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Featured News Northern health research receives funding boost

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Thu, 1 Jan 2015

Northern health research receives funding boost

JCU researchers will share in more than $3 million worth of grants under the latest round of funding from the Federal Government’s National Health and Medical Research Council.

First published 23 October 2012

James Cook University researchers will share in more than $3 million worth of grants under the latest round of funding from the Federal Government’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

All of the grant recipients work within the Queensland Tropical Health Alliance (QTHA), which is an alliance between JCU, the Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Griffith University, Queensland University of Technology and The University of Queensland. It is based at JCU’s Cairns campus.

The NHMRC’s Project Grants Scheme supports individuals and small teams of researchers undertaking biomedical, public health and health services research in Australian universities, medical schools, hospitals and other research institutions.

Associate Professor Alan Clough, Principal Research Fellow in JCU’s School of Public Health & Tropical Medicine, will receive $626,000 for his study: Alcohol Management Plans (AMPs) in remote Indigenous communities: Their impacts on injury, violence, health and social indicators and their cost-effectiveness in Cape York, far north Queensland.

Associate Professor Clough, who is based in Cairns, said the study would describe long-term impacts on important health and social outcomes of restricting alcohol in Cape York.

“It will assess the impacts and cost-effectiveness of the Queensland Government’s Alcohol Management Plans implemented from 2002-03,” he said.

“We will use de-identified data on injury, violence, health and social indicators. The study will map whether AMP components were delivered as promised and the extent to which they were welcomed by Cape York communities.”

Associate Professor Clough will also receive almost $440,000 for a Career Development Fellowship for his study into the effectiveness of interventions to reduce harm from substance misuse in remote Indigenous communities.

“We cannot accurately estimate the occurrence of many diseases and risk factors for remote Indigenous communities where more of the ‘health gap’ is suffered,” he said.

“Interventions targeting substance misuse risk factors have not yet produced the community- and individual-level impacts they were designed to bring about.”

Dr Craig Bennett from JCU’s Biochemistry and Molecular Biology unit (Townsville) will receive $262,930 to study mice carrying SETX gene mutations to help understand motor neurone disease in general.


SETX gene mutations cause an inherited motor neurone disease (MND) known as ALS4. Current understanding of MND was revolutionized by the discovery that a protein known as TDP-43 is the main component of protein accumulations found in dying human motor neurones. Dr Bennett has generated a unique mouse model of ALS disease that will be useful for research purposes, but may also prove effective for drug testing.

Professor Alan Baxter from JCU’s Biochemistry and Molecular Biology unit (Townsville) will receive $604,800 to study the metabolic control of innate immunity.


All cells in the body need to get their energy from somewhere, and the chemical basis of their energy supply varies depends on many factors, including their location and rate of cell division. Dr Baxter has found that an important population of white blood cells that control the character and magnitude of most immune responses appear to use an unusual source of their energy. If true this would provide a range of new opportunities to control the numbers and activities of these cells, a thereby control the character and magnitude of immune responses.

Professor Scott Ritchie from JCU’s Public Health & Tropical Medicine (Cairns) will receive $590,800 for his project: Modernizing mosquito control.


Australia and the adjacent tropics are subject to incursions of exotic mosquitoes and the diseases they vector, especially dengue. The JCU Public Health Entomology is modernising the control of mosquito-borne disease control in Australia, including using the bacteria Wolbachia to prevent dengue transmission, controlling dengue vectors using novel pesticides, and developing simple yet effective surveillance methods to detect dangerous pathogens in remote areas.

Two Early Career Fellowships have been awarded by the NHMRC as well.

Dr Andreas Kupz has received the $325,000 CJ Martin - Overseas Biomedical Fellowship for his work: Identification of novel strategies to mediate immunity against intracellular pathogens.


Dr Kupz will spend the first two years of his NHMRC CJ Martin Early Career Fellowship with Professor Stefan Kaufmann at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin, Germany. Professor Kauffman is recognised as one of the world's most influential researchers in the fields of immunology and tuberculosis

Dr Cinzia Cantacessi has received the $299,000 Peter Doherty - Australian Biomedical Fellowship for her project: Hookworm proteins as novel anti-inflammatory therapeutics


Hookworm proteins as novel anti-inflammatory therapeutics. In developed countries, the increased incidence of allergic and autoimmune diseases has been related to the decreased prevalence of parasitic infections. The present research will explore the role that parasite molecules play in mechanisms that regulate the immune response of their vertebrate hosts and test their potential to become novel therapeutics for the treatment of inflammatory diseases.

JCU Media contact: Caroline Kaurila (07) 4781 4586 or 0437 028 175