CRC for Mental Health

July 2016 newsletter

Read the July 2016 CRC for Mental Health newsletter here

  • From the CEO
  • New research collaboration launched with the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute
  • Knowledge exchange project with Mercy Health
  • Publico Program
  • Our congratulations to …

Evidence of a lipid link in the inherited form of Alzheimer’s disease

February 4, 2016MelanieLatest News0

Australian researchers have found biochemical changes occurring in the blood, in the rare inherited form of Alzheimer’s disease. Changes in these fat-like substances may suggest a method to diagnose all forms of Alzheimer’s disease before significant damage to the brain occurs.

In an article published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s disease, the Australian team led by Professor Ralph Martins from the CRC for Mental Health and Edith Cowan University, examined the lipid profiles of 20 people who carry a mutation responsible for the rare inherited form of Alzheimer’s, known as familial Alzheimer’s disease.

Using samples from the Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer Network (DIAN) study, the researchers found that people who carried the mutation responsible for this form of Alzheimer’s also had altered levels of specific lipids in their blood plasma compared to the control group. This pilot study, combined with previously published studies in lipids on the most common form of Alzheimer’s disease, suggests that the specific changes in lipid metabolism may be used a predictive test for Alzheimer’s disease.

At present, the most common, sporadic form of Alzheimer’s disease is difficult to diagnose until symptoms are readily apparent and significant damage to the brain has occurred; findings from this study may provide clues to suitable diagnostic markers. While the results are exciting, the researchers involved urge conversation due to the pilot nature of the study.

Read the full paper at the Journal of Alzheimer’s disease 


CRC Association early career researcher awards

December 21, 2015MelanieLatest News0

Each year at the CRC Association annual conference, a number of early career researchers are selected to present their research to the conference. The early career researcher showcases good research, communicated well.

Tenielle Porter, PhD student with the CRC for Mental Health and Edith Cowan University, has submitted her video application where she discusses her research project “Understanding the genetic architecture of rates of change in pre-clinical Alzheimer’s disease”.

Broadcast: Diagnosing Dementia – ABC Big Ideas

November 6, 2015Pierre DaoLatest News0

ABC Radio National has broadcast the Diagnosing Dementia event on its Big Ideas program as a part of the ABC’s Mental As week. Hosted by Paul Barclay, an expert panel spoke about how we might be able to detect and diagnose dementia in the future. They also talked about why this research is an important step forward for finding a treatment and even a cure, and when these techniques might become a reality.

Over the past few years, significant progress has been made towards techniques which could diagnose Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia 10 – 20 years before symptoms occur. A simple blood test, eye imaging, brain scans and memory tests could all be part of the future for a dementia diagnosis. What could they actually tell us, how accurate are they likely to be and if you could know, would you want to?

The panel consisted of:

  • Mr Graeme Samuel (National President, Alzheimer’s Australia)
  • Ms Jenny Lloyd (Consumer, aged 62)
  • Professor Ashley Bush (Chief Scientific Officer, CRC for Mental Health and Head, Oxidation Laboratory, the Florey)
  • Dr Rachel Buckley – (AADRF Fellow, The University of Melbourne)
  • Dr Shaun Frost – (Research Fellow, Preventative Health Flagship, CSIRO)

You can listen to the broadcast here.

Independent review of CRCMH find we are “Clearly addressing issues of economic and social significance to Australia”

August 20, 2015MelanieLatest News0

In June, we underwent a rigorous independent review conducted on behalf of the Department of Industry and Science. A requirement for all CRCs at the mid-way point of funding, the three day review focused on all aspects of the CRC for Mental Health. I’m pleased to share with you highlights of the Panel’s report:

  • “The Panel commends the CRC on its success in bringing together researchers, industry, end users and students into a cohesive and effective organisation in a relatively short period of time… The Panel considers the science undertaken by both programs to be of a very high quality and clearly addresses issues of economic and social significance to Australia.”
  • “The Panel commends the CRC on the strength of its science and acknowledges the high quality of its research. The Panel was also impressed by how the CRC has enabled collaboration across the neurodegenerative and psychoses research programs. In addition, it was impressive to see end users embedded in and engaged with research projects. It is clear that this could not have happened without the CRC.”
  • “The CRCMH’s education strategy is impressive and robust. It is clear that the PhD and early career researchers identify with the CRC and are very appreciative of the opportunities provided by it… It is clear that the breadth and depth of the educational, collaborative and end user experience that students have gained is a tangible legacy of the CRC”.
  • “The CRCMH’s communication strategy is equally impressive. The strategy explaining biomarkers to the general public is one that could be a model adopted by others working in the sector”.

