Summer Research Awards 2017-18 Proposed Projects

NameEmail:LocationProject Title
A/Prof Jill Carrjill.carr@flinders.edu.auAdelaide - Flinders Medical Centre (FMC)Assessing inflammatory responses to infection in the eye
Prof Chris Francochris.franco@flinders.edu.auAdelaide - Bedford Park campusCombating Antibiotic Resistance
Prof Richard WoodmanRichard.Woodman@flinders.edu.auAdelaide - Bedford Park campusExamining the association between diet and measures of disease activity and CVD risk in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: Improved discrimination using latent class analysis
Dr Linlin Malinlin.ma@flinders.edu.auAdelaide - Bedford Park campusDiscovery of novel antagonists of hEag1 channel from marine bioproducts with therapautic potential
Dr Pramod Nairpramod.nair@flinders.edu.auAdelaide - Flinders Medical Centre (FMC)Cytochrome P450 structure function: Application of molecular dynamics simulations
Prof Briony Forbesbriony.forbes@flinders.edu.auAdelaide - Flinders Medical Centre (FMC)The role of the Insulin receptor and IGF-1R activation in normal growth and disease
Prof Wei Zhangwei.zhang@flinders.edu.auAdelaide - Flinders Medical Centre (FMC)The application of marine derived fluorescence compound for live cell imaging
Prof Wei Zhangwei.zhang@flinders.edu.auAdelaide - Flinders Medical Centre (FMC)Pharmaceutical applications of alginate gels from seaweed
A/Prof Munish Purimunish.puri@flinders.edu.auAdelaide - Flinders Medical Centre (FMC)Delivery of therapeutic protein(s) to the diseased cells
A/Prof Anna Zierschanna.ziersch@flinders.edu.auAdelaide - Bedford Park campusRefugee health and wellbeing
A/Prof Janni Petersenjanni.petersen@flinders.edu.auFlinders Centre for Innovation in CancerEnvironmental control of cell growth and cell division: Relevance to cancer
Dr Shohreh Majdshohreh.majd@flinders.edu.auAdelaide - Flinders Medical Centre (FMC)Effect of intermittent/chronic hypoxia on mitochondrial Proxiredoxine-3 through AMPK signaling pathway activation
A/Prof David Lynndavid.lynn@sahmri.comAdelaide SAHMRIThe role of the microbiota in early life immunity
Dr Chris Wilsonchriswilson42@hotmail.comAdelaide - Flinders Medical Centre (FMC)Evaluation of a Prospective Local Revision Hip and Knee registry
Dr Mary-Louise Rogersmary-louise.rogers@flinders.edu.auAdelaide - Flinders Medical Centre (FMC)Serum Biomarker for Motor Neuron Disease
Dr David Limd.lim@flinders.edu.auVictor HarbourStakeholders attitudes and perceptions about biosimilars

 

** To view all available projects please select "show 25 entries" from the drop down menu at the top of the table above **

 

Detailed Project Descriptions by Supervisor

The following tables provide more information about each of the Summer Research Award projects. Please take note of the new information presented here; project background and aims, possible research techniques and methods and suggested readings.

Name

A/Prof Jill Carr

E-mail

jill.carr@flinders.edu.au

Location

Adelaide - Flinders Medical Centre (FMC)

Project Title:

Assessing inflammatory responses to infection in the eye

Project background and aims

We have been studying the host response to dengue and zika virus infections, which is defined by an immunpathogenesis; - a dysfunctional immune response.  In particular, we have recently focused on the eye, where inflammatory disease with these two viruses is seen in patients. Our studies so far have demonstrated a distinct profile of induction of inflammatory mediators, such as IL-6 and complement, by dengue compared to zika. We wish to characterize this further and ultimately link this to functional differences in cells of the eye and eye disease.

Possible research techniques & methods:

Real time RT-PCR for viral and host cell gene expression; ELISA (already established) for complement factors.  Potential use of operetta at CeSSA for IF analysis.

