Monday, 3 July 2017

Monash paediatric research on world stage

Associate Professor Simon Craig
presenting in Ghent
Monash University’s Associate Professor Simon Craig was invited to present his latest research at the PREM European Paediatric Resuscitation & Emergency Medicine Conference in Ghent, Belgium and the Pediatric American Societies (PAS) Annual Meeting in San Francisco last month.

A Monash Health paediatric emergency physician, Associate Professor Craig’s presentations in Belgium addressed the diagnostic approach to abdominal pain in preschool children, and the latest evidence-based therapies in acute viral lung disease.

“Together with Professor Tom Beattie, an emergency physician from University of Edinburgh, my presentation about abdominal pain focused on diagnosis and management of malrotation, intussusception and appendicitis,” Dr Craig said.

“The viral lung disease presentation, shared with Pierre Tissieres, an intensivist from Paris South University Hospital, focused on emergency department and intensive care management of bronchiolitis, with discussion of pharmacotherapy, and non-invasive ventilatory support.”

In San Francisco, Associate Professor Craig presented three posters relating to a global project on critical procedures in paediatric emergency medicine on behalf of the international Paediatric Emergency Research Network (PERN), and another poster on outcome measures in clinical trials of acute severe paediatric asthma on behalf on the Paediatric Research in Emergency Departments International Collaborative (PREDICT) Network. 

Associate Professor Craig is Coordinator of an international collaborative research group examining therapies for acute severe asthma in children on behalf of PERN.

“Our first face-to-face meeting was held in San Francisco, and we have commenced a number of projects examining outcome measures from both the patient, family and clinician perspective, bedside assessment of asthma severity, and variation in clinical practice,” he said. 

SCS / Hudson 3MT winners

3MT winners with Professor Kate Loveland
The SCS / Hudson 3 Minute Thesis finals took place last Friday at MHTP, with 21 students presenting their research.

Congratulations to all participants who performed brilliantly.  Winners on the day were:

Senior category:
1st place - Margaret Murray 
2nd place - Nitesh Nerlekar
3rd place - Ella Ottrey

Junior category:
1st place - Aidan Kashyap
2nd place - Christine Bennett

Kelsee Shepherd, Mikee Inocencio, Sebastian Quezada and
Poornima Wijayaratne
People's choice:
Dilanka Fernando

Thank you very much to the PhD students who organised this fabulous event:
Kelsee Shepherd, Mikee Inocencio, Sebastian Quezada and Poornima Wijayaratne.

Margaret Murray and Nitesh Nerlekar will proceed to the Faculty's final 3MT competition on 13 July.  Details below:

Date: 13 July 2017
Time: 1.30 - Date: 13 July 2017
Time: 1.30 - 3.30 pm
Venue: S3 Lecture Theatre, 16 Rainforest Walk, Monash University, Clayton campus. 

RSVP/Registration link: pm
Venue: S3 Lecture Theatre, 16 Rainforest Walk, Monash University, Clayton campus.
RSVP/Registration link:

MHTP biostatistician acknowledged for outstanding statistical modelling

Dr StellaMay Gwini
Monash Health Translation Precinct (MHTP) biostatistician Dr StellaMay Gwini has received the prestigious Professor Damien Jolley Award for excellence in statistics within a doctoral thesis.

Dr Gwini’s award was for her PhD research that examined the health of Australian veterans of the 1990-1991 Gulf War.

Dr Gwini said that on return from the 1990-1991 Gulf War, veterans complained of many unexplainable symptoms. 

“My thesis examined how symptom reporting had changed over time among Gulf War veterans. We further investigated the impact high symptomatology had on health service use,” Dr Gwini said.

“The research indicated that symptom reporting increased over time and high symptom reporting was associated with increased chronic disease incidence in the longer-term.”

“Health service use by veterans reporting many symptoms (but without chronic diseases) was similar to that of veterans with some chronic disease diagnosis indicating that the high unexplained symptom reporting exerted a sizeable health burden on veterans and the health system.”

Dr Gwini said it was an honour to receive the award.

“Going through a PhD is hard work so getting rewarded for it is satisfying. Damien Jolley was a great biostatistician, and the award is a reminder to me of the importance of good statistical practice,” she said.