While these comments are highly complementary, it was also clear from the Panel that with only three years of funding remaining it is time to tightly focus our research efforts and accelerate the translation and commercialisation of our research outcomes. This is in keeping with the CRCMH’s long-standing view that our research must have clear pathways to uptake by the medical technologies and pharmaceutical industries. Over the coming months the CRCMH will be engaging with all of our stakeholders to discuss how we build momentum, move our research further along the commercialisation pathway and continue to work with our industry and clinical end user participants to generate the best outcomes possible.

Our thanks go to the independent review panel Professor Suzanne Miller (Chair), Dr Warren King, Dr Carol Dobson-Stone, Professor David Copolov OAM and Professor Sam Gandy MD PhD. We appreciate their diligence and constructive guidance during the review process.

Professor Ian Cooke
Chief Executive Officer
Cooperative Research Centre for Mental Health


Event: Diagnosing Dementia – What Does the Future Hold?

The CRC for Mental Health is pleased to join with the Florey Institute of Neuroscience & Mental Health and Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia Research Foundation to present “Diagnosing Dementia – What Does the Future Hold?” a free public event on 13 August, 6-8pm at the Melbourne Brain Centre . Hosted by Paul Barclay (Host of ABC Big Ideas), an expert panel will discuss the future of detecting and diagnosing dementia, and how this research will help find a treatment.

The panel will consist of:

  • Mr Graeme Samuel (National President, Alzheimer’s Australia)
  • Professor Ashley Bush (Chief Scientific Officer, CRC for Mental Health and Head, Oxidation Laboratory, the Florey)
  • Jenny Lloyd – (Consumer representative)
  • Dr Rachel Buckley – (AADRF Fellow, The University of Melbourne)
  • Dr Shaun Frost – (Research Fellow, Preventative Health Flagship, CSIRO)

This event will be recorded for ABC Radio National.

More information and registrations for the event can be found here.

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Cytox signs research agreement for collaboration to further refine diagnostic SNPs for Alzheimer’s disease

Cytox Ltd, an innovative developer of assays for risk assessment and prediction of dementia, has entered into a collaborative research arrangement with leading Australian neurodegenerative disease research organisations – the Cooperative Research Centre for Mental Health (CRCMH) and Edith Cowan University (ECU), partner organisations to the Australian Imaging, Biomarker & Lifestyle Flagship Study of Ageing (AIBL). The CRCMH undertakes research in respect of the early identification and treatment of neurodegenerative disease, psychoses and mood disorders. ECU leads the genetic programme within AIBL, a study to discover which biomarkers, cognitive characteristics and lifestyle factors determine subsequent development of symptomatic Alzheimer’s disease. This agreement follows on from the recent funding award by Innovate UK to Cytox, Birmingham University and UCL.

Dr. Richard Pither, CEO of Cytox commented, “AIBL is well established as one of the largest, well-characterised, longitudinal cohorts of healthy ageing and cognitive decline in the world. We have already identified candidate single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) based on next generation sequencing (NGS) studies. This agreement will enable us to further refine SNP selection via NGS sequencing on highly characterised patient populations, through access to selected subjects from the AIBL cohort. CRCMH has previously funded research by ECU on whole exome sequencing of AIBL subjects and analysis of mTOR pathway genotypes and their relationship to Alzheimer’s disease clinical, cognitive and amyloid imaging profiles. This partnership is, therefore, the perfect fit with our aim of developing a genetic variation panel for Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) risk stratification. We are confident that the collaboration will contribute significantly to improving the selection of SNPs that are diagnostic and prognostic for Alzheimer’s disease.”