Suggested readings

Contact Jill for general references and specific laboratory published studies. 

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Name

Prof Chris Franco       

E-mail

chris.franco@flinders.edu.au

Location

Adelaide - Bedford Park campus       

Project Title:

Combating  Antibiotic Resistance

Project background and aims

New actinobacteria are isolated in our labs and are screened for the production of novel compounds by HPLC-DAD via an industry collaboration and for versus MultiDrug resistant Staphylococcus aureus. We have identified two different compounds and have to produce them in large amounts and purify the extracts to obtain sufficient compound to elucidate their structures. The student can  be involved in the scale up production and subsequent chomatography. They will learn how actinobacteria are screened via physicochemical methods as well as bioassays.

Possible research techniques & methods:

  • Growth of actinobacteria and antibiotic production 
  • Antibiotic assays
  • HPLC with Diode Array
  • 16S rRNA PCR and sequencing for strain identification
  • Column chromatography 

Suggested readings

4. Mehbub, M,   Franco C, Zhang W (2015.)  In: K Dhanasekaran eds, Antimicrobials: Synthetic and Natural Compounds Secondary metabolites from microorganisms isolated from marine sponges from 2000 to 2012 (ISBN No: 978-1-4987-1562-1),CRC-Press pp279-317 

Kaewkla, O. Franco, C M M (2017) Promicromonospora callitridis sp. nov., an endophytic actinobacterium isolated from the surface-sterilized root of an Australian native pine tree. International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology. 67, 3559-3563 doi: 10.1099/ijsem.0.002165

36. Sarmin, N, Tan GYA, Franco, CMM, Edrada-Ebel R, Latip J, Zin NM (2013.) Streptomyces kebangsaanensis sp. nov. an endophytic actinomycete isolated from a Malaysian ethnomedicinal plant, that produces phenazine-1-carboxylic acid.  International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology.  63, 3733-3738. doi: 10.1099/ijs.0.047878-0..

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Name

Prof Richard Woodman

E-mail

Richard.Woodman@flinders.edu.au 

Location

Adelaide - Bedford Park campus

Project Title

Examining the association between diet and measures of disease activity and CVD risk in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: Improved discrimination using latent class analysis. 

Project background and aims

Patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are at an increased risk of all-cause mortality compared to the general population and it is postulated that the chronic systemic inflammatory state in RA favours the onset and progression of vascular damage and atherosclerosis. Diet likely plays an important role in determining levels of inflammation but identifying the specific dietary factors of importance using standard regression methods is difficult due to the large number of potential interactions between the many different food items typically consumed. Latent Class Analysis (LCA) is an objective statistical clustering technique used to reveal both the optimal number and identifying characteristics of latent (hidden) classes. LCA greatly reduces the noise created by having many interacting factors (in this case foods) by focusing on broad dietary patterns rather than all individual variables. LCA may therefore help in establishing the dietary patterns and specific foods that are most harmful in RA patients.         

Possible research techniques & methods

We will use previously collected 3-day food records collected from patients with RA together with measures of blood pressure, arterial stiffness, and inflammation and disease activity. Latent class analysis (LCA) will be used to identify different dietary patterns and, crucially, the most important identifying features (specific foods) of each pattern. Class membership will then be associated with risk factors for CVD including blood pressure and stiffness as well as measures of disease activity for rheumatoid arthritis using linear regression techniques.   

Suggested readings

 

Patterns of drug use and serum sodium concentrations in older hospitalized patients: a latent class analysis approach. RJ Woodman et al. Real World Outcomes 2016 Dec;3(4):383-391.

The temporal relationship between arterial stiffening and blood pressure is modified by methotrexate treatment in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. R Woodman et al. Frontiers in Physiology 2017 Aug 15;8:593

 

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Name

Dr Linlin Ma

E-mail

linlin.ma@flinders.edu.au

Location

Adelaide - Bedford Park campus

Project Title:

Discovery of novel antagonists of hEag1 channel from marine bioproducts with therapeutic potential.

