Monday, 13 November 2017

Welcome to MHTP Research Week 2017

MHTP Research Week got off to a great start with a very successful poster session today.  Nearly 200 posters were submitted and displayed, and winners will be announced at the cocktail reception tomorrow, 5pm-6.30pm in the TRF.  Posters will be on display in the Monash Children's Hospital foyer and outside lecture theatres 1,2 and 3 until this Thursday.

We are delighted to welcome our two notable keynote speakers this year:
  • Tuesday 14 Nov at 10.30am: Laureate Professor Peter Doherty AC
Laureate Professor Peter Doherty shared the 1996 Nobel Medicine Prize with Swiss colleague Rolf Zinkernagel for discovering the nature of the cellular immune defense. Based at the Doherty Institute, and also spending part of his year at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital (SJCRH), Memphis, USA, he continues to be involved in research directed at understanding and preventing the severe consequences of influenza virus infection. In addition, he goes in to bat for evidence-based reality, relating to areas as diverse as childhood vaccination, global hunger and anthropogenic climate change. In an effort to communicate more broadly, he has published five “lay” books.
  • Wednesday 15 Nov at 10am: Dr Andrea Douglas, Vice-President, Research & Development, Strategy and External Affairs, CSL
Andrea oversees the global R&D strategy, product portfolio and R&D investment and prioritisation processes and is responsible for relationships with external stakeholders in the Australian Medical and Translational Research environment. Andrea also leads the Government Affairs Strategy in Australia. 

Andrea has held various roles at CSL since 2005, including VP, Licensing where she lead the in and out licensing of R&D assets, head of Global R&D Project Management and Program Director, Influenza, where she had oversight of CSL’s Influenza Vaccine activities.
Before joining CSL Andrea was the CEO of the Gene CRC. She also held a senior research role at WEHI where she studied the molecular genetics of breast cancer.
Andrea has a PhD degree in Forensic Medicine from Monash University. She also holds a Masters degree in Health Administration and is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. She has been a Director of AusBiotech since 2013.

We very much hope to fill the room for our keynote speakers.  All staff and students are strongly encouraged to attend.

Apart from the poster session today, all MHTP Research Week events will take place in seminar rooms 1 and 2, TRF.

MHTP Research Week program is available HERE

Senior representatives from Novartis explore research collaboration opportunities at Monash

Dr James Rush, Dr Marie Lindner, Prof Eric Morand,
Prof Christina Mitchell, Mr Mathew Cox, Mr Brett Roberts
A ‘reverse roadshow’ last week at the Clayton campus and Monash Health Translation Precinct (MHTP) with staff from Novartis Pharmaceuticals has enhanced the partnership between the global company and Monash University.

In 2015, Monash University, the Hudson Institute of Medical Research, Monash Health and Novartis announced a three year Memorandum of Understanding to increase the volume and scope of research collaborations with the goal of improved access to new medications for patients.

Novartis MoU Project Lead Mr Brett Roberts said the MoU undertakes to be innovative, share expertise and simplify execution to address the strategic plans of each business.   

“The agreement aims to increase clinical research and translational collaborations, enhance staff and student development via a bi-directional exchange and identify and share real-world evidence collaboration opportunities,” Mr Roberts said.

School of Clinical Sciences at Monash Heath Head, Professor Eric Morand said the partnership models innovation and showcases a true commitment to go beyond ‘business as usual’.

“In support of our goal to develop our translational research, representatives from the Research & Development engine room of Novartis Global (who were in Australia for AusBio) spent two days at Monash University reviewing projects and exploring collaboration opportunities,” Professor Morand said.

The representatives from Novartis included Dr Marie Lindner, Global Program Head, Strategic Partnerships Team; Dr James Rush, Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, Basel; Mr Simon Fisher, Chief Scientific Officer, Novartis Australia and New Zealand; Mr Brett Roberts, National Commercial Manager, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Australia; and Mr Mathew Cox, Clinical Research Medical Advisor, Novartis Australia and New Zealand.

Professor Morand said several areas of potential research collaboration have immediately arisen to the foreground and will be followed up with a potential to be developed down the track.

