Ground-breaking research into box jellyfish venom has netted a James Cook University research fellow the first $25,000 grant from the Far North Queensland Hospital Foundation.
Foundation CEO Tony Franz said smaller research grants had been awarded by the charity in the past, but this year was the first time a major grant had been offered.
Dr Michael Smout is this year’s recipient of the $25,000 grant and his project aims to explore mechanisms of box jellyfish venom and screen for new drug and antivenom treatments.
“These areas that predominantly feature beaches as a tourist drawcard, like Far North Queensland, can be seen as “dangerous” and lead to incalculable loss of tourist dollars - despite the many protective measures in place such as stinger nets,” Dr Smout said.
“This project aims to produce improved options for future box jellyfish envenomation treatments, reducing the risks to locals and tourists alike. The creation of improved envenomation treatments would go some way in mitigating the perceived “dangerous” aspect of FNQ and potentially boost future FNQ tourism.”
The Foundation also ahas warded a series of grants of up to $3000 to projects covering diverse topics such as: diagnosing dengue and fevers, investigating potential environmental reservoirs of Mycobacteruim ulcerans, using low doses of oral steroids in swimmer’s ear, understanding factors in early childhood that influence obesity, preventing insect-borne diseases with sunlight and treating mood in patients with severe acne.
This year, the Foundation has provided about $60,000 to support the research grants, which are assessed on merit by an expert panel.
Foundation chairman Dr Ken Chapman said it was important to support research funding to help capacity-building within the medical fraternity in Far North Queensland. “These research grants are very important to attract and retain high quality medical and paramedical resources,” Dr Chapman said. “The grants are a small part of what the Foundation does but an invaluable one, and they are specially focussed on tackling major areas of health concern in Far North Queensland,” he said.
Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Board chairman Bob Norman said it was important that health research projects be supported and thanked the Foundation for its contribution. Mr Norman said during the last stinger season, which runs from November to April, 25 patients presented to Emergency Departments as a result of a marine sting. “Every year during stinger season we have patients present to our Emergency Departments across the region for treatment,” Mr Norman said. “Any breakthrough in the treatment of jellyfish stings is great news for the Far Northern community.”
PHOTO: JCU Research Dean Prof Andrew Krockenberger, Foundation CEO Tony Franz, JCU nursing and midwifery Prof Jane Mills, Dr Michael Smout and Foundation chairman Dr Ken Chapman.Back to all news