“CRCMH’s main research focus on developing biomarkers which assist in diagnosing these debilitating neurodegenerative diseases before the onset of mental decline,” added Professor Ian Cooke, CEO, CRCMH. “Having already targeted mTOR pathway genotypes with our research partners ECU and AIBL, we are delighted to be working with Cytox, who have recently been awarded Innovate UK funding for their research in this area, and whose approach closely aligns with ours. We look forward to this partnership providing further meaningful diagnostic and prognostic data.”




Australian Science Shines for Pfizer

The CRC for Mental Health was highlighted in the Australian Trade Commission’s case study, ‘Australian Science Shines for Pfizer’. The article features Dr. Daniel Grant (Head of External R&D Innovation Pfizer Australia), as he speaks about Pfizer’s involvement in Australian science, saying “Australia has some of the world’s best academics in areas such as oncology, immunology and neurology.”  Twitter_logo_blue_16 He believes that “creating and maintaining an operating environment that recognises innovation and in turn can attract the growing investment attached to the discovery and development of, in particular, biologics or large molecules, has “the potential to return significant benefits to the Australian economy.” Twitter_logo_blue_16

Pfizer is an important industry participant of the CRC for Mental Health. Dr. Grant describes the work of the CRC as “very exciting” and reaffirms Pfizer’s interest in looking “to grow our interaction with the collaborating partners and in doing so progress the important work of discovering early biomarkers that have the potential to advance the development of new therapies for the treatment of neurodegenerative disease, psychoses, and mood disorders.” He emphasizes that Pfizer has been an “active participant in many of the Australian government’s programs that are designed to support collaborations between companies and academic research groups, such as the Australian Research Council Linkage grants and CRC program,” highlighting the importance of collaborative research in Australia.

Read the full article



Video: web-based repository to improve early detection of mental illnesses

About this video: In this five-minute video, Dr. Noel Faux, molecular biologist and bioinformatician at the CRC for Mental Health talks about the challenges of seeking biomarkers for the early detection of mental illness such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia and, mood disorders.

Dr. Faux talks about a web-based repository the CRC for Mental Health is co-creating with commercial firm, Arcitecta, to improve the early detection of mental illness by simplifying the management and analysis of over 100 terabytes of data stored at 19 different locations, covering longitudinal cohort studies ranging from 2 years to 20 years.

This web-based repository will make it easier for researchers to collaborate and gather information from the participants of a number of studies, many of whom are unable to attend assessment clinics or sites to share information about their illness.

This new system will make it easier to collect data at the bedside (using mobile devices). It will also make it easier to combine these data with the CRC for Mental Health’s existing information taken from body scans, genomic analysis, EEG, blood tests and clinical notes, using a product based on Arcitecta’s Mediaflux data management platform.



InSearch: Unlocking the secrets of Parkinson’s

March 2, 2015MelanieLatest News0

The CRC for Mental Health is pleased to be part of InSearch: Unlocking the secrets of Parkinson’s, a series of research lectures and events across Victoria.

InSearch is a unique opportunity for people living with Parkinson’s, families, carers and health professionals to learn about current international and national research from leading researchers and clinicians.

The 2015 InSearch keynote lecture in Melbourne will be delivered by international guest Dr Ted Dawson (MD, PhD), from John Hopkins University, Baltimore. Dr Dawson has been at the forefront of research into the biology of mutant proteins linked to Parkinson’s. These studies are providing novel opportunities for therapies aimed at preventing the degenerative process of Parkinson’s. In this lecture, Dr Dawson will share his research insights relating to the biological nature of familial Parkinson’s, mechanisms of cell death in Parkinson’s, drug discovery programs and the importance of biomarkers to the future of Parkinson’s research.

When: Wednesday 15 April 2015

Time: Doors open at 5.30pm (finger food and refreshments). Lecture from 6.30 – 7.45pm.

Location: RACV Club, level 17 ballroom, 501 Bourke St, Melbourne.


InSearch is presented by Parkinson’s Victoria, in partnership with the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health and with support from the CRC for Mental Health.