Faculty of Pharmacy NHMRC Grant Success

24 November 2010

Dr Mary Bebawy, A/Prof Mary Collins and Dr Ingrid Gelissen of the Faculty of Pharmacy have been successful as Chief Investigators in the recent NHMRC Project grant round. Professor Joanne Brien and Dr Thomas Grewal were also successful as collaborators on grants lead by other researchers.

Control of expression and activity of the ABCG1 cholesterol transporter in vascular cells

Dr Ingrid Gelissen has been awarded $376,273 over the next three years to work on 'Control of expression and activity of the ABCG1 cholesterol transporter in vascular cells'.

"Atherosclerosis is one of the underlying causes of heart disease" explains Dr Gelissen. "In early stages of the disease large cells within the artery walls accumulate lipids or fats, including cholesterol. It's thought that an imbalance in the import and export of lipids is an important step in the development of the disease."

The project aims to determine the factors that control the cellular levels and activity of the ABCG1 transporter protein that is involved in the export of cholesterol from vascular cells, in order to gain a greater understanding of important anti-atherogenic mechanisms.

Dr Gelissen is chief investigator on the project and will be working with Associate Professor Andrew Brown and Professor Wendy Jessup from the University of NSW.

Microparticles and Selective Trait Dominance in Multidrug Resistant Cancers

Dr Mary Bebawy, together with Prof. Georges Grau, from the Department of Vascular Immunology and Dr Valerie Combes from the Department of Vascular Immunology at Sydney Medical School, has been awarded an NHMRC grant to further investigate 'Microparticles and Selective Trait Dominance in Multidrug Resistant Cancers"

"Multidrug resistance (MDR) is the cause of treatment failure in 90% of patients with metastatic cancer. We recently discovered a novel resistance mechanism in which microparticles provide a vehicle for intercellular transfer of MDR" explains Dr Bebawy.

Further work has expanded on these findings and Dr Bebawy reports that microparticles play an even more significant role in tumour relapse, by the "re-templating" of cancer cells to ensure the dissemination of deleterious traits within the cancer population. "This project will validate this hypothesis and identify and validate key mediators involved in trait dominance" she says.

The research has considerable potential for translation into clinical outcomes with the identification of alternative drug targets and therapeutics for the circumvention of multidrug resistance clinically.

A new site of action for GHB: Identifying the "GHB receptor

Associate Professor Mary Collins (Chebib) together with Prof Iain McGregor and Dr Glenn Hunt from the University of Sydney, and A/Professor Petrine Wellendorph and Professor Hans Bräuner-Osborne from the University of Copenhagen, has been awarded a total of $508,135 from 2011 to 2013 to investigate "A new site of action for GHB: Identifying the "GHB receptor"

Gamma hydroxybutyrate or GHB is an anaesthetic drug with sedative properties and is a central nervous system depressant. GHB has been used in a medical setting as a general anesthetic, to treat conditions such as insomnia, clinical depression and narcolepsy. GHB is also referred to as Fantasy, Grievous Bodily Harm, GBH, Liquid E, and Liquid X., and is used as a drug of abuse.

"GHB targets brain proteins including the enigmatic "GHB receptor" which participates in the therapeutic benefits of GHB" explains A/Prof Collins.

"Our research will determine whether the delta-containing GABA-A receptors are the elusive "GHB receptor". Uncovering the identity of the elusive "GHB receptor" would be a major breakthrough in terms of our understanding of the therapeutic and recreational use of GHB and its action as a brain chemical".

For further information on research at the Faculty of Pharmacy visit

Contact: Claire Riordan

Phone: 02 9351 2311

Email: 110a291a4520563b063b3757221c241e3a29022036170f2f32575402