Profiles

David Howells

UTAS Home Professor David Howells

David Howells

Professor in Neurosciences and Brain Plasticity

Medical Sciences Precinct, Hobart CBD Campuses

+61 3 6226 4850 (phone)

David.Howells@utas.edu.au

Professor Howells joined the University of Tasmania in 2015 as Professor in Neurosciences and Brain Plasticity for the School of Medicine. Prof Howells is one of the world's authorities on preclinical stroke research. His work is innovative and highly competitive allowing him to publish in the highest ranking journals and is highly supported by competitive National and International funding. His work is well regarded by his peers, leading to invitations to speak at prestigious scientific meetings and allowing him to contribute significantly to the direction of his field and to establish influential International collaborations.

Prof Howells aims to provide a research strategy that will improve preclinical translational success. This can be achieved by adopting a systematic approach to translational research. His research is designed to: 

  1. Understand more about why it has proven to be so difficult to develop drugs for stroke 
  2. Identify the best molecular targets for future intervention 
  3. Employ novel techniques to identify the best available candidate drugs for these targets
  4. Exploit the world's first multinational stroke research consortium to test the best candidates with the rigor required to justify progression to clinical trial

Biography

Professor Howells began his career at the University of London where he investigated the biochemical and genetic basis of dopamine and serotonin deficits in children. David relocated to Australia in 1988 to take up a Postdoctoral position at the Murdoch Institute in Melbourne where he progressed his work to become a senior scientist in the Enzymology/Metabolism laboratory. In 1992, David was made Head of the Neurogeneration Research Laboratory at the University of Melbourne.

Prior to joining the University of Tasmania, Prof Howells was a Senior Principal Research Fellow at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience, Melbourne (2010-). Through the course of his career David has established major international collaborations which pioneered the use of systematic review and meta-analysis to understand the difficulties basic science faces in translational medicine and developed the world's first multinational stroke research consortium to test candidate drugs with the rigor required to justify clinical trial. David has led research projects that discovered a new population of dopamine neurons in humans; demonstrated a BDNF deficit in Parkinson's disease that also causes Parkinsonism in rats; discovered that macrophages/microglia promote and guide axonal regeneration; improved the modelling and assessment of stroke and spinal cord injury; and established a collaborative stroke biomarker discovery program.

Career summary

Qualifications

  • PhD, University of London, UK. 1988 Thesis: Analysis of pterins in children with neurological disease.
  • BSc (Hons), North East Surrey College of Technology, UK. 1984 Thesis: Effects of noradrenalin on the deiodination of thyroxine to tri-iodothyronine by brown adipose tissue of the rat.

Memberships

Professional practice

  • American Society for Neural Transplantation and Repair
  • Australian Association of Neurologists
  • Australian Neuroscience Society
  • International Trauma Society
  • Society for Neuroscience, USA
  • Stroke Society of Australasia

Administrative expertise

Through his role as Associate Director, Member of the Executive and Head of the Stroke Division of The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health David held administrative responsibility for a team of 80 basic and clinical scientists.

Prof Howells reviews for the NHMRC, MRC, Wellcome Trust, Neurological Foundation of New Zealand, Stroke Foundation and National Heart Foundation and is a regular member of the NZ HRC Neuroscience Expert Panel and has served on an NHMRC GRP. Prof Howells regularly reviews for 40 journals and is on the editorial boards of 5 journals. David is the Editor in Chief of Evidence Based Preclinical Medicine which was launched by Wiley in May 2014. In addition, David is a member of 3 international and 3 national discipline societies and have organised major scientific meetings for these bodies.

As an enthusiastic science communicator Prof Howells engages with the broader community through lectures to the general public and interviews to magazines and television. Prof Howells was responsible for the organisation of a Victorian Government sponsored public outreach program for school children.