As a research fellow in the Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Dr Gwini’s role at MHTP and the School of Clinical Sciences at Monash Health (SCS) is to assist researchers and students in research design and statistical aspects of their projects.

“Our service can provide a once-off consultation or longer term collaborations for grant applications, research preparation, research administration, data analysis, and dissemination. In our work, we understand that impeccable biostatistical knowledge is an invaluable tool for all clinicians—one they should keep next to their stethoscope. So we are here to help.” Dr Gwini said.

Dr Gwini is located on level 4, Translational Research Facility (TRF) and can be contacted at

Monash PhD students recognised at the Australia New Zealand Bone and Mineral Society’s annual meeting

Alexander Rodriguez, Dr Jasna Aleksova and
Prof Peter Ebeling at the AMZBMS scientific meeting
School of Clinical Sciences at Monash Health PhD students Alexander Rodriguez and Dr Jasna Aleksova received prestigious awards from the Australia New Zealand Bone and Mineral Society (ANZBMS) in Brisbane last week.

Alexander received the 2017 Christine & T. Jack Martin Research Travel Grant, an award in memory of Christine Martin that also honours the outstanding and major scientific contributions of Professor T. Jack Martin to bone and mineral research.

Alexander will use the $15,000 grant to travel to Odense, Denmark to work with Professor Bo Abrahamsen from the University of Southern Denmark.

“My current research investigates how bone and muscle loss can effect cardiovascular risk in old age, and I plan to collaborate with Professor Abrahamsen to examine how anti-osteoporosis therapies, which we think are helping us by making our bones healthier, may actually have harmful cardiovascular side-effects,” Alexander said.

“I hope that this research will enable us to identify who is at least cardiovascular risk from these medications and thus avoid potential adverse events whilst still remaining on osteoporosis treatment.”

Alexander’s supervisor and Head, Department of Medicine Professor Peter Ebeling AO said this research comes at a critical time, as two anti-osteoporosis drugs, strontium ranelate and odanacatib, have recently been withdrawn from the market because of cardiovascular safety concerns.

“Alexander’s research will help us understand who may be better suited to the many different treatment options available and by targeting therapy to increase benefit and to reduce potential harm,” Professor Ebeling said.

Fellow PhD student in the Bone and Muscle Research Group and Monash Health Endocrinologist, Dr Jasna Aleksova, won the Professor Philip Sambrook Young Investigator Travel Award which is awarded to an outstanding early career scientist or clinical researcher.

Dr Aleksova’s research evaluates novel risk factors associated with fractures in patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) and those with kidney transplants.

“These patients have a high burden of fractures and associated mortality, however, the current diagnostic tools used to evaluate patients with osteoporosis are less useful in patients with CKD,” Dr Aleksova said.

“CKD now affects one in ten Australians so urgent strategies are needed to identify and treat those at highest risk of fracture.”

“My research focuses on the role of hypogonadism in CKD and post-transplantation and the validation of novel imaging techniques, including the trabecular bone score and structural hip analyses, to better predict patients who are at the greatest risk of fracture,” she said.

Dr. Aleksova will use this grant to present some of her work at the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research annual meeting in Denver later this year where she will also be meeting with potential collaborators from Columbia University.

Senior Research Fellow Dr David Scott also from the Bone and Muscle Research Group had his abstract ‘Sarcopenic obesity is associated with lower tibial cortical area and thickness and poor physical function in community-dwelling older adults’ selected for an oral presentation at the ANZBMS scientific meeting last week.

Dr Scott said his study demonstrates that important indicators of bone quality, which are usually improved in obese individuals, may be compromised if muscle quality is also poor.

“The findings highlight the need for specific assessments and interventions to target bone health in obese older adults,” Dr Scott said.

Faculty 3MT final competition, 13 July

Miltenyi Cell Therapy Day at MHTP, 14 July

All staff and students are invited to the Miltenyi Biotec Australia Cell Therapy Day meeting at MHTP:

Friday July 14,  10:00 a.m. – 06:00 p.m.
Translational Research Facility, MHTP

Cell therapy has the potential to increase antitumor immunity, enhance vaccine efficacy, and limit graft-versus-host disease (GvHD).  At this Australia-first event, key opinion leaders from Australia and New Zealand will discuss and share newest information on adoptive immunotherapies and stem cell therapies, including gene manipulation. Participants are from all parts of Australia, including academic researcher and biotech industry, providing an ideal networking opportunity.

