The Turnbull Government today awarded $129.4 million in grants to Australia’s preeminent researchers helping fund Australia’s commitment to fostering the best and brightest in health and medical research.
Minister for Health Sussan Ley said the grants focus on a range of health topics, including Indigenous health in the Northern Territory, developing an AIDS vaccine and tackling over-diagnosis in the Australian health sector.
“This kind of research plays an important role in making Australians healthier and improving their quality of living”, Ms Ley said.
“Health and medical research is essential for the development of more effective medical treatments and key to delivering real health benefits to Australians every day.”
A total of 96 grants will be funded from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Medical Research Endowment Account (MREA) which distributes approximately $850 million to health and medical research in Australia this year.
Also noting the importance of the grants, NHMRC CEO Professor Anne Kelso said “we have a highly productive and internationally competitive research community; the recipients of these grants will pursue exciting and innovative research for the benefit of human health”.
“The mix of both outstanding new talent and experienced and internationally recognised researchers shows the breadth and depth of medical research in Australia.”
The grants cover a diverse range of research disciplines in Australian and collaborative international spheres. They range from smaller postgraduate scholarships, to collaborations with the European Union, to large, multidisciplinary program grants. Program grants support high-calibre collaborative research teams in pursuit of new knowledge at a leading international level in important areas of health and medical research.
NHMRC is committed to rigorous independent expert review of grant applications across all areas of health and medical research. The grants were assessed by independent expert review panels which drew upon the expertise of researchers to assess applications across three NHMRC funding schemes.
Information relating to all individual grants is available on the NHMRC website – http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/grants-funding/outcomes-funding-rounds
Associate Professor Chris Lonsdale, Australian Catholic University (Partnership Projects Grant – $1,299,824) Physical inactivity is a leading cause of disease in Australia. This partnership project aims to increase children’s activity and improve their health. Across 200 primary schools, the project will examine how a teacher adopting a physical activity promotion program affects children’s fitness, wellbeing and academic performance. The project will explore the links between physical activity and development that could be used in a framework to promote physical activity for children across Australia. Partners: NSW Department of Education and Communities; NSW Department of Sport and Recreation; Australian Council for Health, Physical Education and Recreation
Professor Paul Glasziou, Bond University (Program Grant – $9,578,895)
Over-diagnosis and over-treatment, an unintended consequence of modern healthcare, is increasing in Australia. Over-diagnosis occurs when an individual is diagnosed and treated for a “disease” that will not cause them harm. This may be due to expanded disease definitions labelling people with only mild problems, or diagnostic tests and screening programs detecting people at low risk of illness. This can result in much harm and unsustainable use of unnecessary treatments. Professor Glasziou’s team will research the prevalence, causes and consequences of over-diagnosis and over-treatment, and evaluate solutions.
Doctor Ella Meumann, Menzies School of Health Research (Postgraduate Scholarship – $122,714)
The Northern Territory has the highest jurisdiction-specific rates of tuberculosis in Australia. Tuberculosis is a disease that disproportionately affects Indigenous people, yet the factors that contribute to the spread of the disease are not well understood. Dr Meumann and her team will use technology known as whole genome sequencing of bacterial DNA to understand the spread of tuberculosis in the Northern Territory, which will help inform TB control policies.
Mrs Chelsea Mauch, Flinders University (Postgraduate Scholarship – $107,204)
Childhood obesity is a significant public health concern, with one in four children aged 5 – 14 years affected. Those from single parent and lower income families are at particular risk. Infancy and the preschool years are an ideal time for obesity prevention, before children have formed their lifelong eating habits. This project aims to design a community-based, practical and cost-effective program targeting families most at risk.
Mr Jordan Loader, Australian Catholic University (Postgraduate Scholarship –$56,700)
Increased consumption of sugary drinks has contributed to an epidemic of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. For the first time in living memory, this may lead to declining life-expectancy. This research will examine the short and long-term effects of sugary drinks on vital blood vessel function, and will develop better methods to monitor blood vessel function. This will contribute to informing public health policy on sugary drinks and preventing cardiovascular disease.
Professor Stephen Kent, University of Melbourne (Australia/EU Collaborative Research Grant – $500,000)
A vaccine to prevent AIDS is urgently needed. The European Union recently awarded over 20 million euros to a European consortium, called EAVI2020, to advance multiple HIV vaccines into human testing. Five Australian HIV vaccine experts are named investigators on this award to provide advanced laboratory analyses and intellectual input into the five year program.