Research Grant Program

2022 DRWA Research Funding Awards - awarded 15th November 2021

Mary Abraham.jpgKevin Pfleger.jpg

Clinical/Translational Research Grant

Mary Abraham A.jpgDr Mary Abraham (pictured right) from the Telethon Kids Institute and Perth Children’s Hospital has secured $60,000 from our 2022 Diabetes Research Grants program to launch a pilot study into the use of oral insulin in type 1 diabetes – a medication intervention that could be a game-changer for those with the chronic condition.

Oral insulin had so far predominantly been tested in those with type 2 diabetes while insulin injections or insulin pump therapy are the cornerstone of type 1 diabetes treatment but still, most people remain unable to achieve optimal blood glucose levels, so there’s a very real need to improve on treatment.

Oral insulin has enormous benefits of being a non-invasive form of insulin and offers the hope of reducing the risk of blood sugar levels falling dangerously low in people with diabetes, and it may also help to minimise weight gain that can be an issue with subcutaneous insulin because it causes high insulin levels in the body. It is also believed oral insulin may reduce the long-term risk of diabetes-related vascular complications, as well as possibly restore beta cell function.

This 12-week study aimed to see if oral insulin could be used alongside injected insulin. The success of oral insulin has so far been limited due to absorption issues. This trial of an improved oral drug delivery system has been designed to overcome this challenge. If it can be used to reduce the amount of insulin that needs to be injected by people with type 1 diabetes or mean they require less total insulin, this would be a very welcome breakthrough.

Basic/Fundamental Science Research Grant

kevin and liz B copy.jpg$60,000 has been awarded for a project investigating a new way to tackle disease-inducing chronic inflammation linked to type 2 diabetes.

Professor Pfleger, Dr Elizabeth Johnstone (pictured left) and the Molecular Endocrinology and Pharmacology Laboratory team at the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research, in collaboration with colleagues at Monash University, hope to reduce health complications of type 2 diabetes by blocking a newly-discovered pathway.

Inflammation is increased in type 2 diabetes and we’ve found this pathway effectively stokes the fires of inflammation in the body, making it burn more fiercely, increasing the risk of it getting out of control and causing collateral health damage.

The group has found that key proteins on the surface of cells involved in chronic inflammation – known as Immunoglobulin-like Cell Adhesion Molecules – are turned on by a process called transactivation when other G protein-coupled receptor molecules on the cell surface are themselves turned on. They aim is to develop smart inhibitors of this pathway in order to keep inflammation under control and, in doing so, treat and prevent type 2 diabetes complications, such as atherosclerosis – which is the formation of fatty deposits in arteries – and kidney disease.

This new funding will support research into the underlying molecular mechanisms driving this transactivation process and test peptides that modulate the pathway, to expand the number of potential type 2 diabetes drug targets.

Additionally, the work will involve use of BRET – bioluminescence resonance energy transfer – technology, which Professor Pfleger’s laboratory is a world-leader in using to study protein-protein interactions.

2021 Diabetes Research Program

  • Clinical/translational Research - $60,000

Aleksandra Filipovska.jpg

West Australian researchers will use this funding to investigate how a single gene change causes insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

The research by University of WA Professor Aleksandra Filipovska, supported by a newly-announced $60,000 grant from Diabetes Research WA, will also look at how diet and exercise may be able to target a gene change to reveal ways to prevent and manage the onset of type 2 diabetes.

You can read more here

  • Fundamental/basic science - $60,000

HPIOMR GIRISH-65 copy.jpg

Dr Girish Dwivedi from Fiona Stanley Hospital and The Harry Perkins Institute for Medical Research will carry out a world-leading trial that could reduce the chances of people with type 2 diabetes who’ve had a heart attack suffering further heart failure.

This research will focus on a new class of medications known as sodium-glucose co-transporter-2 inhibitors (SGLT2Is), and could also ultimately benefit those with type 1 diabetes.

You can read more here

2020 Diabetes Research Program

Two new research projects announced at the DRWA Research Reveal Breakfast held in Crawley on World Diabetes Day (14th Nov).
  • Julia Marley.jpgClinical/translational Research - $60,000

Associate Professor Julia Marley from the Rural Clinical School of WA has received $60,000 towards her research into improving screening for high blood sugar level (hyperglycaemia) in pregnancy in rural and remote women.
This could lead to better antenatal care and improve the outcome for mothers and their babies.         
You can read more about this research here.
  • Fundamental/basic science - $60,000 

   Lakshini 2019 crop.jpg 
Associate Researcher Lakshini Herat and her team have received $60,000 to investigate a new class of drugs (SGLT2 inhibitor).
These drugs are used safely across many areas and this project will see if they can safely reduce blindness in diabetes-related eye disease (diabetic retinopathy).                       
You can read more about this grant here


These research grants are only made possible due to the valued generosity of our supporters and donors. We, the researchers and scientists, are indebted to all for these gifts no matter how large or small.
On behalf of Team DRWA, thank you!