Teaching

neuroscience, brain plasticity, stroke, good-laboratory practice, systematic review

Research Appointments

  • Beijing Institute for Brain Disorders, Adjunct Professor, Facuty Member (2013-present)
  • Health Research Council (HRC) of New Zealand, College of Experts, Foundation Member (2012-present)
  • University of Melbourne FMHDS, Principle Research Fellow, Honorary (2012-present)
  • University of Melbourne & Florey Institute of Neuroscience, Scientific Services Management Committee Chairman (2012-present)
  • Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Heath, Stroke Division Head, Institute Management (2010-present)
  • Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Heath, Associate Director, Institute Management (2010-present)
  • Health Research Council (HRC) of New Zealand, Expert Panel Member (2008-2012)
  • Newcastle University Centre for Brain and Mental Health, Research Advisory Board, Board Member (2008-present)
  • NHMRC, Senior Research Fellow-B, Personal Award (2006-present)
  • University of Melbourne, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences (FMDHS), Equity and Staff Development Committee, Member (2006-2009)
  • University of Melbourne Dept of Medicine (Austin), Ph.D. Co-ordinator, Chairman (2005-2007)
  • Austin Biomedical Alliance Animal Facility, Technical Advisory Group, Member (2004-2006)
  • CCRE Clinical Research in Neuroscience Course, Development Committee, Member (2004-2006)
  • University of Melbourne, Faculty of Medicine Grant Mentoring Scheme, Member (2004-2010)
  • Austin Health, Animal House Users Committee, Chairman (2002-2004)
  • National Stroke Research Institute, Management Committee, Member (2001-2010)
  • Austin Hospital, Animal House Management Committee, Member (2004-2008)
  • NHMRC, Senior Research Fellow-A, Personal Award (2001-2006)
  • National Stroke Research Institute, Intellectual Property Committee, Member (2003-2010)

View more on Professor David Howells in WARP

Expertise

  • Neuroscience 
  • Brain Plasticity
  • Axonal regeneration
  • Stroke
  • Translational research
  • Parkinson's Disease
  • Biomarker discovery

Research Themes

Prof Howells's research interests are strongly aligned with the University's key theme of Better Health.

Collaboration

Prof Howells has established major international collaborations which pioneered the use of systematic review and meta-analysis to understand the difficulties basic science faces in translational medicine and developed the world's first multinational stroke research consortium to test candidate drugs with the rigor required to justify clinical trial.

Fields of Research

  • Central Nervous System (110903)
  • Neurology and Neuromuscular Diseases (110904)
  • Neurosciences (110999)
  • Medical and Health Sciences (119999)
  • Clinical Sciences (110399)
  • Orthopaedics (110314)
  • Medical Biotechnology Diagnostics (incl. Biosensors) (100402)
  • Public Health and Health Services (111799)
  • Medical Physics (029903)
  • Signal Transduction (060111)
  • Systems Physiology (111603)
  • Radiology and Organ Imaging (110320)
  • Cardiology (incl. Cardiovascular Diseases) (110201)

Research Objectives

  • Nervous System and Disorders (920111)
  • Expanding Knowledge in the Medical and Health Sciences (970111)
  • Cardiovascular System and Diseases (920103)
  • Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences (970106)
  • Diagnostic Methods (920203)
  • Surgical Methods and Procedures (920118)
  • Cancer and Related Disorders (920102)
  • Diabetes (920104)
  • Neurodegenerative Disorders Related to Ageing (920112)

Publications

Prof Howells publishes frequently and in quality journals with over 140 peer-reviewed journal articles including recent papers in Nature and Lancet and in high ranking specialist journals such as Annals of Neurology and Stroke. In 2012 and 2013, he published 10 and 11 articles respectively including a Nature paper. In 2014 he published 13 papers including one in Lancet. 32 of his papers have been cited >50 times, and 14 >100 times. Prof Howells's work has been the subject of editorials in Nature, Annals of Neurology, Nature Clinical Practice, the Dow Jones, New Scientist and the UK Daily Telegraph.

Total publications

29

Journal Article

(29 outputs)
YearCitationAltmetrics
2016Nguyen VA, Carey LM, Giummarra L, Faou P, Cooke I, et al., 'A pathway proteomic profile of ischemic stroke survivors reveals innate immune dysfunction in association with mild symptoms of depression - a pilot study', Frontiers in Neurology, 7 Article 85. ISSN 1664-2295 (2016) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.3389/fneur.2016.00085 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 2Web of Science - 1

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2016Watzlawick R, Rind J, Sena ES, Brommer B, Zhang T, et al., 'Olfactory Ensheathing Cell Transplantation in Experimental Spinal Cord Injury: Effect size and Reporting Bias of 62 Experimental Treatments: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis', PLoS biology, 14, (5) Article e1002468. ISSN 1544-9173 (2016) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1002468 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 5Web of Science - 6

