Dr Kelly Smith
Dr Kelly Smith

16 November 2011

The Australian Research Council has offered over $2.7 million in fellowships to support IMB researchers to investigate heart development, the reproductive system and tiny molecules that could be the key to treating previously incurable diseases.

Dr Kelly Smith was offered both a $673,528 Future Fellowship and a $375,000 Discovery Early Career Researcher Award to discover new genes involved in cardiac development.

“The human heart is critical for survival and yet, despite its importance, we still lack a basic understanding of how it forms,” Dr Smith said.

“Discovering new genes will help us understand how to build a new heart. This information in turn will aid in devising strategies to repair hearts damaged by congenital and acquired heart disease.”

Dr Dagmar Wilhelm received a $706,828 Future Fellowship to research the reproductive system.

“This study will provide important new knowledge of how genes drive organ development,” Dr Wilhelm said.

“Gaining insights into sexual reproduction is not only essential for understanding medical problems such as disorders of sex development, but also could be used in eradicating pest species from Australia through using genes to control gender ratios in these species.”

Dr Ryan Taft received a $375,000 Discovery Early Career Researcher Award to study small genetic molecules called microRNAs that control genes.

“It’s difficult to overstate the biological significance of these molecules,” Dr Taft said. “They are involved in virtually all fundamental developmental processes, and are intimately linked to diseases.”

“This project will likely redefine our understanding of how these microRNAs regulate genes and may result in new therapeutics for previously untreatable diseases.”

Other successful researchers were:

Dr Lachlan Coin – $617,528 Future Fellowship to develop statistical tools to study genetic variation within populations,

Dr Yann Gambin - $698,128 Future Fellowship to create new technologies to analyse proteins at the single molecule level, which will considerably accelerate the development of protein-based diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics,

Dr Sonia Henriques - $375,000 Discovery Early Career Researcher Award to develop improved treatments against Helicobacter pylori, the most common human bacterial infection worldwide and the highest risk factor for gastric cancer, the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the world.

Dr Markus Kerr - $375,000 Discovery Early Career Researcher Award to determine how Salmonella manipulates human cells to cause disease.

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