Groundbreaking research by pharmacy academics attract national fund

17 November 2011

Three innovative and important research projects involving asthma, cancer and drug therapy led by staff at the Faculty of Pharmacy have been awarded coveted National Health and Medical Research Council (NHRMC) grants.

NHMRC administers funding for health and medical research on behalf of the Australian Government

Professor Michael Murray, Dr Colin Duke, Dr Sarah Cui, Lai-Ming Ching and Colin Dunstan have been awarded $835,860 for their project entitled 'pharmacological development of synthetic analogues of cytochrome P450-mediated omega-3 fatty acid epoxides as novel anti-metastatic agents.'

Metastasis is the major life-threatening characteristic of malignant breast tumours; at present we have no effective therapies. The project team propose to develop potent, metabolically stable analogues as a new class of anti-cancer agents to treat and prevent metastatic disease. This project addresses national research priorities of preventive healthcare, ageing well and ageing productivity.

Associate Professor Alaina Ammit has received funding ($528,675) for her project, 'novel strategies to boost tristetraprolin function: a critical anti-inflammatory protein in asthma.'

Asthma is a chronic disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. Persistent inflammation causes remodelling, or thickening of the airway, leading to airway obstruction and a decline in lung function. Reducing inflammation thus remains a key goal in asthma therapy to reduce long term decline in patient health. Corticosteroids are effective anti-inflammatories, however their usefulness against airway remodelling is limited by unwanted effects. The challenge for asthma treatment today is to identify alternative anti-inflammatory strategies with reduced side-effects.

Professor Ammit's project proposes a new approach to meet this challenge by stimulating the critical anti-inflammatory protein tristetraprolin (TTP). This project brings together a team of international experts with unique resources and expertise to address this challenge and the new knowledge gained from the research will guide future development of novel anti-inflammatory pharmacotherapeutic approaches to combat asthma.

Dr Fanfan Zhou and Professor Michael Murray are investigating 'novel cellular trafficking mechanisms for the drug influx transporter, human Organic Anion Transporting Polypeptide 1A2 (OATP1A2).' They were awarded $326,175.

Human organic anion transporting polypeptides (OATPs) are important transporters that modulate the cellular influx of endogenous substances and many clinically important drugs. OATP dysfunction may have serious consequences for human health by altering homeostasis and impairing drug efficacy and disposition.

This study will build on previous findings by researchers to define the mechanisms that control the subcellular location of OATP1A2 and its high incidence E184K variant. OATP1A2 regulates the influx of drugs into brain, intestine and kidney cells, therefore new information obtained through this research will facilitate an understanding how OATPs influence the outcome of drug therapy. This pharmacogenomic information could then be utilised to tailor the selection of drug and its dosage to the individual.

Professor Iqbal Ramzan, Dean of the Faculty of Pharmacy said: "Congratulations to the project teams. New funding for projects is essential to success in research. Research at the Faculty enjoys an outstanding national and international reputation. Research income generated through competitive grants makes this possible."

For further information on research at the Faculty of Pharmacy visit:

Contact: Kate Sanday

Phone: 02 9351 2311

Email: 470710231e03563f5c2936390e5444275d1421041d26561d29760835225b0222