Reflecting on 2023: awards, funding and feel-good moments  

It’s been another big year at IMPACT, we hosted exciting events, attracted media appearances from across the world and continued to grow our institute both nationally and internationally. Join us in celebrating the year that was 2023 and taking a look back at some of our favourite moments.  

Pint of Science makes a splash

Pint of Science hosted two nights of intriguing talks at Geelong’s Little Creatures during early 2023. This annual event is designed to bring cutting-edge research to the public through casual conversations about science. Keep an eye out for the next event in 2024! 

Dr Kat Aston-Mourney, Alfred Deakin Professor Michael Berk and Dr Bryony McNeill

Brain capital calls for changes to the food industry

Our brain capital researchers brought attention to the issues surrounding the effects of ultra-processed foods and their risk for mental health disorders. Alfred Deakin Professors Felice Jacka and Michael Berk alongside Adjunct Associate Professor Harris Eyre argued that inflammation, oxidative stress, reduction in brain adaptiveness and disruption of the microbiota-gut-brain axis is damaging to our mental health.  

CIIDIR begins to take shape

Barwon Health and Deakin University’s newly formed Centre for Innovation in Infectious Disease and Immunology Research (CIIDIR) began to make headlines this year. The team secured $2.5 million in NHMRC funding for the eradication of Malaria in the Asia-Pacific in November. Find out more about their research and keep up to date here. 

2022 Premier’s Awards for Health and Medical Research

Following on from CIIDIR’s success, Dr Sajal Saha was shortlisted as a finalist for the Premier’s Awards for Health and Medical Research. Dr Saha has made several publications bringing attention to the important topic of antibiotic resistance and antimicrobial stewardship. You can watch the interview with Sajal here.  

Food & Mood Academy

The newly established Food & Mood Academy team were busy this year, hosting seminars and their first masterclass session. The team are working to bring Food & Mood Centre research to life through accessible, practical, and meaningful education. Find out more about their work and stay updated on their seminar dates here. 

Dr Tetyana Rocks presenting at a Food & Mood Academy event

A breakthrough in food allergies

Researchers from Barwon Health, Deakin University and Murdoch Children’s Research Institute found a big piece of the food allergy puzzle this year. Their research highlighted how siblings can speed up the rate at which babies develop their gut microbiome and that this protects them from future allergic diseases! The team, led by Professor Peter Vuillermin, collected poo samples over the course of infancy from more than 1000 infants and then tested whether the children were allergic to five different foods at one year of age. Researcher Yuan Gao completed the research as part of her PhD studies at Deakin University and said the results were striking. 

“Babies with older siblings had a much more mature gut microbiome by one year of age,”  

Dr Gao. 

Barwon Health and Deakin continue to build on more than two decades of achievement

August and September proved to be busy months for the continuously growing relationship between Barwon Health and Deakin. In August, the organisations were announced as part of the Victorian Collaborative Centre for Mental Health and Wellbeing which will grow collaborations between the Institute for Health Transformation (IHT) and the more recent Change to Improve Mental Health (CHIME) Translational Research Partnership. The following month, the duo celebrated more than two decades of achievement with the announcement of Australia’s most innovative Clinician Scientist Pathway 

Nanoneedle breakthrough gives hope for more affordable cancer treatments

Our very own Dr Roey Elnathan, an ARC Future Fellow, successfully found a way to inject beneficial genetic material into white blood cells in a world-first breakthrough that could significantly improve treatment options for certain types of blood cancer. Using tiny (nano)needles 100,000 times less than the width of a human hair, the research team has found a way to eliminate inactive viral vectors for genetically encoding the T cells. Viral vectors are commonly used to deliver genetic material into cells but result in costly treatment delays in current CAR-T cell manufacturing.

Dr Roey Elnathan and Dr Crystal Chen in the lab

A new Clinical Trials space opens to the public

The Health Education & Research Building (HERB) Level 2 fit-out completed its fit-out in late 2023. This exciting project is a collaboration between Barwon Health and Deakin University, resulting in a state-of-the-art facility for health education and research in Geelong CBD. The fit-out includes an open-plan workspace to enable IMPACT’s growing teams to have the space to expand and collaborate with their colleagues. 

HERB Level 2 clinical trial rooms

Showcase 2023

Over 150 IMPACT, Deakin and Barwon Health researchers joined together at Deakin’s Waurn Ponds Estate to celebrate the inspiring research taking place across the institute. Congratulations to our winners: 

  • Best Poster Presentation  
    Awarded to Melissa Lane – Ultra-processed food consumption and mental health: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies 
  • People’s Choice Best Poster Presentation  
    Awarded to Md Rashadul Islam – Identifying early-life epigenetic correlates of neurocognitive outcomes in twins at the age of 11 years 
  • Best 5 Minute Oral Presentation 
    Awarded to Dr Zoe Liu – Baicalin enhanced neuroprotection and mitochondrial function in a human neuronal cell model
  • People’s Choice Best 5 Minute Oral Presentation  
    Awarded to Joyanta Modak – Identification of novel malaria proteins involved in parasite-host cell interactions 

Four researchers listed on the Highly Cited List

The IMPACT team closed the year on a high, with four of our researchers named on the Clarivate Highly Cited Researchers List! Congratulations to Alfred Deakin Professor Felice Jacka OAM, Alfred Deakin Professor Michael Berk, Professor Alison Yung and Dr Andre Caravlho!

And that’s just the beginning…

Beyond the top highlights, there was much more that IMPACT achieved in 2023. To read more on the news that came out of IMPACT this year, explore the articles on our news page.

Also, keep an eye out for our annual report, launching in 2024, for the complete picture of the year that was.