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Putting the spotlight on tropical disease and mental health

QIMR researchers are sharing in over $24 million in National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) program grants recently announced by Minister for Health, the Honourable Tanya Plibersek.

QIMR Director and CEO, Professor Frank Gannon said the grants from the NHMRC support two of the Institute’s key research areas: infectious diseases (including tropical diseases) and mental health.

“Our infectious disease researchers will share in a NHMRC Program Grant worth over $17 million for tropical disease vaccine development,” Professor Gannon said.

QIMR’s Dr Christian Engwerda said he and his QIMR colleagues Professors Don McManus, James McCarthy and Denise Doolan will work closely with researchers from Griffith University, Menzies School of Health Research, the University of Queensland and James Cook University to investigate how the body responds to infection.

“We will develop new drugs and vaccines to eradicate a range of tropical diseases including malaria, streptococcal and parasitic worm infections,” Dr Engwerda said.

QIMR’s Mental Health and Complex Disorders Program Coordinator, Professor Michael Breakspear will also share a $7.1 million NHMRC program grant for new research into the causes, expression and management of the major mood disorders, namely depression and bipolar disorder.

“The grant brings together four teams of researchers from QIMR, UNSW, Neurosciences Research Australia (NeuRA) and the Black Dog Institute. The team will conduct research into depression and bipolar disorder, with an overarching objective to inform changes in policy and practice,” Professor Breakspear said.

“Although common and highly disabling and distressing to sufferers and their families, depression and bipolar disorder remain poorly understood and we lack objective methods for clinical diagnosis.

“Our research will coordinate genetics, clinical research, and brain imaging to address these problems. In doing so, we hope to make discoveries that will have direct benefit for patients and their treating doctors.”

Professor Frank Gannon said that mental illnesses, such as depression, can be experienced by one in five Australians each year, and that tropical diseases impacts over 250 million people worldwide.

“By obtaining these program grants and collaborating with other organisations, QIMR researchers are working to make a positive difference in the lives of many, by developing better treatments for some of the most debilitating illnesses in the world,” Professor Gannon said.

“One of the NHMRC’s objectives is to support the best and most relevant research, so it is a testament to the exceptional standard and relevance of the work QIMR scientists are carrying out.”