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Current research

Thanks to the generosity of our local community, the Foundation funds a range of projects to improve the health and wellbeing of patients in Tasmania. We do this by actively funding research grants, equipping researchers with the tools they need, supporting collaboration between health professionals and funding innovative opportunities to improve the lives of people in our community.

Funding for our research projects is provided through an annual peer reviewed grant round and includes Incubator Grants (up to $10,000), Project Grants (up to $25,000), the Lowenthal-Muller Grant (up to $200,000), the Williams Oncology Grant (up to $350,000) and Major Project Grants (up to $450,000).
Below is a list of grants we proudly supported in 2023.

Continuous blood pressure (BP) monitoring while mobilising severe acute stroke patients

Project team: Ms Felicity Charlier (CIA), Professor Prue Morgan, Dr (PhD) Kim Brock, Dr Helen Castley, Associate Professor Mehmut Yuce

This project will measure blood pressure changes during routine early mobilisation therapy after severe stroke injury using a new blood pressure prototype device. This may identify mobilisation activities that lead to significant blood pressure fluctuations, to guide future recovery options in future.

Generously supported by an anonymous donor

Conducting a pilot study to understand the epidemiology of clinically significant arboviruses and their vectors in Tasmania.

Project team: I-Ly Joanna Chua, Dr Shannon Melody, Dr Louise Cooley, Dr Avram Levy, Jamie Davies, Kerryn Lodo

In early 2022, new infections from viruses like Japanese encephalitis and Murray Valley encephalitis popped up in Victoria, NSW, and Queensland, affecting over 20 people, including adults and kids. This was a big change because these outbreaks happened much farther south than usual. While no one got sick in Tasmania, the mosquitoes that can carry these viruses were found in coastal areas, raising concerns. This project aims to learn more about these mosquitoes and the viruses in Tasmania by trapping mosquitoes and conducting molecular tests.

Generously supported by the NAB Foundation

Hospitalisation as an opportunity to optimise anticoagulant treatment in patients with atrial fibrillation

Project team: Dr Woldesellassie Bezabhe (CIA), Distinguished Professor Greg Peterson, Dr Nathan Dwyer, Professor Jan Radford, Camille Boland and Dr Mohammed Salahudeen.

Studies indicate that many community-based patients with atrial fibrillation still do not receive the recommended anticoagulant therapy (reduces the risk of stroke by two-thirds). The research team will examine anticoagulant use in patients with atrial fibrillation upon admission and discharge and determine whether hospitalisation represents an opportunity to improve the care.

Detecting dementia risk by wearing a watch: Evaluation of sleep/wake patterns to identify REM sleep behaviour disorder in Tasmania

Project team: Ms Samantha Bramich (CIA), Associate Professor Jane Alty, Professor Anna King and Dr Maneesh Kuruvilla.

Adults with REM sleep behaviour disorder (RBD) have a 90% chance of developing dementia or another neurodegenerative disease within 10 years. However, RBD is difficult to detect. This project will evaluate 24-hour actigraphy (activity) watches for detecting probable RBD (pRBD) in Tasmania, the first step towards early dementia risk modification.

Generously supported by an anonymous donor

Motherhood with kidney disease: what’s going to happen to me (and my baby)?

Project team: Professor Matthew Jose (CIA), Dr Laura Cuthbertson and Associate Professor Shilpa Jesudason.

Many health professionals do not discuss motherhood with women who have kidney disease, due to lack of adequate information. The research team will use our linked dataset of Tasmanian mothers and babies to report mother and baby outcomes in Tasmanian women with kidney disease.

Generously supported by Mrs Patricia Pitman

Understanding Physical Activity after Cancer exercise Therapy (UNPACT)

Project team: Ms Sajina Mathew (CIA), Leisl Wylie, Trish Filby, Dr Katherine Lawler, Dr Suzanne Waddingham, Associate Professor Rosemary Harrup and Samantha Shelley.

Physical activity makes life better for people with cancer. The Royal Hobart Hospital offers short-term oncology exercise groups, but researchers don’t know what happens for individuals when groups finish. This study will inform current practice by seeking insights from group participants about what helps them stay active in the longer-term.