Project background and aims

Human Ether ÌÁ go-go 1 (hEag1) is a voltage-gated potassium channel encoded by the KCNH1 gene. hEag1 is exclusively expressed in nervous system in healthy people, but is strongly overexpressed in a variety of human tumours including liver, prostate, ovary, colon, thyroid, skin and bone cancers. More importantly, overexpression of hEag1 has been demonstrated to be causative for tumorigenesis and correlate with bad prognosis for several types of tumours.

Unfortunately, established blockers of hEag1, such as imipramine and astemizole, also induce moderate inhibition of hErg channel, which is instrumental for the repolarization of the cardiac action potential. Disruption of hERG is linked to the life-threatening disorder long QT syndrome. It is therefore pivotal to have hEag1 inhibitors that spare hERG channel. The aim of this project is to identify and characterise novel and specific hEag1 antagonists from marine bioproducts and study their anti-proliferation potentials on different types of cancers.

Possible research techniques & methods:

The major techniques will include mammalian cell culture, transient transfection, cell proliferation assay, cell immigration assay and high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC).

Suggested readings

"Hemmerlein B, Weseloh RM, et al. (2006). Overexpression of Eag1 potassium channels in clinical tumours. Mol Cancer 5: 41.

Whicher JR, MacKinnon R (2016). Structure of the voltage-gated K(+) channel Eag1 reveals an alternative voltage sensing mechanism. Science 353: 664-669. 

Pardo LA, Gomez-Varela D, et al. (2012). Approaches targeting K(V)10.1 open a novel window for cancer diagnosis and therapy. Curr Med Chem 19: 675-682."

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Name  Dr Pramod Nair
E-mail

pramod.nair@flinders.edu.au           

Location

Adelaide - Flinders Medical Centre (FMC)    

Project Title

Cytochrome P450 structure function: Application of molecular dynamics simulations.

Project background and aims

Cytochrome P450 (abbreviated CYP or P450) comprises a superfamily of enzymes that are responsible for the metabolism of >70% of clinical drugs. Moreover, CYP metabolises many non-drug xenobiotics including environmental pollutants, carcinogens as well as endogenous compounds (e.g. steroid hormones, fatty acids, etc). CYP catalysed metabolism serves as a clearance mechanism, detoxification pathway and facilitates the excretion (as metabolites) of drugs and chemicals in urine.

The three-dimensional structures of CYP proteins provide important insights into CYP structure‰ÛÒfunction. Recent studies demonstrate that the CYP proteins are highly flexible and dramatic conformational changes occur upon ligand binding. In our study, we use a combination of theoretical (molecular dynamics simulations) and experimental (site-directed mutagenesis, enzyme kinetics) techniques to understand the dynamic aspects of CYP structures and the implications of structural flexibility. Our research supports the safe and efficacious use of medicines and also has significance in the drug discovery and development.

Possible research techniques & methods 

Molecular dynamics simulations (MDS) are used to predict the ligand binding modes within the CYP enzyme and the identification of key amino acids associated with ligand recognition. Moreover, molecular biology techniques such as bacterial subculture, polymerase chain reaction, western blots, protein expression, and site-directed mutagenesis are used in the study to validate the results from MDS. In vitro enzyme kinetics and analytical approaches such as high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) are used to characterise the role of individual amino acids. 

Suggested readings 

Coon MJ. Cytochrome P450: nature's most versatile biological catalyst. Annual Review of Pharmacology and Toxicology, 2005, 45,1-25.

 

Guengerich FP. Cytochrome P450 and chemical toxicology. Chemical Research in Toxicology, 2008, 21:70‰ÛÒ83.

 

Nair PC, McKinnon RA, Miners JO. Cytochrome P450 structure-function: insights from molecular dynamics simulations. Drug Metabolism Reviews, 2016, 48, 434-52.

