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QIMR scientists win ASMR Awards

Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) scientists Associate Professor Michael Breakspear and Dr Susan Woods have won 2011 Australian Society for Medical Research (ASMR) Queensland Awards. These prestigious awards were presented at the Australian Society for Medical Research’s Research Week Dinner held on Friday 3 June.

Associate Professor Breakspear was awarded the Clinical Researcher Award. He and his research team are using movie clips to help diagnosis mental illnesses.

“By studying facial expression, eye movement and brain activity while subjects watch mainstream-release films, we are hoping to develop a diagnostic test for psychotic disorders. This will be achieved by combining advanced brain imaging and computer modelling, allowing for earlier and more accurate diagnosis and management for patients with recent onset psychotic symptoms,” said Associate Professor Michael Breakspear.

“Earlier intervention is the key to reducing the burden of mental illness to society and improving the quality of life for those with a mental illness.”
Dr Woods, who was awarded ASMR’s Senior Researcher Award, is investigating the use of a new type of drug to treat the most common solid tumour in children, called neuroblastoma.

“I am honoured to receive this award. It has resulted from a great collaborative effort across a number of groups,” said Dr Woods.

“Much research has been done looking at a protein called p53 that acts as a natural defence again cancer. In cancers this natural defence has been disabled by microRNA. This results in the cell multiplying out of control. By blocking the microRNA, we killed the cancer cells and reduced the size of the tumours. We hope this technique can lead to a therapy for a range of cancers,” said Dr Woods.

QIMR’s Deputy Director Professor Adele Green said these awards reflect QIMR’s excellence in both mental health and cancer research.
“I would like to personally congratulate Associate Professor Breakspear and Dr Woods for winning this prestigious award. With neuroblastoma an important childhood cancer and psychotic disorders a major disease burden in our community, their research is important to the lives of so many,” said Professor Green.

If you are interested in helping with mental health research, QIMR is looking for healthy volunteers from the community to participate. It is safe and non-invasive. Simply call (07) 3362 0222 to register your interest.