and the prevention of sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP).

  • Professor Kevin Barnham, awarded $1.8 million, will investigate the link between increased incidence of Parkinson’s disease and environmental pollutants such as plastics and industrial chemical exposure. Rates of the disease have doubled in the last 20 years and are expected to double again in the next two decades. Professor Barnham’s team hope their research will lead to the development of intervention strategies to better manage the expected increase.
  • Dr Lindsea Booth, awarded $783,000, will investigate the powerful anti-inflammatory effects of stimulating the vagus nerve – which regulates bodily functions like heart rate and digestion, and reflexive actions like sneezing, coughing and swallowing. Using cutting-edge molecular tools, Dr Booth’s team will selectively target different branches of the vagus nerve going to specific organs. They hope this research will advance our understanding of this complex system.
  • Professor Chris Reid and Dr Ming Soh, awarded $917,000, will examine potential treatments for the prevention of SUDEP. Building on their previous research, the team will map the impact of seizures on heart function and determine the efficacy of a preventative treatment in reducing the risk of SUDEP. They hope their research will provide the scientific evidence to progress this preventative treatment to clinical trials.

The Florey’s Deputy Director (Science), Professor Andrew Lawrence, said this success is a testament to the innovative work happening across the Institute.

“There is still so much about the brain that we – as scientists and as a community – are yet to discover. Grants such as these enable our researchers to ask important questions about how brain function impacts the health of Australians,” Professor Lawrence said.

“We congratulate the Ideas Grant recipients at The Florey and look forward to seeing the real-world outcomes that these projects will have.”

When announcing the funding, Federal Minister for Health, the Hon. Mark Butler MP, said “With its focus on innovation and creativity, the Ideas Grant scheme encourages researchers to push the boundaries of current knowledge to deepen our understanding of health and disease and address our greatest health challenges.”