 

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Name  A/Prof Briony Forbes
E-mail  briony.forbes@flinders.edu.au  
Location  Adelaide - Flinders Medical Centre (FMC)
Project Title

The role of the Insulin receptor and IGF-1R activation in normal growth and disease.

Project background and aims

We aim to understand the basic mechanism by which insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-I) binds and activates its receptor (the IGF-1R) to promote cell growth and survival. We lack some fundamental information as to how the IGF-1R interacts with the receptor to promote the key conformational changes required to activate its tyrosine kinase domain and subsequent downstream signaling pathways. We will probe this interaction by making novel mutants of the IGF-I and the IGF-1R. Ultimately this information will allow us to create novel inhibitors of IGF-I for the treatment of cancers that are dependent on IGF-I signaling for growth and survival.

Possible research techniques & methods  Molecular biology techniques such as PCR (polymerase chain reaction) and cloning; Protein expression and purification; Cell culture; Western blotting; data analysis and interpretation. You would study under the guidance of Associate Professor Forbes and the experienced research assistant and PhD students in our laboratory. 
Suggested readings 

https://www.flinders.edu.au/neuroscience/lab_proteins.html

Menting, J.G., et al. (2016). A minimized human insulin-receptor-binding motif revealed in a Conus geographus venom insulin. NATURE STRUCTURAL & MOLECULAR BIOLOGY, 23(10) pp. 916-920. 

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Name

Prof Wei Zhang

E-mail

wei.zhang@flinders.edu.au

Location

Adelaide - Flinders Medical Centre (FMC)

Project Title:

The application of marine derived fluorescence compound for live cell imaging.

Project background and aims

Novel alginate gels produced from South Australia brown seaweed using advanced bio-refinery technology have great potentials for the delivery of a variety of low molecular weight drugs and protein drugs. Based on the research outcomes of novel alginate gels produced from South Australia brown seaweed and unique properties, including structure and characterization, molecular weight and solubility, biocompatibility and derivatives, to identify potential applications for the delivery of a variety of low molecular weight drugs and protein drugs.

Possible research techniques & methods:

Conduct systematic literature review for the research of properties and biomedical applications, especially in the area of delivery of a variety of low molecular weight drugs and protein drugs.       

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Name

Prof Wei Zhang

E-mail

wei.zhang@flinders.edu.au

Location

School of Health Sciences

Project Title

Pharmaceutical applications of alginate gels from seaweed

Project background and aims

Novel alginate gels produced from South Australia brown seaweed using advanced bio-refinery technology have great potentials for the delivery of a variety of low molecular weight drugs and protein drugs. Based on the research outcomes of novel alginate gels produced from South Australia brown seaweed and unique properties, including structure and characterization, molecular weight and solubility, biocompatibility and derivatives, to identify potential applications for the delivery of a variety of low molecular weight drugs and protein drugs.

Possible research techniques & methods

Conduct systematic literature review for the research of properties and biomedical applications, especially in the area of delivery of a variety of low molecular weight drugs and protein drugs.       

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Name

A/Prof Munish Puri

E-mail

munish.puri@flinders.edu.au

Location

Adelaide - Flinders Medical Centre (FMC)    

Project Title

Delivery of therapeutic protein(s) to the diseased cells

Project background and aims

The ribosome inactivating proteins (RIPs) possess RNA N-glycosidase activity that depurinates the major rRNA, thus damaging ribosomes in an irreversible manner and arresting protein synthesis.  RIPs are presently classified as rRNA N-glycosidase in the enzyme nomenclature (EC 3.2.2.22) and do exhibit other enzymatic activities such as ribonuclease and deoxyribonuclease activities. RIPs have shown to manifest abortifacient, anti-tumor, anti-viral and anti-microbial activities (Kaur et al., 2014). We have recently shown that RIPs possess anti-tumor activity such as arresting the growth of breast cancers (Kaur et al., 2017). To augment therapeutic potential of the protein, the purified protein to be delivered, without degradation to the diseased cells. We will modify protein by following various biotechnology approaches.   

