A research project to study the impact of gender affirming hormone therapy on immune function, led by Associate Professors Ada Cheung and Rachel Davey from the Department of Medicine (Austin Health) at the University of Melbourne, has received a $2.3 million international research grant from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.
Associate Professor Cheung, Associate Professor Rachel Davey, Associate Professor Boris Novakovic from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and Dr Musa Mhlanga from the Radbount Institute for Molecular Life Sciences will study the impact of gender affirming hormone therapy on immune function in transgender adults.
The researchers have all been named as Allen Distinguished Investigators, among 18 worldwide.
The awards represent a total of approximately US $10.5 million in funding from the foundation, as recommended by The Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group, to support cutting-edge, early-stage research projects that seek to advance the fields of biology and medicine.
“In this project, we will investigate how sex hormones change the immune function and risk of infection of transgender individuals undergoing gender affirming hormone therapy,” said Associate Professor Cheung, lead of the Trans Health Reseach group.
“This longitudinal approach will allow researchers to study the action of sex hormones beyond the population level, and to dive deeper into how circulating sex hormones affect individual immune responses.
“Importantly, insights from this study could be used to improve health outcomes for transgender individuals and provide greater understanding into the action of sex hormones on immunity more generally.”
Professor Jane Gunn AO, Dean in the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, congratulated the group on the distinguished award and their work in this area.
“This is an important, growing area of study, led by Associate Professor Cheung and her team,” Professor Gunn said.
“This research is world-leading and this recognition of international funding is a direct reflection of Associate Professor Cheung, and her colleagues, and how highly regarded they are among their peers.”
Associate Professor Novakovic and Associate Professor Cheung have also been awarded a highly competive National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant for $436,000 to study the immune effects of gender affirming hormone therapy.
Associate Professor Cheung’s innovative research is also expanding to understand the impact of hormone therapy on heart size and function, recognised with a Heart Foundation 2024 Vanguard Grant.
These successes are another key acknowledgement of the globally leading research being led by Associate Professor Cheung and the team in the Trans Health Research group.