Validation of an antibody panel to identify multiple immune cell subsets in a single low-volume CF blood sample

Project team: Dr Louise Roddam (CIA), Dr Nicole Saxby, Dr Emily Mulcahy, Associate Professor Sean Beggs, Dr Joanne Pagnon, Ms Simone Page

Dr Roddam and her team have previously designed and validated a specialised antibody panel to identify eight distinct immune cell populations within one tube, from a small amount of blood. They propose to validate a similar panel using commercially available antibodies, to enable the team to significantly contribute to collaborative cystic fibrosis research.

Supported in partnership with Cystic Fibrosis Tasmania

The health economic impacts of residential fires on the Tasmanian public healthcare system 2010 to 2020 using a mixed-methods approach

Project team: Ms Ngan Dinh (CIA), Dr Julie Campbell, Professor Andrew Palmer, Rebecca Schrale, Kevin Ratcliffe, Fiona Orr, Lesley King, Sandra Barber, Dr Barbara de Graaff.

Residential fires remain a significant global public health, economic and policy problem. The resource utilisation and cost patterns of residential fires are not well reported worldwide including in Australia. This study aims to quantify the scale, profile, and determinants of healthcare costs and utilisation associated with residential fires in Tasmania.

Generously supported by RACT Insurance 

A blood test to detect microvascular injury and predict potential for recovery following stroke

Project team: Dr Gary Morris (CIA), Associate Professor Brad Sutherland, Professor David Howells, Professor Anna King, Dr Helen Castley, Dr Jo-Maree Courtney, Dr Jessica Collins.

Pericytes, cells controlling blood flow in the brain, are injured post-stroke. This may increase brain injury and worsen neurological disability. This project will develop a blood test for detecting pericyte injury. This test may be useful for diagnosing blood flow impairments or predicting brain injury and neurological disability post-stroke.

A piezoelectric sensor for the detection of obstructive apnoea in preterm infants

Project team: Mr Andrew Marshall (CIA), Professor Peter Dargaville, Dr Tim Gale, Dr Brian Salmon.

This study is working on creating a new device to spot when preterm infants have trouble breathing due to an obstruction in their upper airway. Following pre-clinical evaluation of a refined version of the device, the project team do a real-world study to fine-tune the detection system for optimal performance.

Generously supported by the Estate of the late Betty Rose Bateman

Targeted relief for chronic plantar heel pain: Investigating shockwave therapy for bone marrow lesions in the BALSA trial

Project team: Dr Jason Rogers (CIA), Professor Tania Winzenberg, Professor Graeme Jones, Dr Andrew Halliday, Dr Karen Wills.

In a controlled trial, we'll check if a treatment called shockwave therapy, which targets the bone, is safe and actually works for people with chronic plantar heel pain caused by a 'bone-bruise' (bone marrow lesion). The trial will be compared with a placebo treatment (sham shockwave) to see how well the treatment really works.

Generously supported by Hansen Yuncken

More than a dream: Detecting Parkinson's disease decades earlier with a low-cost screening test

Physically acting out your dreams is a very early symptom of Parkinson's Disease (PD). This project will investigate the cognitive-motor function of people with this sleep disorder compared to healthy controls and those with PD, to develop a simple test that detects PD >20 years earlier than we do now.

Project team: Ms Sam Bramich (CIA), Associate Professor Jane Alty, Associate Professor Michele Callisaya, Dr Rebecca St George, Dr Scarlett Bowen, Dr Scott McDonald, Dr Harley Stanton, Kaylee Rudd.

Generously supported by Huon

Respiratory Syncytial Virus: Defining the Genomic Landscape in Tasmania

Project team: Dr Christopher Atkinson, Associate Professor Louise Cooley, Dr Nick Fountain-Jones

This project aims to explore the genetic makeup of the Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) in Tasmania using advanced methods like whole-genome sequencing. We'll also use a special approach called "phylodynamics," which helps us understand how the virus evolves and spreads in the population over time. By doing this, the project team will be able to determine the current variety of RSV in Tasmania before any vaccines for the infection are brought in.

Generously supported by the Estate of the late Betty Rose Bateman

A Clinical and Biospecimens Prostate Cancer Resource for Biomarker Research in Tasmania

Project team: Dr Liesel FitzGerald (CIA), Dr Marketa Skala, Professor Jo Dickinson, Dr Shaun Donovan, Dr Helen Harris and Dr Frank Redwig.

This project aims to recruit and collect biological samples from Tasmanian men participating in the Prostate Cancer Outcomes Registry in Tasmania. This valuable clinical and genomic resource will allow important biomarker research into predicting prostate cancer outcomes and improving treatment strategies.

