Funding success for Sydney cardiac & diabetes researchers

Two University of Sydney researchers have been awarded funding to help address critical gaps in diabetes and cardiovascular disease, the leading causes of death and disability in Australia.

University of Sydney researchers, Professor Gemma Figtree and Dr Nicholas Hunt have been awarded funding for two projects to test potential new treatments that could improve outcomes for people living with diabetes or at risk of severe heart disease.

The projects received funding from the Australian Government’s Targeted Translation Research Accelerator (TTRA) program for diabetes and cardiovascular disease, delivered by MTPConnect.

The TTRA program is a $47 million Medical Research Future Fund initiative that provides up to $750,000 in Research Projects funding to nurture preventative, diagnostic, therapeutic and disease management products and solutions.

Targeting inflammation to lower heart attack risk

Professor Gemma Figtree

Cardiologist Professor Gemma Figtree will lead a project to investigate a new strategy to reduce the build-up of plaque in arteries, known as atherosclerosis, by targeting a receptor involved in the body’s inflammation response.

Professor Figtree leads CAD Frontiers, an international research team led by cardiologists working on a new approach to heart attack prevention that does not rely on risk factors and symptoms to predict an individual’s heart attack risk.

“One Australian suffers a heart attack every nine minutes. Whilst targeting the known modifiable risk factors – high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, and smoking – plays a critical role in reducing the development of the underlying atherosclerosis, we have limited ways to reduce the impact of inflammation on plaque development,” said Professor Figtree.

One promising new way to reduce inflammation is by targeting inflammation receptors with antibody-based treatments. However, early studies in humans have shown the benefits were outweighed by an increased risk of infection.

“To overcome these challenges, we have developed a series of small molecules that specifically inhibit the ‘sterile’ activators of inflammation relevant to plaque, but not involved in the important response to bacteria.”

This project will test these new molecules for their efficacy in reducing inflammation and plaque progression in models of cardiovascular disease, to identify promising candidates to progress to clinical trials.

A new strategy for getting rid of insulin injections

Dr Nicholas Hunt

An estimated 1.8 million Australians live with diabetes, many of whom use regular injections of insulin to keep their blood sugar levels within healthy levels.

Dr Nicholas Hunt from the Charles Perkins Centre, Faculty of Medicine and Health and his team are testing a new, oral form of insulin delivery that could be taken as a tablet or liquid. This would be an easier and less painful alternative to insulin injections. . In addition, the new formulation being developed would not require refrigeration.

“Our formulation is a rapid and effective blood glucose management tool with specific advantages critical to winning market share over existing and emerging competition,” said Dr Hunt.

“Advantages include fewer adverse hypoglycaemic events (low blood glucose) and reduced weight gain; cost-effectiveness compared to current standards of care; convenient and cost-effective storage and transportation of the product at room temperature.”

Dr Hunt’s project will build on promising data from experimental models and commence manufacturing and early safety testing in preparation for the first human clinical trials.

Declaration: This project has been supported by CSIRO and Agilex Biolabs.

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