Fighting golden staph and regenerating skin share in $17 million of medical research funding

26 Sep 2007

The Institute for Molecular Bioscience has been awarded almost $17 million from the National Health and Medical Research Council for fellowships and projects including regenerating wounded skin, and fighting golden staph. 

Professor Brandon Wainwright, IMB Director, will receive $501 000 over three years to study a genetic pathway his team have identified that regulates skin stem cells. 

“The skin is the largest organ in the body and functions as a barrier against infection and dehydration,” Professor Wainwright said. “We need to know how to regenerate skin in order to better treat wounds and burns.” 

“This research will show us the mechanism whereby the skin develops and regenerates, as well as the possible manipulations we can use to increase healing in the clinic.” 

Professor Glenn King has been awarded $445 500 over three years to develop antimicrobial agents to treat antibiotic-resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus, otherwise known as golden staph. 

“Until recently, most golden staph infections were acquired in hospitals, but there has been an increasing amount of people infected in the community, making golden staph a major public health threat in Australia,” Professor King said. 

“Golden staph has been termed a ‘superbug' because of its remarkable ability to acquire resistance to virtually all antibiotics. It is therefore imperative that we begin research into antimicrobial agents.” 

Antimicrobials suppress the growth of bacteria, as opposed to antibiotics, which kill them. 

The largest grant awarded was to Professor John Hancock and Professor Robert Parton, who will receive $5 million over five years to study the organisation of the cell surface at the molecular level. 

The cell surface is organised into different domains with distinct functions, and mapping these domains and identifying their functions will have huge importance for therapeutic strategies aimed at combating the changes associated with cell transformation in cancer and other human diseases such as muscular dystrophy. 

Altogether, the IMB received more than $11.5 million spread over 14 projects, and more than $5 million in fellowships, including a $4 million Australia Fellowship to Dr Matt Cooper

Dr Cooper, who received one of only two Australia Fellowships to be awarded in 2007, will join the IMB from his current post as a researcher for a private company in the U.K. 

Media contacts: 
Professor Brandon Wainwright – 07 3346 2110 
Professor Glenn King – 07 3346 2025 
Bronwyn Adams, IMB Communications – 07 3346 2134 or 0418 575 247