Griffith University has been awarded nearly $1.4 million in National Health and Medical Research Council funding to develop new classes of antibiotics, further work around mosquito-borne viruses and improve outcomes for people with acute mental illness.
Researchers also obtained success as part of a team led by other institutions, from Griffith Criminology Institute, Menzies Health Institute Queensland and Indigenous Research Unit.
The Institute for Glycomics received two of the grants, totalling $1.13 million in funding.
Research leader Professor Yaoqi Zhou and Dr Kate Seib, Dr Thomas Haselhorst, Associate Professor Helen Blanchard and Dr Yuedong Yang were awarded $607,967 for the project Developing species-specific, structure-targeting peptides as a novel class of antibiotics.
New classes of antibiotics
Professor Zhou said project was about developing new classes of antibiotics that are based on naturally occurring peptides.
“These peptides will be computationally designed to disrupt the structure of specific proteins essential for bacterial survival,” he said.
“This is different from typical antibiotics that inhibit functions of essential proteins by binding onto protein surfaces.
“Because protein surfaces are subject to spontaneous and induced mutations without significant changes to protein functions, those mutations with weaker binding to antibiotics will be evolutionary selected and cumulated and ultimately lead to drug resistance. Structure-disrupting inhibitors on the other hand destroy the foundation of protein function.
“Large-scale changes in structure will be much more difficult for pathogens to employ mutations to restore function. As a result, it is more difficult, if not impossible, for pathogens to develop resistance to this class of antibiotics. If successful, this approach can be used to develop resistance-free anti-viral and anti-cancer therapeutics.”
Dr Adam Taylor was awarded $520,520 for the project The role of capsid protein nucleolar localisation in chikungunya virus: implications for vaccine development.
Institute director Professor Mark von Itzstein congratulated the winners for their success.
Associate Professor Julia Crilly, of Menzies Health Institute Queensland, and Professor Stuart Kinner, of the Griffith Criminology Institute were awarded $251,470 for the project Improving outcomes for people with acute mental illness in the emergency department: a data linkage study.
The NHMRC funding Australia-wide will support 601 grants across four funding schemes and more than 1900 researchers have shared in the $483 million for a wide-range of projects.
Staff who have obtained success as part of a team led by other institutions include:
Professor Ross Coomber (Griffith Criminology Institute) for the project Drugs on the darknet: Assessing the global health risks of a rapidly expanding market, with Dr Monica Barratt from the University of New South Wales, $399,692.
Emeritus Professor Newell Johnson (Menzies Health Institute Queensland) for the project HPV and oropharyngeal cancer in Indigenous Australians, with Associate Professor Lisa Jamieson from the University of Adelaide, $1,547,109.
Professor Stuart Kinner (Griffith Criminology Institute) for the project Preventing mortality in adults after release from prison: Advancing global knowledge through an international, individual participant data meta-analysis, with Dr Rohan Borschmann from the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, $613,687.
Dr Sanjeewa Kularatna (Menzies Health Institute Queensland) for the project Minimally invasive approach to manage early childhood caries in Aboriginal preschoolers, with Dr Peter Arrow from the University of Adelaide, $1,488,220.
Professor Adrian Miller (Indigenous Research Unit) for the project Generation of protective immunity against severe influenza disease in Indigenous Australians, with Associate Professor Katherine Kedzierska from the University of Melbourne, $1,630,970.
Professor Sheena Reilly (Menzies Health Institute Queensland) for the project The Contribution of Home Language Exposure to Intergenerational Transmission of Inequality, with Associate Professor Sally Brinkman from the University of Western Australia, $1,281,706. Professor Reilly will also work on the project Neurobiology of childhood speech disorders: improving detection, diagnosis and clinical care, with Associate Professor Angela Morgan from the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, $994,575.
Professor Glen Ulett (Menzies Health Institute Queensland) for the project Understanding Uropathogenic E. coli-mediated subversion of innate immunity, with Professor Mark Schembri from the University of Queensland, $932,536.