“The research strengths of the MHTP—cancer, cardiovascular, infectious and inflammatory diseases, neuroscience, and women’s and children’s health—are closely aligned with the therapeutic areas of Novartis and our shared commitment to the common good through better medicines,” Professor Morand said.

Apart from the specific projects, the team from Novartis was excited about the attention to detail of the Monash University medical research platform technologies.

“The fact they have all been established at ISO9001 is unique in the world, and is a huge positive for industry collaborations,” Professor Morand said.  

“One particular area of possible research interest is Monash’s health relationships with health partners who care for millions of people, and who process millions of tissue and blood samples, each containing a rich amount of biological material.

 “There is significant potential for the university to invest in a state-of-the-art biorepository platform, and industry is extremely interested in partnering with Monash on such endeavours.”

Professor Morand said Monash University already has strong relationships and co-investment with other companies and is excited about the potential of adding Novartis to our list of partners.

Preeclampsia researcher takes world stage

Dr Sarah Marshall with ANZMS President,
Dr Marianne Tare
Research Fellow Dr Sarah Marshall was recognised for her research into preeclampsia recently, taking out the top prize for young investigators—the Michael Perry invited speaker award—at the recent Australia New Zealand Microcirculation Society (ANZMS) annual scientific meeting in Queensland.

Dr Marshall joined the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, School of Clinical Sciences at Monash Health in June this year. Her research is focused on establishing whether the pregnancy hormone relaxin could be a potential treatment for the pregnancy disorder preeclampsia.

“During this investigation I established an ex vivo model to replicate the vascular dysfunction of preeclampsia in a lab setting, eliminating the need for more invasive and expensive research techniques,” Dr Marshall said.

“The model I have now established provides us with a new way of assessing whether drugs are capable of protecting or reversing the widespread vascular dysfunction of women with preeclampsia.”

“This will enable us to perform pre-clinical screening of a variety of drugs already known to be safe in pregnancy, and establish which should be looked into further.”

Dr Marshall said her prize win will allow her to present her work to an international audience. 
As part of her award, Dr Marshall receives a paid trip to and will be an invited speaker at the 11th World Congress for Microcirculation in Canada in 2018.

Dr Marshall’s research was completed at both Monash University and the University Melbourne, in collaboration with Professor Euan Wallace, Dr Marianne Tare and Professor Laura Parry.

Monash research students recognised for fertility research at national conference

Dr Shavi Fernando
School of Clinical Sciences at Monash Health graduate students Dr Shavi Fernando and Ms Molly Johnston were acknowledged for their outstanding research at the Fertility Society of Australia's (FSA) annual conference in Adelaide last month, both winning awards for their oral presentations in their sections.

Final year PhD student Dr Fernando, who is also a Monash Health obstetrician and gynaecologist and Monash University adjunct lecturer, won best clinical paper for his study of melatonin in assisted reproductive technology.

“My study is the first double-blinded placebo controlled randomized dose-finding clinical trial assessing the impact of melatonin on IVF success rates,” Dr Fernando said.

Ms Molly Johnston
Dr Fernando’s research has provided evidence for the first time that melatonin is probably not effective in improving pregnancy rates after IVF.

“I hope this study results in a reduction in the prescription of unnecessary melatonin adjuvant therapy in IVF patients outside a larger clinical trial,” Dr Fernando said. 

“These results should inform larger studies which can now focus on a more optimal dose of melatonin to be tested.”

Dr Fernando said it’s the first time he’s won such a prestigious award and it’s fantastic to receive formal acknowledgement of the hard work that he’s invested in the project.

Meanwhile, Master of Reproductive Sciences student Ms Johnston won best psychosocial paper for her research into the policies governing egg freezing.

The increased success of egg freezing as a method of fertility preservation coincides with a tendency for women in developed nations to postpone childbearing. Taken together, changing social trends and improved egg freezing technologies predict substantial and ongoing interest in the uptake of egg freezing.

Ms Johnston said it’s timely to consider the current policies and to evaluate whether they are appropriate and sufficient to regulate or control access to egg freezing into the next decade and beyond.