2019 Diabetes Research Program

Three research grants were awarded in three categories for 2019 at the 'Being Extraordinary & Breaking Down Barriers' breakfast on World Diabetes Day.
  • Clinical/translational Research - $60,000

Aveni.jpgDr Aveni Haynes, Research Fellow from the Children's Diabetes Centre at the Telethon Kids Institute has been provided with a $60,000 project grant to investigate if continuous glucose monitoring

(CGM - reading blood glucose levels) in children at high risk of developing type 1 diabetes but who are not showing any clinical signs of the condition. This will provide information that will guide future type 1 diabetes prevention strategies.   

You can read more here  

  • Fundamental/basic science - $60,000 

Kevin Pfleger 1.jpgAssociate Professor Kevin Pfleger; Director, Biomedical Innovation from The University of Western Australia (UWA) and Head of Molecular Endocrinology and Pharmacology at the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research  Molecular Endocrinology and Pharmacology.

This project will progress their work into a molecule called RAGE (the receptor for advanced Glycation End-products) which is only present in cells that are damaged like in type 2 diabetes. The aim is to find ways to inhibit this and prevent complications from developing.

You can read more here.


  • New Category - Extended Research - $60,000Vance_Matthews.jpg

Dr Vance Mathews: Senior Research Fellow and Head of Basic Science at the Dobney Hypertension Centre within the MRF at R0yal Perth Hospital

Dr Mathews and his team will further their research into how the lack of protein TNFSF14 is associated with obesity and type 2 diabetes. This could be a new treatment for both of these health conditions following early results and indications.

You can read more here

2018 Diabetes Research Grants

Two new research projects were announced at the DRWA World Diabetes Day event.
  • 1x Clinical/translational Research - $60,000Yogesan.jpg

Artificial intelligence diagnosing of retinopathy (blindness) in a GP clinic - Professor Yogisan Kanagasingam (CSIRO)

Detecting the early changes to your eyes from diabetes is vital to prevent blindness. Professor Yogisan Kanagasinam and colleagues from the CSIRO have developed an eye camera that can be used in GP clinics to detect any changes quickly and easily. Images already captured will be checked for accuracy. Following any software changes the cameras will be rolled out for GP clinics. Read more here

  • 1 x Fundamental/basic science - $60,000

Prescribed statins, gut microbiota and increased risk of type 2 diabetes -  Professor Fergal O'Gara  (Curtin University)

Fergal OGara.jpg

Do statins increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes? Professor Fergal O'Gara and his team at Curtin University will investigate whether this is linked to changes in the gut microbiota caused by statin use.

Read more here


2017 Research Grants

Karen_Rothacker-2.jpg'The effect of hyperglycaemia in standard and low insulin states on exercise performance compared to exercise performance in euglycaemia'
Dr Karen Rothacker, Princess Margaret Hospital

The aims of this project are to investigate whether exercise performance in patients with type 1 diabetes is affected by exercising with a high blood glucose level and whether exercising with a high blood glucose level with normal insulin compared to high blood glucose level with low insulin affects exercise performance.

You can read more here

Vance_Matthews-2.jpg'Role of the sympathetic nervous system in regulation of sodium-glucose co-transporter 2: implications for type 2 diabetes'
- Assistant Professor Vance Mathews UWA

The aim of this research is to identify and develop therapeutic targets for treating obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Read more here

2016 diabetes research projects

Two $75,000 diabetes research project grants were awarded for 2016

Shelley_Gorman-2.jpgSunlight, nitric oxide, obesity and type 2 diabetes: exploring the role of brown adipose tissue - Dr Shelley Gorman; from The Kids Institute in Perth, WA

This study will significantly improve our understanding of the mechanisms of action of sun exposure, and its important potential for clinical application.

These results will contribute towards the evidence-­‐base for health policies promoting activity and exercise outdoors, with sun exposure a key element in a framework to address lifestyle changes for type-­‐2 diabetes and obesity prevention. Our findings will also inform future intervention studies in humans that test the efficacy of sun exposure for reducing signs of type-­‐2 diabetes and obesity. By understanding these metabolic pathways modulated by ultraviolet radiation, this may open the door for new therapeutics for type-­‐2 diabetes and obesity.

Results from this research suggest that the effects of UVR on the development of signs of type-2 diabetes may not be dependent on the genetic background of the individual (or mouse). However, we stress that these findings are preliminary, and the analysis of a further experiment is still pending.

Grant_Morahan-2.jpgPredicting which people with diabetes are at risk for heart disease
- Professor Grant Morahan; from the WA Centre for Diabetes Research in Perth, WA.

Professor Morahan and his team are working on developing a genetic test that will predict the risk of heart disease in people with type 2 diabetes decades before it develops giving people the best opportunity to prevent such an occurrence.

This research is ongoing and we look forward to updating this research in due course.

2015 diabetes research projects - two $75,000 research grants

Gerard_Hoyne-2.jpgExamine the functional role Cdk4 gene plays in regulating beta-cell islet cell homeostasis
Associate Professor Gerard Hoyne; The University of Notre Dame Australia in Fremantle, WA

Professor Hoyne suspects a mutant protein could be triggering type 1 diabetes in patients who display no signs of an autoimmune attack, the usual cause of type 1 diabetes.

