Our research expertise recognised with multi-million dollar grants

We would like to congratulate Professors Carol Pollock and Gemma Figtree who have received significant National Health and Medical Research Council Investigator Grants.

Despite a tremendously competitive field, both clinician/researchers have been awarded $2 million to progress their world-leading research and improve long-term patient outcomes.

The announcement highlights the experience and expertise at the Kolling Institute, with Professors Pollock and Figtree joint leaders of our Cardiovascular and Renal Priority Research Area.

Professor Figtree’s research will investigate innovative solutions to reduce heart attacks for those without the typical risk factors.

Professor Figtree, an interventional cardiologist at Royal North Shore Hospital, said approximately one-quarter of first-time heart attack patients do not have any of the typical risk factors of coronary artery disease, and yet they have developed what is regarded as silent coronary artery disease without any symptoms.

Gemma and her team will use this group to extend their understanding of the disease and identify markers relevant to all patients at risk of a heart attack.

Her program will drive the discovery of new biomarkers for the early detection and treatment of coronary artery disease. This will lead to improved knowledge and health outcomes, and importantly, earlier diagnosis and treatment of the disease.

“I am enormously grateful to the NHMRC for this support. It will help my team follow exciting leads towards clinical translation, and help develop a new way of detecting coronary artery disease and preventing heart attacks,” she said.

Professor Carol Pollock’s program of research will work to reduce the personal and societal impact of kidney disease.

Carol is a renal medicine specialist at Royal North Shore Hospital and an internationally respected academic at the Kolling Institute.

Chronic kidney disease currently affects over 13 per cent of the global population and 10 per cent of Australians. End-stage kidney disease is escalating and directly costing the Australian economy around $1.8 billion a year.

Professor Pollock says despite our treatment strategies, a progressive loss of renal function is inevitable.

Our program will involve three main components, including an assessment of new strategies to prevent or slow the development of kidney disease for which we currently have some positive preliminary data. These include ibody therapeutics, and the delivery of mesenchymal stem cells.

We will also expand our program promoting the regenerative capacity of kidney fibroblasts, and finally, we will thoroughly analyse the models involved kidney disease that spontaneously recover from kidney injury compared with the models that progress to irreversible fibrosis.

“I’m really thrilled to have secured this funding to undertake our work and develop our research which we hope will have transformational benefits for patients with kidney disease,” she said.

“While early-stage research requires several years to translate to clinical benefit, we are well placed at the Kolling to speed-up improvements in patient care.

“For a clinician researcher, the Kolling Institute, a partnership between the University of Sydney and the Northern Sydney Local Health District, provides the ideal environment to take basic research to clinical trials.

“Our Renal Research Laboratory has researchers from diverse professional backgrounds and this will facilitate the successful delivery of the research.

“Importantly, we are also well supported by partners in the biotech and pharma industries to accelerate our research into practice.

“The security that five years funding brings is welcomed by my exceptional scientific staff and I would also like to acknowledge the philanthropic support we have received.

“I fully recognise that without seed funding from philanthropists this funding would not have occurred.

“I am grateful for the untied funding that has allowed me and my laboratory to develop preliminary data, which has in turn paved the way for these funds.

“We look forward to progressing our work and sharing some amazing results over the next five years.”