Possible research techniques & methods

Student will gain expertise in the area of protein expression, cell culturing and nanotechnology during the course of the research work.        

Suggested readings

 

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Name

A/Prof Anna Ziersch  

E-mail

anna.ziersch@flinders.edu.au

Location

Adelaide - Bedford Park campus

Project Title

Refugee health and wellbeing

Project background and aims

We are undertaking a range of projects around the social determinants of migrant and refugee health and wellbeing including around oral health, youth mental health, sexual health, access to primary health care and exploitation in employment.  The aim of the student placement would be to gain an understanding of the range of factors associated with health outcomes for migrants and refugees.  The specific focus of the placement would be discussed with the student. 

Possible research techniques & methods

Quantitative surveys and analysis, and qualitative interview analysis. Depending on the selected area of focus there may be an opportunity to co-author a publication. 

Suggested readings

Fozdar and Hartley (2013). Refugee resettlement in Australia: What we know and need to know. Refugee Survey Quarterly, 32(3).

Ager, A., & Strang, A. (2008). Understanding integration: A conceptual framework. Journal of Refugee Studies, 21(2), 166-191. 

Correa-Velez, I., Gifford, S. M., & Barnett, A. G. (2010). Longing to belong: Social inclusion and wellbeing among youth with refugee backgrounds in the first three years in Melbourne, Australia. Social Science & Medicine, 71(8), 1399-1408. 

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Name

A/Prof Janni Petersen

E-mail

darlene.mcnaughton@flinders.edu.au

Location

 

Project Title

Environmental control of cell growth and cell division: Relevance to cancer

Project background and aims

Cancer is a disease of inappropriate cell growth and cell division. In addition, cancer cells migrate to colonize new parts of the body, here they undergo cell division in environments with limited nutrient supply and therefore cancer cells are frequently nutritionally stressed.

The Target of Rapamycin (TOR) signalling pathway co-ordinates cell division with available nutrients and importantly altered TOR signalling has been linked to 80% of cancers. We exploit the simplicity of a single celled lifestyle and strong genetics in yeast to understand the principles of TOR signalling and identify key conserved regulations of this pathway, which we then subsequently study in human cells. In shedding light on the mechanisms behind environmental and TOR pathway control of cell division we will aim to target these in human cancers.        

Possible research techniques & methods

The students have the possibility to gain experience with a range of techniques including mammalian tissue cultures, yeast cell biology and genetics, Biochemistry including: SDS-PAGE, western blotting, Molecular biology including: PCR, DNA cloning and DNA sequencing. 

Suggested readings

 

Davie, E , Forte G, and Petersen, J. Current Biology. 2015 16:445-454

Davie, E and Petersen, J. Current Opinion in Cell Biology. 2012 24:838‰ÛÒ844 

Petersen, J. and Nurse, P. Nature Cell Biol. 9: 1263 ‰ÛÒ 1272. 2007

 

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Name

Dr Shohreh Majd        

E-mail

anthony.maeder@flinders.edu.au

Location

Adelaide - Flinders Medical Centre (FMC)

Project Title

Effect of intermittent/chronic hypoxia on mitochondrial Proxiredoxine-3 through AMPK signaling pathway activation 

Project background and aims

As a part of aging a numerous alteration in blood supply and oxygenation occurs due to microvascular changes in many tissues including brain. It was demonstrated that aging is associated with hypoxia and increased level of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Oxidative stress induced by ROS was implicated in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer‰Ûªs disease (AD).  Peroxiredoxin (Prdx3) is a mitochondrial member of the antioxidant enzymes that functions to scavenge ROS. Prdx3 could be upregulated by adenosine monophosphate protein kinase (AMPK), the master of cellular metabolism. AMPK, itself was shown to be upregulated in neurons in AD brains. Considering that aging is the main risk factor for AD, the focus of this study is to determine the effect of intermittent/chronic hypoxia on mitochondrial Prdx3. We also aim to study AMPK as possible mechanism of Prdx3 modulation under chronic hypoxia, and its involvement in generating AD hallmarks.

