Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation
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2014 Grant Recipient Researchers

In 2014, our Grants Program awarded more than $3 million in research grants and career development awards to researchers across the globe.

Dr Suzie Miller

Dr Suzie Miller

Monash University, Hudson Institute of Medical Research

Project Grant 2014
$134,722 over 1 year
Does postnatal administration of amnion epithelial cells (AECs) improve the structure and function of the neurovascular unit in preterm IUGR lambs?

We propose that preterm birth and ventilation causes instability of blood vessels within the intrauterine growth restricted (IUGR) brain, due to an adverse reaction of the brain’s astrocytes. When the astrocytes become activated, they lose their ability to structurally support blood vessels, allowing inflammatory cells to infiltrate the brain via leaky blood vessels, and causing white matter injury. Administration of amnion epithelial stem cells soon after preterm birth will prevent astrocyte reactivity and brain injury in IUGR preterm infants.

Dr Beth Allison

Dr Beth Allison

Monash University, Hudson Institute of Medical Research

Project Grant 2014
$199,584 over 2 years
Do the cardiovascular differences in growth restricted infants, underlie brain and systemic morbidities: A possible new avenue to improve therapies?

Intrauterine growth restricted (IUGR) preterm infants have an increased risk of death and long-term disease. Growth restriction alters cardiovascular function in utero as an adaptation to persisting suboptimal conditions (e.g. hypoxia). Little or no data details how sustained cardiovascular changes in utero impact on cardiovascular function in the newborn period. We contend that adverse cardiovascular and vascular development fundamentally changes the cardiovascular system and therefore clinical management of IUGR infants needs to be altered to reflect an altered cardiovascular system.

Emily Bain

Ms Emily Bain

The University of Adelaide

Project Grant 2014
$22,000 over 2 years
Interventions during the antenatal and neonatal period to prevent cerebral palsy: an overview of Cochrane systematic reviews

For almost 95% of individuals with cerebral palsy, damage to their brain occurred prior to their birth or in the 28 days after they were born (the neonatal period). Therefore, developing and assessing strategies (in pregnancy and the neonatal period) to prevent cerebral palsy is extremely important. This project aims to summarise all evidence from Cochrane systematic reviews on the effects of pregnancy and neonatal interventions for cerebral palsy prevention, and will assist in determining promising strategies for the future.

Anna Penn

Associate Professor Anna Penn

Children’s National Medical Center, Washington DC

Project Grant 2014
$249,853 over 3 years
Protection and repair of preterm cerebellum by allopregnanolone

This project combines clinical and scientific research aimed at developing new evidence-based strategies to prevent brain injury leading to cerebral palsy (CP) in premature infants.

Tamara Yawno

Dr Tamara Yawno

Monash University, Hudson Institute of Medical Research

Project Grant 2014
$251,550 over 3 years
Ganaxolone: A new treatment for neonatal seizures

Around 1 in 10 Australian newborns have fits each year and lack of oxygen is the most common cause. They can be difficult to identify and it is unclear what is the best treatment. They occur in the babies with the worst injury. This project will use a sheep model of premature injury from low oxygen to examine a new treatment, ganaxolone, as a treatment for neonatal seizures.

Deborah Thorpe

Associate Professor Deborah Thorpe

The University of North Carolina

Project Grant 2014
$100,000 over 2 years
Testing novel measures of community function and participation in adults with cerebral palsy

This project investigates the relationship between GPS measures of community integration, accessibility, and function for adults with CP in Australia and the US. Participants will use accelerometers to measure activity intensity and GPS trackers to capture amount of time away from home, distance travelled, and locations visited for seven days. GIS technology will integrate GPS travel data to create maps of activity locations. Qualitative interviews will assess the importance of and experience of activities and barriers to integration for adults with CP.

Manon Benders

Dr Manon Benders

Wilhelmina Children’s Hospital Utrecht, The Netherlands

Project Grant 2014
$241,450 over 3 years
Reduction of Brain damage after Perinatal arterial ischemic stroke with recombinant human Erythropoeitin (rhEPO)

PAIS has been associated with adverse outcome in affected neonates, most often unilateral spastic cerebral palsy and is therefore a serious problem. In several experimental studies and in one adult study with stroke patients, EPO reduced adverse outcomes. Moreover, neonatal EPO treatment is considered safe. We aim to investigate in neonates with MRI confirmed PAIS whether or not (early) treatment with rhEPO will improve short term (measured by using advanced MRI techniques), and long-term motor/ cognitive outcome.

Cally Tann

Dr Cally Tann

University College London Hospital

Project Grant 2014
$28,060 over 2 years
Developing an early intervention programme for infants affected by newborn brain injury in Uganda

The proposed study aims to develop and pilot a low-cost, early intervention rehabilitation programme to improve the health, participation and quality of life of children and their families affected by birth asphyxia in Uganda.

Koa Whittingham

Dr Koa Whittingham

The University of Queensland

Project Grant 2014
$150,000 over 2 years
Parenting Acceptance and Commitment Therapy ‘PACT’: innovative, web-based support for families of children with Cerebral Palsy

Our aim is to test the efficacy of an innovative and translatable family support package: Parenting Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (PACT) for families of young children with CP. We predict that PACT will have benefits to parent, child and family functioning by leveraging the understanding, skills and the day to day interactions within the family system. PACT is consistent with the philosophy of family-centred care and, if effective, could be used to empower parents of children with CP worldwide.

