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Eliminate Dengue research among 18 NHMRC funded projects

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15 December 2011

A $6 million investment in dengue fever research that could benefit millions worldwide is among 18 grants and scholarships awarded to Monash University by the federal government.  

The Minister for Health, Tanya Plibersek, today announced 159 National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) grants nationwide.

Monash researchers received $8.4 million through two NHMRC Development Grants, 15 postgraduate scholarships and the NHMRC Program Grant awarded to the Eliminate Dengue team. 

Professor Scott O’Neill, Dean of Science and Chief Investigator on the Eliminate Dengue Program, said the grant would accelerate the rollout of a breakthrough prevention that stops the spread of the disease by protecting mosquito populations from the virus. 

In results published earlier this year in Nature, Professor O'Neill and a team of international collaborators successfully infected mosquitoes in northern Queensland with Wolbachia, a natural bacterium that reduces dengue virus transmission by the mosquito to people.

"The World Health Organization estimates dengue incidence at around 50 million cases annually with increased frequency and severity of outbreaks in north Queensland over the last decade being mirrored around the world," Professor O'Neill said. 

"This grant will allow the development of new Wolbachia Aedes aegypti strain combinations, new knowledge regarding mosquito spread after release, regional release methods and a better understanding of what the likely effects will be in terms of the prevention of human disease.”

Professor O’Neill will collaborate on the research with Professors Ary Hoffmann and Cameron Simmons, University of Melbourne and Dr Elizabeth McGraw, Monash University.

The NHMRC Development grants were awarded to Professor Paul Hertzog and Dr Phillip Berger, both of the Monash Institute of Medical Research.

Dr Berger received funding for development of an effective therapy for heart failure patients who experience difficulty breathing while asleep.

Professor Hertzog will be supported in research to develop a cheaper antiviral formulation that is easier to deliver and more stable for transport to remote areas.

For more information contact Emily Walker, Monash Media & Communications on +61 3 9903 4844 or 0428 277 308.