Researchers awarded NHMRC funding to progress important brain and mental health research

21 May 2020

Macquarie University researchers have been awarded almost $4 million in government funding to expand investigations into use of nanotechnology for advanced brain drug delivery systems, tools to reduce risk for dementia and new frameworks for classifying mental illness.

In a highly competitive second round of the National Health and Medical Research Council NHMRC Investigator Grants, three Macquarie University researchers were selected in the Emerging Leadership category, (less than 10 years post-PhD) which provides the highest-performing researchers at all career stages with funding for their salary and a research support package for five years.

The funding will allow the University to progress further with key research projects already underway in the priority areas of brain disease, dementia, and diagnosis of mental illness.

One project focuses on how to more efficiently and effectively transport therapeutic drugs into the brain. Associate Professor Bingyang Shi, from Macquarie’s Department of Biomedical Sciences, is leading the Department’s Advanced Brain Drug Delivery Research Group which will directly benefit from the $1,512,250 grant to expand a five-year research program to develop new-generation Blood-Brain Barrier penetrating drug delivery systems.

The research harnesses novel nanotechnology to improve targeted delivery of drugs into the brain for effective treatment of human brain diseases. Associate Professor Shi is also a member of the world-leading research team in Macquarie University’s Centre for Motor Neuron Disease.

Other grant recipients include Professor Viviana Wuthrich, from the Centre for Ageing, Cognition and Wellbeing and the Department of Psychology, who has been awarded $1,562,250 from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) to continue her project which evaluates the effectiveness of a structured screening and risk reduction tool for dementia.

This tool can be used by health professionals in GP clinics to help doctors and patients decide how best to manage dementia.

The grant also supports the work of Dr Miriam Forbes, from Macquarie’s Centre for Emotional Health and the Department of Psychology, who was awarded $645,205. This grant funds mental health research focused on a new framework for classifying mental illness that aims to overcome important limitations of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), for research and clinical practice.

“I would like to congratulate all three of our researchers for receiving funding this round. It is immensely pleasing to see such ambitious and innovative projects supported,” said Macquarie University Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research, Professor Sakkie Pretorius.

“Macquarie is known for its high-quality research in a range of priority health areas including dementia and mental health, so it is crucial for our researchers to continue to be recognised and encouraged in this way.”

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