News

Sydney scoops NHMRC grants



17 October 2008

Professor William Tarnow-Mordi is leading a study that will involve delaying clamping of the umbilical cord for babies more than ten weeks premature for between 30 and 60 seconds in order to deliver more blood to the baby.
Professor William Tarnow-Mordi is leading a study that will involve delaying clamping of the umbilical cord for babies more than ten weeks premature for between 30 and 60 seconds in order to deliver more blood to the baby.

The University of Sydney was this week awarded $51.8 million for 94 new grants in the National Health and Medical Research Council's project grants scheme.

Minister for Health and Ageing Nicola Roxon announced research funding worth more than $357 million nationally through 688 individual grants on Thursday. The total amount of funding Sydney received exceeds any other university or research institute in the nation.

Successful grants at Sydney cover a wide range of subject fields, from cellular-level and genetic studies to policy issues, and childhood obesity to age-related illnesses. Projects are based at a number of different campuses and affiliated institutes including Anzac, Centenary, George, Kolling, Westmead Millenium, and Woolcock.

Professor Anita Bundy from the Faculty of Health Sciences leads a team of seven researchers who will study whether the increase in childhood obesity is linked with parental fears of their children playing outdoors. The project has been allocated over $480,000 to trial an innovative intervention to get children to be more active in a modified playground.

The study will also look at prevention of obesity among children by including those who are not obese. The commonly-quoted statistic for childhood obesity is one in four, noted Professor Bundy. "This is a great opportunity to see if, by capturing children's intrinsic motivation, we can address a major health issue," she said.

Dr Janette Vardy from the Concord Clinical School, Haryana Dhillion from the Centre for Medical Psychology and Evidence-Based Decision-Making and team of ten other researchers have secured over $2.4 million dollars to study the effect of exercise on colon cancer titled, CHALLENGE: Colon Health And Life Long Exercise chaNGE. The study is the first randomised controlled trial looking at the effect of exercise on disease-free survival for colon cancer and will be conducted in collaboration with scientists at the National Cancer Institute of Canada.

"This study will provide important information for patients and oncologists on whether exercise can reduce the risk of a colon cancer recurrence in people who have had chemotherapy," noted Dr Vardy, the first-named investigator of the project. "It will also address the effects of physical activity on quality of life, which is of primary importance to cancer survivors."

Professor William Tarnow-Mordi, Medical Director of the Centre for Newborn Care at Westmead and Honorary Director of Clinical Trials at the NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre, was also successful in securing funding for the Australian Placental Transfusion Study (APTS). He will lead a team of sixteen other researchers based in Australia, the United Kingdom, North America and Japan for this $2.6 million project.

The study will involve delaying clamping of the umbilical cord for babies more than ten weeks premature for between 30 and 60 seconds, while holding the baby below the level of the placenta. The cord will then be clamped at the greatest possible length and held above the infant during resuscitation, when it will be untwisted and milked, delivering as much as twenty to thirty more millilitres of blood to the baby.

This simple intervention, combining milking and gravity to give more of its own blood to the baby, has had successful outcomes in a pilot study in Japan but has not been studied in depth. Currently, premature babies have a mortality and disability rate that is a hundred times higher than that of full-term babies and the study will follow-up on participants for the first three years of their life.

"If this simple, low-tech, low-cost technique improves disability-free survival, it will be a gift to the world because it can be acted on anywhere," Professor Tarnow-Mordi said.

The NHMRC also funded a study led by Professor Peter McIntyre from the Children's Hospital at Westmead Clinical School about the safety and effectiveness of vaccinating babies for pertussis or whooping cough at birth and at six weeks rather than the current practise of waiting for two months. With his extensive experience in vaccine trails, Professor McIntyre is ideally-placed to lead the five-people team for this study, which received over $1.4 million of funding.

The National Health and Medical Council has yet to announce the results of others schemes that it funds, which include career fellowships, career development awards and program grants.


Contact: Kath Kenny

Phone: 02 9351 2261