Possible research techniques & methods:

Neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y cells will be cultured in flasks (western blot analysis) and in chambers culture slides (immunofluorescent staining) in Dulbeccos Modified Eagle’s Medium/F12 and will be kept in atmosphere of 95% air and 5% CO2. For hypoxia, the plates will be exposed to a mixture of 1%O2, 5%CO2 in hypoxic chamber for 8 cycles (10 min each). The level of Prdx3, active and total AMPK, phosphorylated tau, and beta amyloid will be assessed with and without AMPK inhibitor (Compound C).            "Kim SH et al, J Neural Transm Suppl. 2001; (61): 223-35.

Suggested readings

Nonn L. et al, Mol Cancer Res. 2003; 1(9):682-9.

Marshall AJ et al, Brain Res. 2006; 1099(1):18-24.

Chen et al,  FEBS Lett. 2008; 582(28): 3899‰ÛÒ3902. 

Ali SS. et al, PLoS One. 2012; 7(5): e36801

Cunniff B et al. Mol Biol Cell. 2016; 27(17): 2662‰ÛÒ2674.

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Name

A/Prof David Lynn

E-mail

david.lynn@sahmri.com

Location

Adelaide - SAHMRI

Project Title

The role of the microbiota in early life immunity.

Project background and aims

Understanding the factors that are associated with inter-individual variation in vaccine responses is of fundamental importance to human health. Emerging evidence from our research now suggests that the gut microbiome plays a key role in shaping systemic immune responses to vaccination. Our preclinical data in neonatal mice maternally exposed to antibiotics has revealed that dysregulation of the gut microbiome, specifically in the first weeks of life, leads to significantly impaired antigen-specific antibody responses to five different parenterally administered adjuvanted and live vaccines. Up to 40% of neonates are exposed directly or maternally to antibiotics in close proximity to their first immunisations with the same vaccines that we have investigated in mice. In this project, you will work with an established team of other researchers to understand the mechanisms through which the gut microbiota influences immunity in early life. 

Possible research techniques & methods

Microbiome research, immunology, microbiology, mouse models, ELISA, DNA/RNA extractions.  

Suggested readings

Lynn DJ, Pulendran B. The potential of the microbiota to influence vaccine responses.

 J Leukoc Biol. 2017 Sep 1. pii: jlb.5MR0617-216R.  PubMed PMID: 28864446.

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Name

Dr Chris Wilson

E-mail

chriswilson42@hotmail.com

Location

Adelaide - Flinders Medical Centre (FMC)

Project Title

Evaluation of a Prospective Local Revision Hip and Knee registry   

Project background and aims

Since 2015 we have undertaken a wholesale restructuring project in the diagnosis and management of Revision Hip and knee Arthroplasty in the Repatriation General hospital and FMC. All cases are managed through a robust diagnostic algorithm and procedures performed by 2 consultant surgeons after team review.

Concurrently I have set up prospective collection of data on all cases performed by the Arthroplasty department. This local Registry has been made into a database and the first 12 months have been presented locally and nationally.

The aim of this project is to collate the 2016 and 2017 data, this can be then analysed against historic national registry and historic NJR reports for the Repatriation General Hospital to evaluate surgical trends and potential improvements in our quality of care and surgical outcomes.  

Early results suggest a more conservative approach to management with reduced complications for patients and reduced financial cost to the hospital.

Possible research techniques & methods

Data entry to Data base and analysis using Microsoft excel.

Comparison of trends against 2015 data.

Comparison of trends compared with 2016 AOANJJR report and local Ad hoc AOANJJR report for RGH.

