Cancer, pain relief and immunity research supported by ARC

November 01, 2009

Research at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute into the genes involved in breast cancer development, new drugs for chronic pain, and proteins involved in inflammatory diseases has received funding in this year's round of Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Project grants.

Seven projects proposed by institute researchers have received ARC support. On three of these the lead researcher has received a QEII Fellowship, which will see their projects supported by the ARC for the next five years.

Professor Doug Hilton, director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, said the ARC-supported research projects were a clear illustration of the institute's commitment to developing basic discoveries into clinical benefits for patients.

"From research into the epigenetic modifiers that control whether our genes are switched off or on to developing an understanding of what goes wrong with our immune systems to allow inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis to occur, our scientists are striving to find the causes, treatments and cures that will benefit people worldwide," Professor Hilton said.

"This support from the ARC will help us achieve that goal."

The institute's Structural Biology Division was well-represented among the ARC grants, receiving three of the seven awarded to the institute.

Professor Ray Norton from Structural Biology is leading two of the research projects in collaboration with LaTrobe University, one into the role in cancer of a protein called matrix metalloprotease 23 and the other into new treatments for chronic pain that are based on μ-conotoxins, which are found in the venoms of predatory cone snails.

Professor Peter Colman, head of the Structural Biology Division, is leading a collaboration with the University of Melbourne into whether foldamers (small molecules that have a folded structure similar to those seen in proteins) could form the basis of new drugs that inhibit the protein-protein interactions that underpin many human diseases.

The QEII Fellowships were awarded to Dr Marnie Blewitt from the Molecular Medicine Division, Dr Ben Croker from the Cancer and Haematology Division and Dr Marie-Liesse Asselin-Labat from the Molecular Genetics of Cancer Division. Mr Michael Inouye will join the institute's Immunology Division in 2010 on an ARC Postdoctoral Fellowship.

Dr Blewitt will investigate epigenetic modifiers. Dr Croker will explore genes that turn off immune responses; and Dr Marie-Liesse Asselin-Labat aims to identify the genes involved in the control of breast cancer progression.

Walter and Eliza Hall Institute

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