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2015Carey LM, Crewther S, Salvado O, Linden T, Connelly A, et al., 'STroke imAging pRevention and treatment (START): A longitudinal stroke cohort study: Clinical trials protocol', International journal of stroke : official journal of the International Stroke Society, 10, (4) pp. 636-44. ISSN 1747-4930 (2015) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1111/ijs.12190 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 6Web of Science - 6

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2015Kleikers PWM, Hooijmans C, Gob E, Langhauser F, Rewell SSJ, et al., 'A combined pre-clinical meta-analysis and randomized confirmatory trial approach to improve data validity for therapeutic target validation', Scientific Reports, 5 pp. 1-12. ISSN 2045-2322 (2015) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1038/srep13428 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 13Web of Science - 14

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2015MacLeod MR, McLean AL, Kyriakopoulou A, Serghiou S, de Wilde A, et al., 'Risk of Bias in Reports of In Vivo Research: A Focus for Improvement', Public Library of Science Biology, 13, (11) Article e1002273. ISSN 1544-9173 (2015) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1002273 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 47Web of Science - 55

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2015McCann SK, Irvine C, Mead GE, Sena ES, Currie GL, et al., 'Efficacy of antidepressants in animal models of ischemic stroke: a systematic review and meta-analysis', Stroke: A Journal of Cerebral Circulation, 45, (10) pp. 3055-63. ISSN 0039-2499 (2015) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.114.006304 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 16Web of Science - 15

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2015Pascoe MC, Howells DW, Crewther DP, Carey LM, Crewther SG, 'Fish oil supplementation associated with decreased cellular degeneration and increased cellular proliferation 6 weeks after middle cerebral artery occlusion in the rat', Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, 11 pp. 153-164. ISSN 1176-6328 (2015) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.2147/NDT.S72925 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 3Web of Science - 2

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2014Antonic A, Dottori M, Leung J, Sidon K, Batchelor PE, et al., 'Hypothermia protects human neurons', International Journal of Stroke, 9, (5) pp. 544-552. ISSN 1747-4930 (2014) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1111/ijs.12224 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 10Web of Science - 10

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2014Ardpradja K, Yeoh SD, O'Keefe G, Rigopoulos A, Howells DW, et al., 'Detection of activated platelets in a mouse model of carotid artery thrombosis with 18F-labeled single-chain antibodies', Nuclear Medicine and Biology, 41, (3) pp. 229-237. ISSN 0969-8051 (2014) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1016/j.nucmedbio.2013.12.006 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 7Web of Science - 6

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2014Chalmers I, Bracken MB, Djulbegovic B, Garattini S, Grant J, et al., 'How to increase value and reduce waste when research priorities are set', The Lancet, 383, (9912) pp. 156-165. ISSN 0140-6736 (2014) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(13)62229-1 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 313Web of Science - 269

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2014Dagonnier M, Howells DW, Donnan GA, Dewey HM, 'Recruitment to trials of late thrombolysis: lessons from the EXTEND study', Journal of Clinical Neuroscience, 21, (7) pp. 1215-9. ISSN 0967-5868 (2014) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1016/j.jocn.2013.10.033 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 2Web of Science - 1

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2014Egan KJ, Janssen H, Sena ES, Longley L, Speare S, et al., 'Exercise reduces infarct volume and facilitates neurobehavioral recovery: results from a systematic review and meta-analysis of exercise in experimental models of focal ischemia', Neurorehabilitation and neural repair, 28, (8) pp. 800-12. ISSN 1545-9683 (2014) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1177/1545968314521694 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 19Web of Science - 18

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2014Howells DW, Sena ES, Macleod MR, 'Bringing rigour to translational medicine', Nature reviews. Neurology, 10, (1) pp. 37-43. ISSN 1759-4758 (2014) [Contribution to Refereed Journal]

DOI: 10.1038/nrneurol.2013.232 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 33Web of Science - 34

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2014Pascoe MC, Howells DW, Crewther DP, Constantinou N, Carey LM, et al., 'Fish oil diet associated with acute reperfusion related hemorrhage, and with reduced stroke-related sickness behaviors and motor impairment', Frontiers in Neurology, 5 Article 14. ISSN 1664-2295 (2014) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.3389/fneur.2014.00014 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 4Web of Science - 3

