The Department undertakes basic and clinical research, research training and teaching of the highest international quality relevant to a breadth of medical disciplines and radiology, and promotes research lead improvement in clinical practice and outcomes.
Research undertaken in our department is truly translational, extending from basic science through to epidemiological studies, clinical trials, health services research and health economics. The Department has research teams embedded in specialty research environments, including the Melbourne Brain Centre, the Peter Doherty Institute and the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre, as well as within the clinical environment of Melbourne Health. The key fields of research are neurosciences, infectious diseases, cancer and arthritis, and bone disease and inflammation. In addition, hospital-based affiliates of the department have strong research programs in lung disease, cardiology, haematology, endocrinology, rehabilitation medicine and renal medicine. The Melbourne EpiCentre (Centre for Clinical Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Health Services Research), led by Professor Danny Liew, collaborates with multiple research groups within Melbourne Health and The University of Melbourne. Research in clinical genetics is led by Professor Ingrid Winship.
Main research strengths
Epilepsy and neuropharmacology
Researchers in this area focus on the basic neurobiology of epilepsy and other brain diseases associated with epilepsy such as traumatic brain injury, psychosis, mood disorders, brain tumours, Alzheimer's disease and autism. They also undertake pre-clinical testing and clinical trials of new therapeutic approaches, including drugs, viral-based therapies and devices. Cohort studies assess how genomics and pharmacogenomics influence the outcomes of the treatment of epilepsy and related diseases. Research groups are led by Professor Terence O'Brien, Professor Patrick Kwan (personalised medicine and drug-resistant epilepsy), Dr Nigel Jones (behavioural neuroscience), Dr Chris French (electrophysiology), and Dr Kim Powell (molecular neuroscience). The Multiple Sclerosis Group led by Associate Professor Helmut Butzkueven focuses on the discovery of gene expression and splice changes associated with risk loci in various immune cell subsets, building on the discovery of multiple low effect size risk gene loci for multiple sclerosis. They aim to discover cell-specific functional differences determined by gene variation. The group also runs an international long-term clinical outcomes registry following almost 20 000 patients with multiple sclerosis in 26 countries and more than 150 centres.
The Royal Melbourne Hospital Stroke Research Centre, headed by Professor Stephen Davis and including other leading clinical researchers Dr Bruce Campbell and Associate Professor Bernard Yan, is an international leader in clinical trials, investigating new treatment approaches for stroke, with a particular focus on using advanced neuroimaging to identify biomarkers to select the optimal treatment for individual patients.
The Movement Disorders Group, led by Dr Andrew Evans and Dr. Wesley Thevathasan, focuses on developing and testing new deep brain stimulation approaches, and collaborates intensively with internationally leading groups in neurostimulation in Oxford and Brisbane.
The Neural Bionics Laboratory, led by Dr Tom Oxley, is working on a project developing intravascular brain-computer interface devices for bionic limb applications. The group were recently successful in obtaining a $1.7M National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Project grant to advance preclinical and clinical trials of their technology.
All areas of clinical neuroscience research are enhanced by a 5-year NHMRC Centre for Clinical Research Excellence grant.
The Gastrointestinal Cancer Group, led by Associate Professor Alex Boussioutas, is interested in bringing research discoveries at the bench to the bedside to improve the management of gastrointestinal cancers. Major research interests include identifying molecular predictors of the progression of intestinal metaplasia to gastric cancer, examining the role of the tumour microenvironment in tumour progression and clinical outcomes, and investigating the molecular events in Barrett's oesophagus leading to progression to oesophageal adenocarcinoma.
Brain tumour research is undertaken by the Epilepsy and Neuropharmacology Research Group in close collaboration with the Department of Surgery and the Department of Oncology at Melbourne Health, with a focus on tumour-associated epilepsy and new treatment approaches.
Translational research developing new molecular diagnostic tests for haematological cancers is undertaken in the newly established Australian Cancer Research Foundation Laboratory led by Professor David Ritchie and Dr Kylie Mason, in collaboration with the Department of Haematology at Melbourne Health and the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research.
Infectious diseases research in the department is closely aligned with the Victorian Infectious Diseases Service at Melbourne Health and the Nossal Institute for Global Health at The University of Melbourne.
The Malaria Research Group, led by Prof Stephen Rogerson, studies the pathogenesis and development of immunity to the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum, focusing on the effects of malaria in pregnant women and their babies, and on the interaction between malaria and HIV infection. They led a large malaria prevention study in pregnant women in Papua New Guinea. One of seven lead organisations in the Malaria in Pregnancy Consortium, supported by the Gates Foundation, they have established international collaborations in the region and in Africa. Current projects include the identification of candidate vaccine antigens for severe malaria and the identification of epigenetic regulators as drug targets.
The Infection Control Group, led by Associate Professor Caroline Marshall, researches infection control and hospital epidemiology, and antimicrobial stewardship. They aim to provide high-quality evidence to assist development of guidelines and policies to prevent healthcare-associated infections.
The Infectious Diseases Epidemiology Group, headed by Associate Professor Emma McBryde, carries out mathematical modelling of infectious disease transmission with a particular focus on the hospital setting. Current projects include studying the effects of isolation on methicillin-resistant Staph. aureus transmission in the Intensive Care Unit and investigating pandemic influenza transmission.
The International and Immigrant Health Group, headed by Professor Beverley-Ann Biggs, has a major interest in global and refugee health. Internationally, we conduct translational research to improve maternal and child health with a focus on infectious diseases and nutritional deficiencies. We have two decades of experience working in South East Asia and India, and have active collaborations in Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Malawi. Our current focus is on understanding maternal and infant predictors of child growth and development in rural Vietnam, including the infant microbiome. Our Refugee Health Program is broad in scope with clinical, education, service development, and research activities.
Inflammation and arthritis
Professor John Hamilton's Inflammation and Arthritis Group aims to understand the functions of macrophage lineage cells in chronic inflammatory diseases, in particular, rheumatoid arthritis. Macrophage lineage cells are isolated from human and murine disease tissue and blood to assess how they differ from normal tissue. The group is also studying the molecular mechanisms governing macrophage lineage survival, proliferation, differentiation and activation, and the biology of epithelial cells in inflammation.
The Bone and Mineral Research Group, led by Prof John Wark, studies genetic and environmental determinants of bone health, the roles of vitamin D and calcium, and the aetiology and prevention of falls. There is a major focus on longitudinal cohort studies. Current projects include the impact of cigarette smoking on bone and its potential reversibility, adverse effects of antiepileptic drug therapy on falls and fracture risk, and the Young Female Health Initiative.
Major sources of funding include the Australian Research Council (ARC), the NHMRC, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA, USA), Cure (USA), Defence Health Foundation, The Royal Melbourne Hospital Neurosciences Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Atlantic Philanthropies and the Canadian Medical Research Foundation. Members of the Department were successful in securing $7.3M in competitive grants from the NHMRC and ARC in 2013.
We have close collaborative links with other departments within The University of Melbourne and with other universities, institutes and organisations, both nationally and internationally, including the Mayo Clinic and Washington University at St. Louis (USA), Imperial College and University College London (UK), University of Strasbourg (France), Jiatong University and Fudan University (China), and the Chinese University of Hong Kong.