Leanne Johnston

Dr Leanne Johnston

Student: Ms Rosalee Dewar

The University of Queensland

Project Grant 2014 (Doctoral Research Scholarship)
$83,484 over 3 years
Children’s Motor Control Research Collaborative (CMCRC): EXCITE program

Aim: Characterise postural control dysfunction in school-aged children with CP and develop an effective and engaging exercise intervention that enhances function and promotes life-long participation.

Progress & Plan: A collaborative research program has been developed with expertise from Allied Health, Medicine, Population Health and Telerehabilitation.

Assessment Phase: Validity & reproducibility of postural control assessment for adolescents with CP

Intervention Phase: Efficacy of postural control exercise for adolescents with CP

Alicia Spittle

Dr Alicia Spittle

Murdoch Childrens Research Institute

IMPACT for CP Macquarie Group Grant
$129,090 over 3 years
The feasibility of smart-phones in the early detection of cerebral palsy

This grant will develop a smart-phone application (app) that can be used to assess the quality of infants’ movements using the General Movements assessment, the most valid and reliable method for detecting infants at risk of cerebral palsy (CP) in the first 3 months of life. We will test the feasibility of the app in approximately 500 children born preterm or with hypoxic-ischaemic encephalopathy.

Hannah Glass

Associate Professor Hannah Glass

The University of California, San Francisco

IMPACT for CP Macquarie Group Grant
$200,000 over 4 years
Improving Early Identification of CP in Term Neonates Using Magnetic Resonance Imaging and General Movements Assessment

Cerebral palsy (CP) can be identified and treated early in infancy, however the diagnosis is usually not made until late in the 2nd year of life. The aim of this proposal is to determine the accuracy of MRI and the General Movements Assessment for early identification of CP, as well as pattern and severity of disability among high risk term infants. Early identification will allow implementation of interventional therapies at a time of high brain plasticity, and alter the developmental trajectory.

Gulam Khandaker

Dr Gulam Khandaker

The Children’s Hospital at Westmead

Career Development Grant
$48,700 over 2 years

This grant will enable Dr Khandaker to link NSW Cerebral Palsy Register data (all cerebral palsy cases registered in NSW between 2001 and 2011) with the existing birth cohort from NSW to define the aetiology, risk factors and outcomes of children with cerebral palsy related to CNS infections. The grant will provide further training in data linkage, allowing him to carry out innovative research on infectious causes of childhood disability including cerebral palsy.

Mary Tolcos

Dr Mary Tolcos

Monash University, Hudson Institute of Medical Research

Career Development Grant
$50,000 over 1 year

Dr Mary Tolcos’ ambition is to make a significant contribution to the understanding of the neurodevelopmental processes that underlie brain injury and contribute to cerebral palsy with the explicit intention to devise, assess and implement safe, effective and novel therapeutic strategies. This grant will enable her to undertake fundamental research to make the scientific discoveries necessary for clinical translation and preclinical studies using novel therapeutic strategies.

Hayley Dickinson

Dr Hayley Dickinson

Monash University, Hudson Institute of Medical Research

Career Development Grant
$160,000 over 2 years

Dr Hayley Dickinson’s research is aimed at saving babies lives and reducing the long-term burden (health, emotional and economic) of major perinatal conditions such as birth asphyxia, preterm birth and growth restriction. She is uniquely placed to carry out this research, using the research tools she has developed to deliver real outcomes that will change clinical practice. This grant will assist in the implementation of a clinical trial to test the effectiveness of maternal creatine supplementation to protect human newborns from tissue injury late in gestation and enable her to translate her research outcomes in to better care of the unborn baby and newborn infant.

David Walker

Associate Professor David Walker

Monash University, Hudson Institute of Medical Research

CPARA 2014 Distinguished Researcher Award / Career Development Grant
$100,000 over 2 years

Associate Professor David Walker’s research is overwhelmingly aimed at preventing the occurrence of brain injury in late gestation, at birth, and in the immediate postnatal period to reduce the long-term burdens for the child and family that arise either from poor fetal growth, being born too soon, oxygen deprivation at birth, or during the difficult process of neonatal resuscitation. This grant will provide for the continuation of important projects such as ‘creatine as a prophylactic treatment to obviate or prevent hypoxic-ischaemic brain damage at birth’, ‘activated Protein C as a postnatal therapy to limit hypoxic-ischaemic damage and promote repair of the damaged newborn brain’, ‘thyroid hormone analogues to promote the development of white matter and myelination in the preterm brain and growth-retarded brain after birth’ and ‘use of minocycline and related drugs to suppress microglial activation after hypoxia and infection- induced brain damage’.

Gulam Khandaker

Child Sight Foundation, Bangladesh

$30,000 over 1 year

The aim is to establish and host the Bangladesh CP Register by utilising the available infrastructure from the Australian Cerebral Palsy Register. This register will facilitate future studies on prevalence, severity, aetiology, associated impairments and risk factors for CP in Bangladesh.

NHMRC  Co-Funded Grants:

Flora Wong

Dr Flora Wong

Monash University

$102,942 over 4 years (50% funding)

NHMRC Career Development Fellowship – Clinical (Part-Time 50%) – Co-Funded by Cerebral Palsy Alliance
Project Title: Fetal and neonatal therapy to improve perinatal outcome and long-term neurodevelopment

Mrs Emma Grace

Flinders University

$38,144 over 3 years (50% funding)

NHMRC Postgraduate Scholarship (Full-Time) – Co-Funded by Cerebral Palsy Alliance
Project Title: Participation in online conversations by young people with disabilities who are non-speaking: Does e-mentoring work?