2021 Research Grants

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Each year the RHH Research Foundation selects broad research priorities which will serve as the guiding areas for focus for consideration of its grants investments. This year, applications for all grants will be reviewed to determine their alignment with/capacity to address the following strategic priorities:

  • Aged care (including diseases of the elderly);
  • Chronic disease (including cancer);
  • Health Service Delivery and Outcomes (including acute care);
  • A healthy start to life (including maternal and child health); and
  • Social determinants of health (including mental heath).

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Below is a list of our 2021 Research Grant recipients:

Below is a list of our 2021 Research Grant recipients:

New Incubator Grants for 2021

Blood clots in Tasmanian cancer patients: what is the risk and how effectively are we preventing them?

Project Team: Dr Tracey Batt, Dr Corinne Mirkazemi, Professor Luke Bereznicki and Distinguished Professor Gregory Peterson. 

Blood clots are a serious and often life-threatening complication of cancer that can be largely avoided with appropriate care. We will review preventative practices used locally, as well as associated influences, with the aim to optimise care and reduce this risk in future Tasmanians diagnosed with cancer.

Improving access to healthcare for Tasmanians living with MS in remote areas

Project Team: Dr Susan Claflin, Professor Bruce Taylor, Associate Professor Des Graham and Dr Lauren Giles. 

This project will generate the knowledge required to improve healthcare for Tasmanians living with MS in regional or remote areas. It will assess the impact of remoteness (distance from resources) on healthcare access and satisfaction for Tasmanians with MS.

(Generously funded by Johns Group)

The Auditory Response Inhibiting Apnoea (ARIA) in preterm infants study

Project Team: Dr Kathleen Lim, Professor Peter Dargaville and Dr Tim Gale. 

The ARIA study is the first of its kind to investigate the opportunistic application of a targeted auditory stimulus, such as the mother’s voice, to re-establish respiratory cadence in preterm infants with the aim of shortening the duration of apnoeic events and mitigating the adverse apnoea associated physiological consequences.

(Generously funded by Mrs P Pitman)

Field testing the reliability and cost-effectiveness of a novel locally developed assay for determining urine iodine concentration in urine samples

Project Team: Dr Corinne Mirkazemi, Dr Kristen Hynes, Dr Rahul Patel, Dr David Nichols, Ms Judy Seal, and Professor John Burgess. 

Tasmania’s long history of iodine deficiency has improved but some groups and individuals remain at-risk of adverse consequences, including brain damage. Research is impeded by the high cost of current iodine status assays. This project will enhance research capacity by demonstrating the reliability of a novel, locally developed low-cost method.

(Generously funded by an anonymous donor)

The relationship of sleep disturbance and pain trajectories: the role of inflammation mechanism

Project Team: Dr Feng Pan, Professor Graeme Jones and Dr Hilton Francis.  

Sleep disturbance is often comorbid with chronic pain disorders; however, the direction of causality and mechanisms underlying their association remain unclear. We recently demonstrated osteoarthritis pain population consists of distinct pain subgroups/trajectories. This project seeks to investigate sleep-pain trajectories association and the inflammation mechanism that may account for their association. 

(Generously funded by Mrs P Pitman)

Real-world outcomes and toxicities for patients with non-small cell lung cancer receiving immunotherapy

Project Team: Dr Jessica Roydhouse, Dr Rebecca Tay, Dr Louise Nott, Dr Allison Black, Ms Renae Grundy, Dr Julia Dixon-Douglas and Dr Liesel FitzGerald.  

Immunotherapy (IO) represents an exciting new development in cancer treatment. Evaluating real-world experiences and outcomes with these agents is important, particularly because cancer patients who participate in IO clinical trials are often younger and healthier than those treated with these agents in real-life settings.

(Generously funded by Mrs P Pitman)

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and Mindfulness Group Intervention for Tasmanian Women Living with Persistent Pelvic Pain

Project Team: Dr Leesa Van Niekerk, Dr Mandy Matthewson, Dr Daisy Aitken, Dr Julie Campbell, Dr Clare Ramsden, Dr Suzie Keating and Dr Naomi Saunder. 

The physical, psychological, financial, and occupational burden experienced by women diagnosed with persistent pelvic pain (PPP) is significant. Tasmanian women face barriers to accessing treatment due to a lack of available services. This project will reduce this burden by providing evidence-based group psychological therapy for women living with PPP. 

New Project Grants for 2021

Minimally-invasive surfactant therapy in preterm infants on continuous positive airway pressure – two-year outcome of the OPTIMIST-A trial

Project Team: Professor Peter Dargaville, Dr Tony De Paoli and Dr Lauren Shelton.    

This proposal is for funding to facilitate follow-up at 2 years of preterm babies enrolled in the OPTIMIST-A trial, a clinical trial of a novel technique for delivering a medication called surfactant into the lungs. The follow-up study will reveal whether the new therapeutic approach has any lasting benefits, and any adverse consequences. 

(Generously funded by the Bateman Bequest)

A new model of shared care across Geriatric Medicine and General Surgery for older Tasmanians

Project Team: Dr Tobias Evans, Dr Noha Ferrah, Professor Richard Turner, Professor Matthew Jose, Dr Alex Britcliffe, Dr Jane Alty, Professor James Vickers and Dr Julie Campbell. 

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 following discharge. We will investigate the need for a novel model of shared Geriatric/General Surgery care for older RHH patients, with a view to measure its effect on return to preadmission residence and in-hospital complications.

(Generously funded by an anonymous family)

Determining the role of population-based genetic screening for glaucoma-blindness prevention

Project Team: Professor Alex Hewitt and Professor David Mackey.   

Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness worldwide. We have recently developed a genetic risk score for primary open angle glaucoma and we now seek to determine the utility of applying this genetic risk score in a local, population-based setting.

Using data linkage to estimate the burden of diabetes in Tasmania

Project Team: Professor Andrew Palmer, Professor Matthew Jose, Dr Barbara de Graaff, Dr Julie Campbell and Ms Ngan Dinh.     

Using data linked from different datasets, this project will quantify the health economic burden associated with diabetes for the Tasmanian health system, and identify pressing factors that should be targeted for improved patient outcomes and/or cost savings to the Royal Hobart Hospital, the Tasmanian Health Service and the Tasmanian community. 

Patient and carer experiences with relapsed/refractory multiple myeloma and myelodysplastic syndrome

Project Team: Dr Jessica Roydhouse, Dr Rosemary Harrup, Dr Louise Nicholson, Ms Deborah Thompson, Dr Julie Campbell, Dr Kim Jose and Dr Sonia Raj.

Relapsed/refractory multiple myeloma and myelodysplastic syndrome are haematological malignancies that can be treated but not cured. Symptom management and quality of life are important considerations for these diseases. Understanding how patients manage their symptoms is important for supporting optimal quality of life. 

Biological and pathologic effects of mechanical ventilation on the cardiovascular system

Project Team: Dr Yong Song, Professor Graeme Zosky and Professor Peter Dargaville.       

Mechanical ventilation is a life-saving strategy in premature babies and critically ill patients, but also contributes to high mortality rates in these patients due to injury in other organs such as the heart. We aim to understand how mechanical ventilation injures the heart in order to improve patient outcomes. 

Pancreatitis in Tasmania: Quantifying the epidemiological and economic burden of disease.

Project Team: Professor Richard Turner, Dr Maree Loveluck, Dr Amanda Neil, Associate Professor (Keith) Chee Ooi, Professor Jeremy Wilson, Mr Dan Croagh and Dr Tony Pang.         

State-wide hospital and pathology data will be linked to provide a researchable dataset of Tasmanian pancreatitis cases from 2007-2018. A comprehensive picture will be obtained for disease burden pertaining to epidemiology, resource utilisation, established guideline compliance, and the determinants of these. The results will inform future quality improvement strategies. 

Measuring the impact of rare disease in Tasmania.

Project Team: Dr Mathew Wallis, Professor Matthew Jose, Professor Jo Dickinson, Professor Kathryn Burdon, Ms Julia Mansour, Dr Jac Charlesworth and Dr Amanda Neil. 

Tasmanians with a Rare Disease (and their families) often feel isolated & alone. Working with the newly established Tasmanian Rare and Undiagnosed Diseases Network this project will report on the number and impact of this large, diverse group. 

(Generously funded by the Mirkazemi Family)

Why are dusts from stone benchtops killing young workers in the building industry?

Project Team: Professor Graeme Zosky and Dr Nick Harkness.

Exposure to dust from cutting artificial stone for benchtops used in kitchens across Tasmania is causing accelerated silicosis in more than 20% of workers in the industry. The aim of this project is to find new ways to prevent and treat this incurable, and often fatal, disease. 

(Generously funded by Blundstone Australia Pty Ltd)

Williams Oncology Research Grant for 2021 - 2023

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, we will apply cutting-edge technologies to a large Tasmanian familial prostate cancer resource comprising both germline (e.g. blood) and tumour samples. 

(Generously funded by the Williams Bequest)

New Major Project Grant for 2021 - 2023

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.

Major Project Grant for 2020 - 2022

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.

Major Project Grant for 2019 - 2021

Health in Preconception, Pregnancy and Post-Birth (HIPPP): An antenatal lifestyle promotion program for the Royal Hobart Hospital.

Project Team: Dr Michelle Kilpatrick, Professor Alison Venn, Dr Kristine Barnden, Ms Sue McBeath, Dr Cheryce Harrison, Professor Helen Skouteris, Professor Andrew Hills, Professor Helena Teede, Dr Briony Hill and Dr Siew Lim.

Royal Hobart Hospital clinicians have identified an urgent need to reduce the burden of maternal obesity which has serious consequences for mothers and babies. This project will provide crucial evidence on the effectiveness of integrating an evidence-based lifestyle intervention into usual antenatal care to improve service delivery and patient outcomes.

Major Project Grant for 2018 - 2020

Identifying pathological pathways and putative therapeutics for the treatment of nervous system pathology in people with Multiple Sclerosis

Project Team: Dr Kimberley Pitman, Dr Kaylene Young, Prof Bruce Taylor, Dr Jac Charlesworth and Assoc Prof Alex Hewitt.

DNA sequencing of Tasmanian families with multiple closely related MS cases has implicated the GRIK4 gene in the development of this disease. This project aims to understand how GRIK4 affects the central nervous system, determine its role in disease pathogenesis, and repurpose existing pharmaceuticals targeting this pathway to offset neurodegeneration.

Major Project Grant for 2017-2019

Paving the way for future stroke drug development: creating a new gold-standard model of stroke

Project Team: Dr Lila Landowski, Prof David Howells, Dr Helen Castley, Dr Brad Sutherland and Dr Matthew Kirkcaldie.

Stroke is a leading cause of death and chronic disability. Stroke therapeutics developed in animal models fail when translated into human clinical trials, due to flaws inherent in these models. The study breaks through this translational roadblock by using magnetic microparticles to induce an ischemic stroke that better recapitulates human stroke.

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