Scholars awarded million-dollar grants to support studies that will change the future of healthcare

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Dr Davis McCarthy and Professor Mark Dawson have been recognised as high-performing researchers and awarded the exemplary NHMRC Investigator Grants 

Dr Davis McCarthy (left) and Professor Mark Dawson (right)

The General Sir John Monash Foundation is pleased to announce that two of its Alumni, Professor Mark Dawson and Dr. Davis McCarthy, have been awarded the prestigious Investigator Grants from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) to fund the continuation of their research studies for the next five years.

Dr Davis McCarthy (2011 Scholar) is at St Vincent’s Institute of Media Research working on developing interpretable machine learning models for clinical imaging and single-cell genomics to drive biological discovery. Dr McCarthy was awarded a $1.3 million NHMRC Investigator Grant – Emerging Leadership 2.

Professor Mark Dawson (2006 Scholar) is a clinician scientist at the Peter MacCallum Centre working on discovery-based studies on cancer development and research into improved cancer detection and prognosis, and more precise cancer treatments. Prof Dawson was awarded $2,258,892 NHMRC Investigator Grant – Emerging Leadership 1.

Annemarie Rolls, CEO of the General Sir John Monash Foundation said the Foundation was thrilled to see two of its Scholars recognised for their success.

“It’s always a pleasure to watch our Scholars excel and we look forward to seeing the impact they will have on the world enhanced now that they have additional funding stability to continue their phenomenal research projects,” said Ms Rolls.

Awarded to only the highest performing researchers of any career stage, the NHMRC Investigator Grants provide investigators with 5-year funding for their projects. The Grants provide the investigator with flexibility to pursue important new directions for their research as they arise, and to form collaborations as needed, rather than being restricted to the current specific scopes of their projects.

Dr McCarthy will use the funding to advance his use of computational approaches (machine learning) and develop interpretable deep learning models and software tools – that provide a justification for their decisions.

Dr McCarthy said these models will enhance outcomes from breast cancer screening programs and help to interpret complex, large-scale single-cell genomics data.

“To take full advantage of new machine learning techniques, we need to understand better how they work. Thus, developing interpretable models is crucial. Machine learning models are powerful, but typically difficult to understand. This project will enable us to build trust in such models. This long-term NHMRC grant will support an ambitious research programme to improve the use of machine learning in genomics and the clinic. Long-term support from the NHMRC is hugely important as a new lab head, letting me build an outstanding team to tackle big challenges,” said Dr McCarthy.

Prof Dawson said he will be using the funding to assist with improving outcomes for cancer patients by targeting the epigenome.

“The most commonly mutated proteins in cancer involve so-called epigenetic regulators, a class of proteins that regulate access to our DNA to control gene expression, DNA repair and replication. We and others have recently developed a variety of drugs to help inhibit the aberrant activity of these epigenetic proteins. My research will focus on ways to improve the efficacy of these existing drugs and find new epigenetic therapies to improve the survival of patients with a broad range of cancers,” said Prof Dawson.


Source: General Sir John Monash Foundation

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