Basic statistics work in combination with University Statistician

Suggested readings

AOANJJR 2015 and 2016 reports

Senior Authors abstract from Flinders research week.

Further presentation work is available on request.

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Name

Dr Mary-Louise Rogers

E-mail

mary-louise.rogers@flinders.edu.au

Location

Adelaide - Flinders Medical Centre (FMC)

Project Title

Serum Biomarker for Motor Neuron Disease           

Project background and aims

We have discovered a urinary biomarker called p75ECD (Neurology, 2017, in the suggested reading liist  below) that measures the progress of motor neuron disease. This is done using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Our biomarker can be used in clinical trials to measure the effectiveness of treatments. It is important to also determine if serum from MND patients contains p75ECD.

The aim of this project is thus to measure serum p75ECD from 10 people with MND and compare to results obtained for urinary p75ECD levels. 

Possible research techniques & methods:

  • Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA)
  • Protein Assays
  • Aliquoting and pipetting
  • Data analysis

Suggested readings

Shepheard S, Wuu J, Wiklendt L, Dinning P.G, Chataway T, Schultz D, Benatar M, Rogers M-L. 2017. Urinary p75ECD: A prognostic, disease progression, and pharmacodynamic biomarker in ALS. Neurology 88: 1137-1143

Shepheard, S; Chataway T; Schultz D; Rush R.A, and Rogers M.-L 2014. The Extracellular Domain of Neurotrophin Receptor p75 As a Candidate Biomarker For ALS. PLOS One. 9 (1) e87398 doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0087398 

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Name

Dr David Lim

E-mail

d.lim@flinders.edu.au 

Location

 

Project Title

Stakeholder’s attitudes and perceptions about biosimilars.

Project background and aims

To improve stakeholder’s (doctors, pharmacists, consumers) awareness of biosimilars in Australia, the Commonwealth Department of Health released a Biosimilar Awareness Implementation Framework. Biosimilars, as their name suggests, are a similar version of a biological medicine. There are currently some 10 commercially available biosimilars registered in Australia. A biosimilar is not the same as a small molecule generic medication. This is because generic medications have simpler chemical structures that can be duplicated to be the same as the reference medication. Conversely, biological medicines are inherently complex molecules and can be difficult to completely characterise.

A biosimilar and the reference medicine will share the same amino acid sequence but may have differences in other aspects e.g. protein folding. It is recognised that the complex biologically based methods of producing the medicines means there is natural variability between reference brand and biosimilars, and also within batches of the same medicines, meaning any variability can have a profound influence on biosimilars' biological functions and clinical properties. This can manifest as an allergic reaction, or the body can generate a low level of neutralising antibody that eventually results in the loss of activity of the biological medicine.

Cross reactivity between the biological medicines with naturally occurring biological substrates can also trigger an autoimmune response. Furthermore, the immune response triggered by a reference brand may differ from that of a biosimilar. The effects of immune responses can be a slow occurring process, so effective and comprehensive post-marketing surveillance is essential for safety monitoring. The aim of this review is to systematically and comparatively appraise the research evidence related to doctors, pharmacists and consumers attitudes and perceptions toward biosimilars. Outcomes from this work include reporting back on the Australian biosimilar framework as well as informing international biosimilars regulatory pathway. 

Possible research techniques & methods:

Systematic reviews and policy analysis

Suggested readings

Lim, David (2014) Is Australia positioned to take advantage of biosimilars? Generics and Biosimilars Initiative Journal, 3(4), pp. 184-187. Available: http://gabi-journal.net/is-australia-positioned-to-take-advantage-of-biosimilars.html 

Lau, Esther, Lim, David, Baldry, Rachel, & Nissen, Lisa (2016) Biosimilars. Australian Pharmacist, 2016(March), pp. 62-66. Available: https://www.psa.org.au/australian-pharmacist/ap-mar-16/biosimilars

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