Please email or to register your attendance.  Limited places still available!

Program below:

10:00 a.m. – Welcome
Graham Jenkin, Monash Health Translation Precinct Cell Therapies Platform, Melbourne
Hermann Bohnenkamp, Miltenyi Biotec Pty Ltd., Sydney

10:10 a.m. Introduction
John Rasko, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney

10:15 – 11:20 a.m. Session 1: Adoptive T cell therapies
Cell banks for therapy of viral and fungal infections: the case for depersonalised medicine
David Gottlieb, The Westmead Institute for Medical Research, Sydney
“Off-the-Shelf” Cellular immune therapies: Driving success with post-transplant lymphomas to infectious
complications and virus-associated cancers
Rajiv Khanna, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Brisbane
Making immunotherapy simpler and cheaper to deliver using 3D lattices
Simon Barry, University of Adelaide, Adelaide
Morning tea

11:50 – 01:00 p.m. Session 2: Stem cell therapies
TCR α+β+/CD19+ cell depleted haploidentical donor stem cell transplantation for paediatric patients
Richard Mitchell, Sydney Children's Hospital, Sydney
Engraftment of gene-modified HSCs: One shot?
Geoff Symonds, Calimmune Pty Ltd., Sydney
Stem cells and gene editing in clinical medicine
Alan Trounson, Cartherics Pty Ltd., Melbourne

Lunch break

2:00 – 3:30 p.m. Session 3: Gene-modified T cell therapies
Improving T cell therapy with safety switch and gene marking
Siok Tey, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Brisbane
Update on CARPETS Phase 1 Study of GD2-specific CAR T cell therapy for metastatic melanoma
Michael Brown, Centre for Cancer Biology, University of South Australia, Adelaide
New strategies for enhancing CAR T cell therapy for cancer
Phil Darcy, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Melbourne
Transposon CAR T cells for Australia
Ken Micklethwaite, The Westmead Institute for Medical Research, Sydney

Afternoon Tea

4:00 – 4:30 p.m. Session 4: Technology update for cell manufacturing
Novel aspects of sorting in a closed System: Update on the MACSQuant® Tyto™
Jack Dunne, Owl Biomedical, Santa Barbara, CA, USA

5:00 p.m. Practical demonstration of the MACSQuant Tyto and the CliniMACS Prodigy®*
* To attend the demonstration, please register on-site.

Monash Haematology Journal Club: “'Impact of innate immune dysfunction in β-thalassaemia’”, 5 July

Wednesday 5 July, 7.30am Breakfast & 7.45am Presentation

Monash Medical Centre, Level 2 - Lecture Theatre 3

Presenter: Dr Jim Vadolas  

Laboratory Head, Cell and Gene Therapy Group, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, Royal Children’s Hospital & The University of Melbourne, Australia.

Jim Vadolas heads a research group investigating inherited red blood cell disorders at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne, Australia. After receiving his PhD at the University of Melbourne, Jim undertook postdoctoral studies at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute. There he established several unique cell-based assay systems and clinically relevant animal models of β-thalassaemia. Having received an NHMRC R.D. Wright Fellowship in 2005, he focused on the development of novel genomic tools, to better understand the pathophysiology of β-haemoglobinopathies. These innovations enabled investigations that provided important insights into the epigenetic mechanism(s) involved in globin gene regulation throughout development and disease. A major aspect of his research is the development and evaluation of genetic-based approaches to precisely edit the human genome in order to demonstrate proof of concept for alternative therapeutic strategies. More recently, his team’s expertise in β-haemoglobinopathies has enabled him to establish a new research program focusing on the innate immune dysfunction in β-thalassaemia, which represents a significant risk factor for disease-associated morbidity and mortality.

Jim Vadolas is currently Vice President of the Australasian Gene and Cell Therapy Society, and has served as Committee Member and Vice President of the Thalassaemia and Sickle Cell Society of Australia from 2005-2017.