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2014Sena ES, Currie GL, McCann SK, Macleod MR, Howells DW, 'Systematic reviews and meta-analysis of preclinical studies: why perform them and how to appraise them critically', Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism, 34 pp. 737-742. ISSN 0271-678X (2014) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1038/jcbfm.2014.28 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 44Web of Science - 40

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2014Vesterinen HM, Sena ES, Egan KJ, Hirst TC, Churolov L, et al., 'Meta-analysis of data from animal studies: a practical guide', Journal of neuroscience methods, 15, (221) pp. 92-102. ISSN 0165-0270 (2014) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1016/j.jneumeth.2013.09.010 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 80Web of Science - 72

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2014Watzlawick R, Sena ES, Dirnagl U, Brommer B, Kopp MA, et al., 'Effect and reporting bias of RhoA/ROCK-blockade intervention on locomotor recovery after spinal cord injury: a systematic review and meta-analysis', JAMA Neurology, 71, (1) pp. 91-9. ISSN 2168-6149 (2014) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1001/jamaneurol.2013 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Web of Science - 26

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2013Tsilidis KK, Panagiotou OA, Sena ES, Aretouli E, Evangelou E, et al., 'Evaluation of Excess Significance Bias in Animal Studies of Neurological Diseases', Public Library of Science Biology, 11, (7) Article e1001609. ISSN 1544-9173 (2013) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001609 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 106Web of Science - 101

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2013Antonic A, Sena ES, Lees JS, Willis TE, Skeers P, et al., 'Stem cell transplantation in traumatic spinal cord injury: a systematic review and meta-analysis of animal studies', PLoS biology, 11, (12) ISSN 1544-9173 (2013) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001738 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 55Web of Science - 50

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2013Collins VE, Donnan GA, Macleod MR, Howells DW, 'Hypertension and experimental stroke therapies', Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism, 33 pp. 1141-1147. ISSN 0271-678X (2013) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1038/jcbfm.2013.88 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 10Web of Science - 8

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2013Dirnagl U, Hakim A, Macleod M, Fisher M, Howells DW, et al., 'A concerted appeal for international cooperation in preclinical stroke research', Stroke: A Journal of Cerebral Circulation, 44, (6) pp. 1754-60. ISSN 0039-2499 (2013) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.113.000734 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 50Web of Science - 48

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2013Howells DW, Macleod M, 'Evidence-based Translational Medicine', Stroke: A Journal of Cerebral Circulation, 44 pp. 1466-1471. ISSN 0039-2499 (2013) [Contribution to Refereed Journal]

DOI: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.113.000469 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 13Web of Science - 13

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2013Sena ES, Jeffreys AL, Cox SF, Sastra SA, Churilov L, et al., 'The benefit of hypothermia in experimental ischemic stroke is not affected by pethidine', International Journal of Stroke, 8, (3) pp. 180-5. ISSN 1747-4930 (2013) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1111/j.1747-4949.2012.00834.x [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 8Web of Science - 6

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2013Batchelor PE, Skeers P, Antonic A, Wills TE, Howells DW, et al., 'Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Therapeutic Hypothermia in Animal Models of Spinal Cord Injury', PL o S One, 8, (8) Article e71317. ISSN 1932-6203 (2013) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0071317 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 26Web of Science - 22

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2013Willis TE, Batchelor PE, Kerr NF, Sidon K, Katz M, et al., 'Corticospinal tract sprouting in the injured rat spinal cord stimulated by Schwann cell preconditioning of the motor cortex', Neurological Research: A Journal of Progress in Neurosurgery, Neurology and Neurosciences, 35, (7) pp. 763-772. ISSN 0161-6412 (2013) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1179/1743132813Y.0000000199 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 3Web of Science - 2

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2012Ankolekar S, Rewell S, Howells DW, Bath PMW, 'The influence of stroke risk factors and comorbidities on assessment of stroke therapies in humans and animals', International journal of stroke, 7, (5) pp. 386-397. ISSN 1747-4930 (2012) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1111/j.1747-4949.2012.00802.x [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 15Web of Science - 16

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2012Antonic A, Sena ES, Donnan GA, Howells DW, 'Human In Vitro Models of Ischaemic Stroke: A Test Bed for Translation', Translational Stroke Research, 3, (3) pp. 306-309. ISSN 1868-4483 (2012) [Letter or Note in Journal]

