NHMRC recognises excellence in the health and medical research sector through its annual Research Excellence Awards.

Professor Dale Godfrey


2021 NHMRC Peter Doherty Investigator Grant Award (Leadership)

University of Melbourne

Unconventional T cells: Fundamental biology and therapeutic potential

Professor Dale Godfrey is an immunologist at the Doherty Institute, a Fellow of the Australian Academy for Health and Medical Sciences, Past President of the Australasian Society for Immunology and founder and Past President of the Melbourne Immunotherapy Network. He has led a research program to develop a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, which is about to enter a phase I clinical trial. 


Unconventional T cells in the human immune system detect abnormalities via molecules, such as altered lipids and signatures of microbial infection. These cells play a unique role in infection, cancer, allergy and autoimmunity. The broad aim of Professor Godfrey’s research is to understand the development and function of these unconventional T cells in health and disease, how they are regulated and how they can be harnessed for immunotherapy.

Read more about the Peter Doherty Investigator Grant Award.

Professor Brett Mitchell


2021 NHMRC Peter Doherty Investigator Grant Award (Emerging Leadership)

University of Newcastle

Building evidence for strategies to prevent healthcare acquired infections

Professor Brett Mitchell is a Professor of Nursing at the University of Newcastle and Adjunct Professor at Avondale University and Monash University. His research tackles the looming global threat of microbial resistance and emerging infections by investigating methods to prevent infections from occurring in the first instance. Professor Mitchell has received national awards for his research, including a Research Australia Health Services award in 2021 and an Australian Financial Review Higher Education Award for industry engagement.


Professor Mitchell’s research aims to provide evidence for practical measures to reduce infections commonly acquired in healthcare settings and improve healthcare cleaning practices. His program of work will provide a strong foundation for transformations in clinical practice and policy, both in Australia and overseas. This, in turn, will reduce patient morbidity and mortality, control healthcare expenditure and help to prevent antimicrobial resistance.

Read more about the Peter Doherty Investigator Grant Award.

Professor Susan Ramus


2021 NHMRC Elizabeth Blackburn Investigator Grants Award - Basic Science (Leadership)

University of New South Wales

Developing clinical tests to improve treatment for ovarian cancer patients

Professor Susan Ramus is Professor of Molecular Oncology in the School of Clinical Medicine at the University of New South Wales Sydney. She is a research geneticist focused on improving the prognosis of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Professor Ramus established and co-leads the Ovarian Tumour Tissue Analysis (OTTA) consortium and is a member of the steering committee of the Ovarian Cancer Association Consortium (OCAC).


The resources of the international Ovarian Tumour Tissue Analysis (OTTA) consortium will be used to develop a range of tumour tests, to determine the best treatment for each patient. This will answer several clinically important questions, such as: Should a patient have surgery or chemotherapy first? Should they receive standard therapy, or do they need an alternative treatment? Is it possible to predict a patient’s response to new treatments?

Read more about the Elizabeth Blackburn Investigator Grant Award.

Laureate Professor Clare Collins

Laureate Professor

2021 NHMRC Elizabeth Blackburn Investigator Grant Award - Clinical Medicine and Science (Leadership)

University of Newcastle

Generating new knowledge on cost-effective models of care to reduce diet-related health risks

Laureate Professor Clare Collins is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and nutrition researcher specialising in eHealth at the University of Newcastle. She leads the Food and Nutrition Research Program at Hunter Medical Research Institute and was previously co-director of the Priority Research Centre in Physical Activity and Nutrition. She is an elected fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences, Nutrition Society of Australia and Dietitians Australia.


Professor Collins’s research program in precision and personalised nutrition technologies will generate new knowledge on cost-effective models of care to reduce diet-related health risks. This research targets under-served population groups based on life-stage, socio-economic status and geographic location. Her findings will drive a paradigm shift in technologies to facilitate delivery of personalised medical nutrition therapies that improve wellbeing and lower diet-related chronic disease risk.

Read more about the Elizabeth Blackburn Investigator Grant Award.

Professor Louise Baur


2021 NHMRC Elizabeth Blackburn Investigator Grant Award - Public Health (Leadership)

University of Sydney

Transforming the prevention and treatment of child and adolescent obesity

Professor Louise Baur holds the Chair of Child and Adolescent Health at the University of Sydney and consultant paediatrician at the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network. She has researched many aspects of child and adolescent obesity and nutrition and is Director of the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in the Early Prevention of Obesity in Childhood-Translate. In 2010, Professor Baur was made a Member of the Order of Australia for service to medicine and to the community.


