From studies into the airways of premature babies to brain tumours in children, a new program is backing local WA researchers with a passion for children’s health.
The program is kicking off early next year with four early career researchers awarded fellowships to help them develop their vision and approach to improving child health.
Curtin University’s Ms Denby Evans, who will study the airways of premature babies, is among the children’s health-focused researchers backed by a fellowship worth almost $1 million.
Focusing on the most vulnerable in our community, Denby will aim to discover what aspect of the cell structure and behaviour contributes to lung disease, taking a step toward new treatments and improved lung health after preterm birth.
Another research fellowship has been awarded to Dr Samantha Carlson from the University of Western Australia (UWA) whose work aims to protect more WA families from vaccine-preventable diseases by improving childhood vaccine uptake.
Aiming to ensure more people are vaccinated in time, Samantha will work with the community, health care providers, and organisations to co-design research projects and activities.
Supported by the state government’s Future Health Research and Innovation Fund and Brightspark Foundation the fellowships program is aimed at supporting child-focused early-career researchers to become better qualified and experienced.
The program is designed to help keep passionate researchers in WA with the FHRI Fund and Brightspark Foundation partnership to inject more than $5 million over three years into the Fellowship program.
So far research entities have provided an an additional $2.1 million to support the program.
Over the three years, a total of 20 fellowships will be awarded to help improve child health through research.
Medical Research Minister Stephen Dawson has extended his congratulations to the inaugural recipients of the 2024 early career Fellowships.
“This initiative is designed to identify local talent as researchers begin their careers,” Mr Dawson said.
“We encourage and support medical researchers to base their careers here in the West and be a part of our fast-growing medical research hub that is attracting both national and international recognition.”
Among the inaugural fellowship recipients is UWA’s Dr Brittany Dewdney whose work explores methods of removing child brain tumours with the potential to transform surgical approaches to children and improve immunotherapy clinical trials.
A Kimberly-focused researcher is another 2024 fellowship recipient with UWA’s Dr Hannah Thomas collaborating with regional communities to identify, understand and action community-led skin health research.
This work aims to reduce the instances of untreated skin infections which can lead to acute rheumatic fever and subsequent rheumatic heart disease – a preventable disease.