Generously supported by Mrs Patricia Pitman

Assay development to improved genetic testing in cataract patients with gap junction variants

Project team: Dr Johanna Jones (CIA), Professor Kathryn Burdon, Dr Matthew Wallis, Clinical Professor Nitin Verma AM and Clinical Associate Professor Paul McCartney.

Childhood cataracts are often caused by genetic variants in gap junction genes. However, genetic testing can be inconclusive because researchers don’t know which variants cause disease and which don’t. This project will develop laboratory tests to find out if variants detected in three Tasmanian families with childhood cataract cause their disease.

Understanding how breathing in air pollution leads to metabolic disease

Project team: Dr Dino Premilovac (CIA), Professor Graeme Zosky, Professor John Burgess and Dr Stephen Richards.

Air pollution is becoming recognised as a major risk factor for development of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, particularly in overweight or obese people. This study aims to understand how exposure to diesel exhaust or wood fire smoke insulin action in the body to cause insulin resistance.

A new integrated model of care across General Medicine and General Surgery for older patients

Project team: Professor Richard Turner (CIA), Dr Noha Ferrah, Dr Tobias Evans and Dr Sauro Salomoni.

Tasmania has an ageing population and older people undergoing emergency surgery are at high risk of complications and of subsequently needing rehabilitation or nursing home placement. This project will evaluate the impact of a new model of integrated care across General Surgery and General Medicine for older patients at the Royal Hobart Hospital.

Shaking up our approach to detecting dementia: using tremor analysis to develop a new pre-cognitive test of dementia risk

Project team: Ms Xinyi Wang (CIA), Associate Professor Jane Alty, Dr Rebecca George, Dr Katherine Lawler, Dr Lara Ruthnam, Dr Jessica Collins and Kaylee Rudd.

Slight shaking in older people’s hands has generally been considered part of normal ageing. However, our recent work suggests this ‘late-onset tremor’ indicates increased dementia risk – years before memory decline. The research team will precisely analyse hand tremors compared to a blood biomarker of neurodegeneration to determine how tremor predicts dementia risk.

Generously supported by the Mirkazimi family

Precision Medicine for Men with Prostate Cancer

Project team: Professor Jo Dickinson (CIA), Dr Jessica Roydhouse, Dr Kelsie Raspin, Dr Liesel FitzGerald, Associate Professor Louise Nott, Associate Professor Rosemary Harrup, Dr Mathew Wallis.

Precision medicine and the burgeoning use of complex genetic data to inform clinical management of cancer is here. As Tasmania embraces this innovation, it is imperative that we seek engagement from the Tasmanian community in the design of our clinical pathways for delivery.

Generously supported by Mrs Patricia Pitman

A CNS Tumour Biobank for Tasmanians

Project team: Associate Professor Rosemary Harrup (CIA) and Professor Jo Dickinson.

This study will commence a biobank of primary CNS tumour samples to provide a resource for local researchers and facilitate linkages into the national Brain Cancer Biobanking Australia (BCBA) Bank to grow capacity and opportunities for Tasmanian brain cancer researchers and also provide future benefits for Tasmanian brain cancer patients.

Generously supported by BeGIN the cure

Identifying older adults in Tasmania with REM Sleep Behaviour Disorder (RBD): the first step towards reducing their high risk of neurodegeneration

Project Team: Ms Samantha Bramich (CIA), Dr Jane Alty, Professor Anna King, Dr Anju Bhagwat, Maneesh Kuruvilla.

Adults with RBD have a 90% chance of developing dementia or other neurodegenerative disease within 10 years. However, RBD is under-recognised. This project will identify RBD prevalence in Tasmania, characterise its associated features, and offer risk reduction strategies with the long-term aim of decreasing the incidence of neurodegenerative disease.

Generously supported by the Mirkazimi family

Providing high-value care for osteoarthritis patients at the Royal Hobart Hospital

Project team: Associate Professor Dawn Aitken, Dr Katherine Lawler, Mr Paul Harvie, Lisa O’Brien, Associate Professor Christian Barton, Paula Hyland, Dr Barbara de Graaff, Dr Pieter Van Dam, Professor Gregory Peterson, Dr Natalie Collins, Professor Graeme Jones.

GLA:D is an international evidence-based education and exercise program for people with osteoarthritis. This project will evaluate the implementation of GLA:D through the RHH physiotherapy community outpatient clinics for patients on a joint replacement surgery pathway. It will benefit patients and potentially reduce pressure on elective surgery waiting lists.