DOI: 10.1007/s12975-012-0201-x [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 5Web of Science - 6

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2012Atonic A, Sena ES, Donnan GA, Howells DW, 'Human In Vitro Models of Ischaemic Stroke: A Test Bed for Translation', Translational Stroke Research, 3, (3) pp. 306-309. ISSN 1868-4483 (2012) [Letter or Note in Journal]

DOI: 10.1007/s12975-012-0201-x [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 5Web of Science - 6

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2012Howells DW, Sena ES, O'Collins V, Macleod MR, 'Improving the efficiency of the development of drugs for stroke', International Journal of Stroke, 7, (5) pp. 371-377. ISSN 1747-4930 (2012) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1111/j.1747-4949.2012.00805.x [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 23Web of Science - 24

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Grants & Funding

Prof Howells's work is supported by a CSIRO Flagship biomarker discovery program, NHMRC Fellowship, Program, and NHMRC-EU Collaborative Grants. He has held independent NHMRC funding since 1996.

Funding Summary

Number of grants

5

Total funding

$2,906,968

Projects

Understanding the human ischemic cascade: Improving the process of drug development for cerebral ischemia (2017)$25,000
Description
Brain ischemia is a major cause of death and disability. Drug therapies for ischemic injury which have shown promise in rodent models have had poor translation in human patients. We aim to characterise the human cellular response to ischemia and use injury-reducing hypothermia to identify human-relevant therapeutic targets.
Funding
Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation ($25,000)
Scheme
Grant-Establishment
Administered By
University of Tasmania
Research Team
Howells DW; Eaton ED; Dottori M; Dargaville P
Year
2017
Blood-brain barrier energy dysfunction: the unifying cause of fatigue (2017)$99,874
Description
Fatigue can be much more than just a sense of tiredness. It is also a debilitating symptom of many diseases and disorders, hampering peoples ability to perform the simplest of daily activities. The underlying mechanism of fatigue is unknown. We hypothesise that fatigue is ultimately the result of reduced delivery of energy to the brain. We will assess how energy supply is altered in fatigued brain. A special diet (that supplies an alternative energy source for the brain) will be used to circumvent this energy deficit. We hope to establish how fatigue occurs and offer clues to a simple treatment strategy.
Funding
The Mason Foundation ($99,874)
Scheme
Grant-Judith Jane Mason & Harold Stannett Williams
Administered By
University of Tasmania
Research Team
Howells DW; Sutherland BA; Landowski LM; Eaton ED; Allan S; Morten K
Year
2017
Paving the way for future stroke drug development: creating a reproducible, humanised model of stroke (2017 - 2019)$442,570
Description
Stroke is a leading cause of death and chronic disability. Stroke therapeutics developed in animal models fail when translated into human clinical trials, due to flaws inherent in these models. We will break through this translational roadblock by using magnetic microparticles to induce an ischemic stroke that accurately represents human disease
Funding
Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation ($442,570)
Scheme
Grant - Project Grant Funding
Administered By
University of Tasmania
Research Team
Landowski LM; Howells DW; Castley H; Sutherland BA; Kirkcaldie MTK
Period
2017 - 2019
Biomarkers for assessing the effectiveness of hypothermia as a therapy in ischemic stroke patients (2016)$412,712
Description
Grant transfer from the Florey
Funding
National Health & Medical Research Council ($412,712)
Scheme
Grant-European Union Collaborative Research
Administered By
National Health & Medical Research Council
Research Team
Howells DW
Year
2016
Grant Reference
1037863
Improving Stroke Outcome: Attenuating Progression and Recurrence (2016)$1,926,812
Funding
National Health & Medical Research Council ($1,926,812)
Scheme
Grant-Program
Administered By
Florey Neuroscience Institutes
Research Team
Donnan G; Davis S; Hankey Graeme; Howells DW; Parsons M
Year
2016
Grant Reference
1013612

Research Supervision

Prof Howells has supervised more than 16 PhD students to completion as well as numerous masters and honours students. Prof Howells is a strong believer in the importance of mentoring young scientists and helping to advance their careers.

Current

2

Current

DegreeTitleCommenced
PhDImproving the Process of Drug Development in Stroke2017
PhDPericyte Regulation of Blood Flow in the Brain and its Dysfunction Following Stroke2017