veski fellow receives $1.5m worth of NHMRC grants

27 October

veski innovation fellow, Associate Professor Ygal Haupt's team has received three grants worth more than $1.5 million from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

The grants will help Ygal continue his research into the treatment of B-cell lymphoma at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, which he started in 2008 with the support of a three year veski innovation fellowship.

Victoria received the highest amount of funding, with $278.2 million for 472 grants. The University of Melbourne is the most successful institution nationally in terms of grant numbers having received 107 in total. Ygal is among 155 University of Melbourne researchers awarded more than $84 million to improve the lives of people suffering cancer, Multiple Sclerosis and vision impairment.

veski chief executive officer, Julia L Page believes that these grants awarded to Ygal demonstrate the success of veski's program in bringing scientists back to Victoria to undertake world-class research.

“The veski innovation fellowships are designed to help scientists establish themselves in Victoria, and give them the time needed to apply for grants through programs such as NHMRC,” Julia said.

“The veski board of directors and veski innovation fellows are all very proud to be associated with a world-class researcher like Ygal, and we are delighted to see his important research continue to receive support. A veski innovation fellowship is well respected within the Australian and international scientific communities and we believe it helps many of our recipients receive additional funding through grants and other fellowships.”

University of Melbourne Deputy Vice Chancellor Research, Jim McCluskey said the grants recognised the depth and quality of research at the University of Melbourne and that competition was extremely high.

“The support from the NHMRC is based on a fiercely competitive process and reflects the outstanding quality of research at the University of Melbourne,” Mr McCluskey said.

Ygal, who is currently in New York City as an invited speaker to an international cancer meeting, is very excited about the support from the NHMRC and grateful for the continued support of veski.

“We are extremely happy with the outcome this year, particularly the fact that our laboratory received three grants. This was a result of a team effort by Sue Haupt, Kamil Wolyniec and Michael Cater, with the support of our fellow researchers at Peter MacCalum,” Ygal said.

“With the continued support of veski, we have been able to secure additional funding for our research and establish ourselves in Victoria.”

Associate Professor Ygal Haupt and his team received $603,675 for his research into developing a treatment for B-cell lymphoma, through targeting protein degradation. B-cell lymphoma is the most common type of blood cancer diagnosed in Australia, and Australia's fifth most common cancer. Despite remarkable advances in diagnosis and treatment, lymphoma continues to rank as a leading cause of cancer-related mortality.

Ygal’s pilot studies reveal a novel approach to treatment of B-cell lymphoma by inhibiting an enzyme that destroys our natural mechanism of defense against cancer. This study will test the efficacy of this novel treatment.

Ygal’s team also received an additional $494,925 for his research into the regulation of cellular senescence, which is a continuation of his research funded as a veski innovation fellow.

Cancer is constantly being suppressed in our bodies by a process called ‘senescence’: where damaged cells are stopped from growing and are forced into a state of permanent cell arrest. The mechanism that translates the damage stimuli into cell arrest is only partially known.

Ygal and his team have identified a protein that appears to control this restraint. The possibility of manipulating this process to prevent and cure cancer makes it an important target to study.

A NHMRC grant of $303,510 was also awarded to Michael Cater, a post-doctoral researcher in Ygal’s lab, for his research assessing whether copper can be used to selectively kill cancer cells.

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