The last 1000 days with chronic kidney disease: supporting treatment decision making in Tasmania

Project team: Professor Matthew Jose (CIA), Dr Kim Jose, Professor Jan Radford, Associate Professor Rajesh Raj, Dr Laura Cuthbertson, Lisa Shelverton and Dr Carolyn Baker.

The research team has critical new information about the health outcomes and personal burden of different treatment options for Tasmanians with chronic kidney disease. The team would like to find out if including this new information into consumer decision and education aids helps decision making by consumers, caregivers and health professionals. This project will be conducted over 2023 and 2024.

Utilising large Tasmanian families to determine the impact of rare genetic variation on prostate cancer

Project team: Dr Liesel FitzGerald, Professor Jo Dickinson, Dr Marketa Skala, Dr Shaun Donovan and Dr Frank Redwig.

This project aims to identify rare genetic changes that increase the chance of developing prostate cancer. To do this, the research team will apply cutting-edge technologies to a large Tasmanian familial prostate cancer resource comprising both germline (e.g. blood) and tumour samples. This project is running from 2021 to 2024.

Generously supported by the Estate of Nancy Gurtrude Mary Williams

Closing the Health Gap: Precision Care for Men with Prostate Cancer (PC4PC-TAS)

Project team: Dr Kelsie Raspin (CIA), Professor Jo Dickinson, Dr Jessica Roydhouse, Dr Matthew Wallis, Dr Sionne Lucas, Dr Liesel FitzGerald, Associate Professor Rosemary Harrup, Associate Professor Marketa Skala and Associate Professor Louise Nott.

In Australia, precision medicine is delivering significant improvements in outcomes for several common cancers, yet such innovation for prostate cancer (PrCa) lags significantly behind, particularly in regional areas like Tasmania. This study will undertake the consumer-focused work necessary to design and deliver patient-centred genomic medicine in PrCa. This project is being conducted from 2023 to 2025.

Developing a non-invasive screening test to detect the risk of Alzheimer's disease development

Project Team: Dr Jane Alty (CIA), Associate Professor Lynette Golding, Dr Edward Hill, Dr Katherine Lawler, Dr Anju Bhagwat, Nadeeshani Fernando, Dr Larissa Bartlett, Mr Aidan Bindoff, Associate Professor Quan Bai and Professor James Vickers.

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is responsible for 70% of all dementia cases, starting to harm the brain over a decade before memory issues surface. Detecting AD earlier is crucial to lowering dementia rates. Our team, with 200 patients and 10,000 research participants, aims to create a test that identifies early AD through analyzing hand movements and speech.

This project holds significant importance for society, health, and the economy. The planned test will non-invasively identify AD pathology, allowing individuals with early-stage AD to take proactive measures before irreversible brain damage occurs. This includes starting intensive risk modification efforts, which can slow or prevent 40% of dementia cases, and participating in drug trials. Early diagnosis will reduce hospital admissions and associated costs. These efforts contribute to curbing the escalating dementia care expenses, which already exceed $15 billion annually in Australia. Leveraging our national and international networks for widespread implementation, the project's outcomes are poised to have a global impact, transforming the landscape of dementia prevention.

 Accurate blood pressure with machine learning

Project team: Dr Dean Picone, Professor James Sharman, Dr Azadeh Alavi, Dr Martin Schultz, Dr Andrew Black, Dr Nathan Dwyer, Associate Professor Philip Roberts-Thomson, Dr Heath Adams and Associate Professor David Ascher.

Cuff measured blood pressure (BP) is among the most important tests in clinical medicine. However, cuff BP is not accurate in many people, which can lead to inappropriate diagnosis and care. This research program seeks to develop and validate a more accurate measurement of cuff BP using machine learning technology. This project is being conducted from 2021 to 2025.

Blood-based biomarkers for neurodegeneration dementia

Project team: Dr Jessica Collins, Prof James Vickers, Assoc Prof Anna King, Dr David Cooper and Dr Jane Alty.

Blood-based biomarkers of brain damage may revolutionalise the detection and diagnosis of nervous system injury and degeneration and assist monitoring effectiveness of therapeutic approaches. This project examines the clinical potential of new biomarker technology on the detection and diagnosis of dementia and brain damage following intensive care unit admission. This project is being conducted from 2019 to 2024.

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