ARC Discovery Projects success

By Hudson Institute communications

Hudson Institute researchers have been awarded more than $2 million from the Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Projects Grant round.

Professor Richard Ferrero, Associate Professor Patrick Western, Dr Nicole de Weerd and Dr Samuel Forster have been awarded four ARC Discovery Projects Grants totalling $2.4 million.

Discovery Projects Grants support Australia’s leading researchers to start important work that will expand Australia’s knowledge base and research capability, providing important outcomes for all Australians.

View full list of the ARC Discovery Projects Grants 2021.

Professor Richard Ferrero ARC Discovery Projects success

Bacterial vesicles transport their bioactive cargo to the host nucleus

Professor Richard Ferrero

ARC Discovery Projects: 2021–2023

Amount: $429,700

This project aims to investigate how bacterial membrane vesicles transport their cargo to the nucleus of cells and its impact on host cell functions.

Bacteria use membrane vesicles as a means of communication with the host, but the full extent of their effects on host cells has yet to be fully elucidated.

The project expects to generate new knowledge in the field using cutting-edge imaging and molecular biology approaches.

The work should provide significant benefits, particularly towards the development of membrane vesicles in gene therapy, gene editing and other applications.

IMPACT | These bacterial vesicles may be used to deliver DNA/genes into cells or even as vaccines.

A Prof Patrick Western ARC Discovery Projects success

Epigenetic regulation of genomic stability and inheritance

Associate Professor Patrick Western

ARC Discovery Projects: 2021–2023

Amount: $517,138

Sperm mediate inheritance by transmitting DNA and associated chemical (epigenetic) modifications to offspring.

Epigenetic modifications are heritable chemical alterations to DNA and associated proteins that package the DNA in all cells. This allows specific DNA sequences to be accessible and genes to be turned on, or other sequences to be maintained in a silent state, including repetitive and viral sequences that have accumulated in our DNA over generations.

Our researchers hypothesise that epigenetic modifications protect DNA from mutations by silencing these potentially damaging repetitive sequences.

Using sperm precursor cells, our team will determine whether loss of specific epigenetic modifications permits mutations, and whether these mutations are transmitted by sperm to offspring.

This work will contribute a broader understanding of whether epigenetics protects cells against mutations and whether altering sperm epigenetics could permit new mutations that affect offspring phenotype, adaptation and evolution.

As chemicals, drugs and diet can affect epigenetic function, the studies will also contribute to determining how the environmental impacts on epigenetics affect inheritance and may alter agricultural and healthcare outcomes.

Dr Nicole de Weerd ARC Discovery Projects success

Deciphering novel cross-talk between innate cytokine receptors

Dr Nicole de Weerd

ARC Discovery Projects: 2021–2023

Amount: $923,150

Co-investigators: Associate Professor Meredith O’Keeffe, Dr Nicole de Weerd, Professor Paul Hertzog

This grant is through Monash University.

Understanding the basic functions of interferons and how they signal to cells, is central to understanding fundamental immunity.

Interferons are crucial immune system molecules which are important for normal cell development. They protect the body from viral infection and cancer but can be deleterious in different autoimmune diseases and trauma settings. Preliminary data shows there is an interferon signalling pathway that has previously been overlooked.

This project aims to understand how this pathway works and how it contributes to the normal workings of cells. This fundamental science has future consequences for the design of vaccines and therapeutics to treat diseases that show defective interferon signalling.

IMPACT | Antiviral response. Improving understanding of how our body responds to a virus. The goal is to prevent or minimise destruction of the body’s own cells and tissues.

Dr Sam Forster - Clostridium difficile is evolving into two separate species.

Discovery of novel bacteriophage with the capacity to modulate gut bacteria

Dr Samuel Forster

ARC Discovery Projects: 2021–2023

Amount: $536,190

Co-investigators: Dr Jeremy Barr

This project aims to experimentally validate the largest ever collection of bacterial viruses (bacteriophages) within the gut microbiome.

The project expects to generate new knowledge in the area of bacteriophage biology and genomics by using the innovative approaches of wet-lab and bioinformatic genome analyses.

Expected outcomes of the project include the discovery of novel phages using bioinformatics, wet-lab validation of their activity and characterisation of their potential to contribute new bacterial host metabolism.

This should provide benefits including advancing our understanding of bacteriophages, improved bioinformatic software, and a characterised collection of commercially valuable bacterial strains and phages.

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