Researchers awarded major grants for novel projects
Our talented researchers continue to be recognised for their groundbreaking research, with three UTS Faculty of Science staff members receiving new grants for projects starting this year.
Professor Alaina Ammit and Associate Professor Sheila Donnelly both received National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) grants, while Dr Pawan Sharma was awarded funding from the Rebecca L Cooper Medical Research Foundation.
Professor Ammit is a biomedical scientist and Associate Dean (Research) (ADR) in the Faculty of Science. She is also the first female professor to be appointed as an ADR in the faculty.
Professor Ammit received $525,000 over three years for her project ‘Switching tristetraprolin on to turn off inflammation in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).’
The project involves the development of a novel anti-inflammatory strategy to treat the currently untreatable Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
COPD is becoming more prevalent in many western countries and, with one in seven Australians over the age of 40 affected, Australia has one of the highest rates of COPD deaths in the developed world
Professor Ammit and her colleagues will address the urgent need for anti-inflammatory strategies to treat COPD, as the disease is not responsive to corticosteroids that treat other respiratory conditions such as asthma.
Meanwhile, Associate Professor Donnelly received $497,000 over three years for her project ‘Understanding how a parasite-derived peptide prevents immune mediated demyelination.’
This project will involve assessing the therapeutic potential of the parasite molecules using animal models of relapsing Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
Associate Professor Donnelly’s motivation for pursuing this area of research is simple: the possibility that in time we may find a safe and tolerable drug treatment for MS.
MS is a chronic autoimmune disease affecting 2.5 million people worldwide, for which there is no cure.
While several therapies modify the disease or treat exacerbations, many of these require lifelong use, induce adverse side effects and cause global immune suppression.
Associate Professor Donnelly’s research could yield a new, sustainable treatment for this disease that is currently the leading cause of physical disability in young adults.
Finally, Dr Sharma was awarded $100,000 over two years for his project ‘Impact of maternal vaping on lung infection and asthma development in the offspring.’
Dr Sharma is a Chancellor’s Post Doctoral Research Fellow at the School of Life Sciences, with industry and academic research experience from India and North America.
To his knowledge, the project is the first study aiming to investigate a causal link between maternal e-cigarette vapour and development of asthma and infections in the early life of the offspring.
With the marketing of e-cigarettes as a safe alternative to tobacco cigarettes, the popularity of “vaping” is at an all-time high.
Dr Sharma’s novel project meets the demand for more data on newer nicotine products, especially on the impact they have on pregnant women and their children.
Dr Sharma praised UTS for its significant investment in his project, through improving the quality of the research labs in the Faculty of Science and recruiting key researchers in the area.
“UTS has world class research facilities coupled with modern equipment to do cutting edge lung research,” he said.
“The researchers at the Faculty of Science are quite supportive of each other and the Rebecca L Cooper funding is a perfect example of collaborative work between various researchers in the Faculty.”