AITHM James Cook University


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15 September 2021

High-tech research with the potential to change the public health landscape of Northern Australia is just one of the projects from the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine at JCU, to be recognised by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

Federal Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt MP this week announced $472 million NHMRC funding to help Australia’s researchers continue to make life-changing and life-altering discoveries.

“Every day we acknowledge the extraordinary work of Australia’s health and medical researchers not only to confront the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also to continue their outstanding research to find solutions to the ongoing health issues we face,” Minister Hunt said.

Researchers at the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine at James Cook University were awarded $6.5 million from the prestigious NHMRC Research Investigator grants scheme.

AITHM Senior Research Fellow in Bioinformatics Associate Professor Matt Field is utilising metagenomic next-generation sequencing to improve the detection and treatment of new infectious diseases, to help prevent outbreaks. 

Professor Alex Loukas’ research is developing vaccines and diagnostics from worm molecules in a bid to combat parasitic infections in developing countries. His team is also exploring these molecules as a new platform of anti-inflammatory therapeutics for use in industrialised nations.

AITHM Immunologist Dr Roland Ruscher is exploring inflammatory bowel disease and colorectal cancer in the context of age. His program aims to establish cornerstones of the intestinal immune system over different stages in life, and thereby help to design better treatment strategies that can be adjusted to an individual’s age.

Senior Research Fellow Dr Andreas Kupz’s team is developing effective life-long therapeutics for tuberculosis, in the face of steadily growing drug resistance to the disease. His research is focussed on the development of a new safe and effective vaccine necessary for the control of tuberculosis, a leading infectious cause of death globally.

Additionally, a partnership research project which aims to strengthen the Indigenous health workforce in Northern Australia, led by the project’s JCU Chief Investigator Professor Sarah Larkins with Associate Professor Catrina Felton-Busch, and Dr Karen Carlisle, was also awarded just over $900,000 under the national grants scheme. NHMRC CEO Professor Anne Kelso said the remarkable quality of projects funded under the research grants scheme shows Australia’s health and medical researchers are as passionate and skilled as ever to explore solutions for the range of health problems that are of most concern.

“We have seen the benefits of long-term investment in basic, clinical and public health research in the outstanding contribution of Australian researchers to solving the complex and urgent problems posed by the COVID-19 pandemic."


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