“The aim of my research is to critically evaluate the policies that govern access to and funding for egg freezing in Australia, and I’ve found that there appears to be no coherent position about who should be able to access egg freezing, nor which criteria are relevant in deciding this,” Ms Johnston said.

“Across borders differences raise questions about whether the principles that underpin various policies are ethically justified and transparent.”

“The variety of egg freezing policies suggests they lack evidence, are outdated and require serious review.”

Ms Johnston said that in light of the growing interest and uptake of egg freezing for fertility preservation, it’s important that egg freezing policies are regularly reviewed so changes can be made to encompass changing societal opinions and community needs.

Dr Fernando acknowledges the support of his supervisors Professors Euan Wallace and Luk Rombauts, and Ms Johnston thanks her supervisors Drs Giuliana Fuscaldo, Nadine Richings and Sally Catt.

Monash prostate cancer research highlighted at scientific conferences

Dr Sarah To
Congratulations Dr Sarah To and Ms Heidi Fettke from the Prostate Cancer Therapeutics laboratory, who have been selected present their research at forthcoming conferences.

Postdoctoral researcher Dr To will present at the AACR Special Conference on Prostate Cancer in Orlando in December while PhD candidate Ms Fettke will present at the 4th Thomas Ashworth CTC and Liquid Biopsy Symposium in Sydney next week.

Ms Heidi Fettke
The Prostate Cancer Therapeutics laboratory headed by Associate Professor Arun Azad focuses on circulating androgen receptor variants in prostate cancer patients.

"Binding of androgens such as testosterone to the androgen receptor (AR) fuels the growth of prostate cancer cells,” Associate Professor Azad said.

“Therefore, the mainstay of treating advanced prostate cancer is to lower androgen levels within the body using androgen deprivation therapy (ADT).”

Androgen receptor splice variants (ARVs) are altered forms of the AR which are continuously activated and have been linked to resistance to ADT.

Associate Professor Azad’s group has now shown that detection of ARVs within the blood is not in fact associated with resistance to ADT.

“These findings are supported by the results of a recent pivotal clinical trial and have potentially key implications for the use of ADT in men with advanced prostate cancer", Associate Professor Azad said.

Monash Haematology Journal Club, 15 November

15 November, 7.30am Breakfast & 7.45am Presentation
Monash Medical Centre, Level 2 - Lecture Theatre 3

“DOACs (NOACs) and their antidotes in 2017”

Presenter: Alexander (Ander) Cohen MB BS (hons), MSc, MD FRACP
Vascular Physician and Epidemiologist

Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital, King's College London, UK

Alexander Cohen is a vascular physician and epidemiologist at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital, King’s College, London, UK. Dr Cohen graduated
with honours in Medicine and honours in Surgery from the University of Melbourne, Australia, and became a fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians in 1990. He was awarded an MSc in epidemiology from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of London in 1991 with a thesis on the metabolic syn-drome in South Asian populations. In 1998, he was awarded an MD with a thesis on the epidemiology of venous thromboembolism and thromboprophylaxis.

In addition to his clinical work, Dr Cohen is involved in designing, managing and analysing clinical trials from Phase I to IV. He is the Chairman and a member of many international steering committees for multicentre trials, epidemiological and pharmacoeconomic studies, and was previously the Director of Clinical Research and an epidemiologist in thrombosis research at King’s College Hospital.

Dr Cohen has written and co-authored over 400 publications. He has over 40 publi-cations in The Lancet and New England Journal of Medicine, as well as over 20 in British Medical Journal, Blood, Circulation, Annals of Internal Medicine and Archives of Internal Medicine.

The Influencers - Women in STEMM, 16 November

One Roof Melbourne is excited to invite you to The Influencers - Women in STEMM event.

This is an opportunity to hear from a diverse panel of women researchers, innovators, entrepreneurs and scientists, including VIIN's own Associate Professor Wai-Hong Tham from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.

They will share with you their stories, the challenges, opportunities and future trends for women working in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM).

Date and Time: Thu. 16 November 2017, 6:00 pm – 8:30 pm AEDT
Location: One Roof Co-Working, 81 - 83 City Road, Southbank, VIC 3006