Most people with type 1 diabetes develop the disease when their body’s own immune system mistakenly destroys insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas but in some patients, that’s not the case. These people show no evidence of autoimmune markers in the blood so what’s triggering their diabetes, and the death of their beta cells, is a mystery.

Preliminary studies have revealed the recessive gene mutation caused a protein error that led to a critical loss in insulin production due to the premature death of islet beta cells. This eventually leads to the mice developing diabetes so part of the project also aims to uncover why this protein, which is much longer than normal, doesn’t work correctly and how it shortens the lifespan of beta cells and affects insulin secretion, he explained. Professor Hoyne has known for some time that Cdk4 is a diabetes susceptibility gene but unravelling this part of the mystery could improve the treatment of type 1 diabetes in the future, in particular with regards to creating important islet cell transplant therapies.

Aron_Chakera-2.jpgA randomized trial to improve and protect beta cells following kidney transplant
- Dr Aron Chakera; Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital Nedlands, WA

Dr Chakera is set to investigate if early intervention can help markedly reduce the number of kidney transplant patients who develop type 2 diabetes. Dr Chakera is also the head of translational renal research at the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research in Nedlands.

Post-transplant diabetes mellitus (PTDM) affects up to one in two kidney transplant patients within a year of receiving their new organ and is linked to poorer graft and patient outcomes and an increased risk of death. Uncovering ways to reduce the number of patients who develop it is very important.

PTDM is believed to be triggered by increased insulin resistance and reduced insulin secretion, both of which can be side effects of the immunosuppressive drugs given to transplant patients to reduce the chances of their body rejecting their new organ. Traditionally, doctors concerned about PTDM have started with lifestyle modifications for patients with other risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes such as obesity, and focused on optimising immunosuppressant therapy, progressing to drugs or insulin therapy to lower blood glucose levels if needed. The concern with this approach is it exposes many patients to significantly elevated blood glucose levels for many weeks which can spark complications, with some studies showing high blood sugar in the immediate period after transplantation can be a risk factor for acute rejection.

This clinical trial aims to discover the best method for the earlier introduction of medications to help stabilise blood sugar levels by bringing insulin or the drug sitagliptin combined with metformin into the post-transplant treatment regime earlier. It is hoped this will better protect the body’s insulin-producing beta cells and bring down the rates of PTDM.

2014 diabetes research projects

Grant_Morahan-2.jpgPredicting risk of developing type 1 diabetes and diabetes complications
- Professor Grant Morahan; The Centre for Diabetes Research

Professor Grant Morahan and his team have been working on finding a method to predict who will develop type 1 diabetes and who will go on to develop complications from diabetes. The belief is that this information lies in our genes.

Research will be conducted in conjunction with Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital whereby people who have had their DNA tested for T1 diabetes makers before will be asked to have their DNA tested for markers associated with kidney disease.

Brothers and sisters will also be asked to participate and have their DNA tested. If enough people get involved a test could be developed to predict which siblings are at low risk of developing diabetes.

Vance_Matthews-2.jpgDeveloping treatments for obesity-induced diabetes - 'diabesity'
- Assistant Professor Vance Mathews; Harry Perkins Institute for Medical Research

Type 2 diabetes is a major health issue and needs urgent attention. It is of critical importance new treatments are developed to tackle and decrease type 2 diabetes.

Work from this group has implicated a number of circulating proteins in both obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Current work focuses on the circulating protein called TNFSF14. A team in The Laboratory for Metabolic Dysfunction has demonstrated that the protein TNFSF14 is increased when obesity and type 2 diabetes exists but the exact role of this protein is not known.

Investigations will now take place into the role of this protein in obesity and type 2 diabetes

The Specific Aims of the Project are to:

  • Determine whether TNFSF14 protein from bone marrow cells reduces high-fat diet-induced obesity and type 2 diabetes.
  • Ascertain whether circulating levels of TNFSF14 protein have decreased after weight loss has reversed type 2 diabetes in humans.

The exciting studies proposed have an overall aim of identifying new treatments for obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Ongoing research projects


Developing functional insulin-producing cells - ongoing research
Professor Grant Morahan & Associate Professor Fang-Xu Jiang: Centre for Diabetes Research

Understanding what role the protein 'SLIRP' plays in diabetes complications
Professor Peter Leedman; WAIMR


Following the natural life of diabetes, the associated complications and other data in early adult life in childhood-onset type 1 diabetes.
Associate Professor Elizabeth Davis and Matt Cooper - Telethon Kids Institute


Predicting risks and outcomes of diabetes - part of ongoing research at the Centre for Diabetes Research
Professor Grant Morahan: The Centre for Diabetes Research


Identifying markers of cognitive decline in type 2 diabetes - due for completion late 2015
Nicole Milne; recipient of the Alex Cohen Diabetes Scholarship UWA


Understanding the development of diabetic retinopathy - now complete. Report available soon
Lakshini Weeraekera, Alex Cohen Diabetes Scholarship; The Centre for Diabetes Research


to advance research
to help find a cure
to raise awareness