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Annie Rahilly (Media Unit)

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University of Melbourne researchers have been awarded more than $1.4 million to conduct the first ever randomised clinical trial of an Australian snake antivenom. The study will compare the current CSL taipan antivenom with a new antivenom made in Costa Rica and will take place in Port Moresby General Hospital, Papua New Guinea.

Dr Ken Winkel, Director of the Australian Venom Research Unit, is excited about this grant and what it will mean for the Australian and PNG communities. As we head into the summer season, he is only too aware of the statistics. “Each year approximately 1,000 people are bitten by venomous snakes in Australia with a similar number in PNG. Unlike Australia though, snakebite kills perhaps as many as 200 people a year in PNG. This investment into research will help us enhance snakebite management for the benefit of both countries,” said Dr Winkel.

The funding is part of $673.7 million allocated by the Federal Government in National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) grants to boost the nation’s health and medical research efforts.

The University of Melbourne is the most successful institution nationally in terms of grant numbers having received 107 in total.
University of Melbourne Deputy Vice Chancellor Research, Jim McCluskey said the grants recognised the depth and quality of research at the University of Melbourne.
The NHMRC grants also ensure that the University of Melbourne continues to nurture new and emerging talent as 18 grants have been awarded to researchers who are in the early years of their research and career development.

Some of the other major projects to be funded include:

Associate Professor Robin Anderson: Control of the spread of breast cancer by small RNA molecules
Researchers will investigate a class of genes responsible for metastatic breast cancer.

Professor Peter Choong: The Arthroplasty and Bariatric Surgery (ABS) study
More than 40,000 knee replacements are completed each year in Australia. Obesity is a factor in 60% of cases. Researchers will look at the impact of interventions on outcomes.

Associate Professor Erica Fletcher: Glia in remodelling the inner retina
Reducing the loss of neurons of the retina in an attempt to look for new treatments to help restore vision.

Dr Holly Cate: Improving repair in demyelinating disease
Multiple Sclerosis kills Myelin cells in the brain. Research will support regenerative therapeutics for patients with MS.