Professor Baur’s vision is to lead an interdisciplinary program of research in preventing obesity in childhood and providing safe, effective treatments to children and adolescents living with obesity. Her work will result in recommendations for targeting early childhood obesity prevention, personalised approaches to obesity treatment, and models of care and costings for paediatric obesity treatment in Australia.

Read more about the Elizabeth Blackburn Investigator Grant Award.

Professor Julie Redfern


2021 NHMRC Elizabeth Blackburn Investigator Grant Award - Health Services (Leadership)

University of Sydney

Modernising cardiac rehabilitation and secondary prevention of heart disease

Professor Julie Redfern is a clinician-researcher and Research Academic Director (Researcher Development, Output and Impact) in the Faculty of Medicine and Health, University of Sydney, and a practising physiotherapist. She was recently awarded the NSW Woman of Excellence Award for 2022. Professor Redfern is leading a multidisciplinary program of health services research supported by an NHMRC Synergy Grant (SOLVE-CHD).


Heart disease causes nearly 20 per cent of deaths around the world. Unfortunately, the ongoing care people receive after they leave hospital has not kept up with medical advances. Professor Redfern is leading a team of researchers, clinicians and people with heart disease to make care more effective and efficient. She is establishing and testing national tracking and monitoring systems as well as developing and trialling innovative ways to reach and support more patients.

Read more about the Elizabeth Blackburn Investigator Grant Award.

Doctor Simon Graham


2021 NHMRC Sandra Eades Investigator Grant Award (Emerging Leadership)

University of Melbourne

Developing a community-led coordination and response guide for a syphilis outbreak in Aboriginal communities

Doctor Simon Graham is an epidemiologist in the Department of Infectious Diseases at the Peter Doherty Institute, University of Melbourne. As a postdoctoral fellow, Dr Graham spent 12-months at the PRIDE Consortium in New York examining gay men’s experiences of STI testing, two-years at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine examining female sex workers' risk of HIV infection in Zimbabwe, and six-months at the First Nations Health Authority in Vancouver examining Indigenous interventions that decrease depression among First Nations people.


Dr Graham will work in the Global Outbreak Response Network at the World Health Organization in Geneva to examine how the organisation successfully coordinates and deploys specialist teams to investigate and stop an outbreak in different countries. He will also work with a cohort of Aboriginal people to develop an outbreak response and coordination guide to empower Aboriginal communities to stop outbreaks of syphilis infections.

Read more about the Sandra Eades Investigator Grant Award.

Doctor Hyon Xhi Tan

Xhi Tan

2021 NHMRC Frank Fenner Investigator Grant Award (Emerging Leadership)

University of Melbourne

Driving rational improvement of vaccines against respiratory viruses

Doctor Hyon Xhi Tan is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity. He completed his PhD in 2016 at the University of Melbourne. Dr Tan’s research has defined new approaches in eliciting B cell immunity locally within tissue sites, and has informed principles guiding the rational design of universal influenza vaccines and next-generation SARS-CoV-2 vaccines in pre-clinical development.


Dr Tan’s research programme will seek to characterise features of protective humoral responses in settings of vaccination or respiratory infections as well as define mechanisms that drive vaccine recognition using the most relevant targets of the virus for optimal protection. In addition, his research aims to explore the potential for memory B cell reservoirs seeded in tissues to provide responsive localised immunity against viral infections.

Read more about the Frank Fenner Investigator Grant Award.

Professor Andrew Roberts


2021 NHMRC Fiona Stanley Synergy Grant Award


Understanding and averting blood cancer resistance to therapy

Professor Andrew Roberts is the Cancer Theme Leader at WEHI. He is also the Metcalf Chair of Leukaemia Research at the University of Melbourne and a clinical haematologist at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. Professor Roberts has been an academic leader in the development of the novel targeted anti-cancer drug, Venetoclax, from the research laboratory through clinical trials. With his colleagues, he was awarded the 2019 Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation.


For most currently incurable blood cancers, the barrier to cure relates to the emergence of resistance. Professor Roberts’s multifaceted team of laboratory and clinical scientists will integrate clinical and preclinical studies to accelerate discovery of the genetic and epigenetic mechanisms of resistance to targeted therapies for blood cancers and generate potential solutions for later clinical testing.

Read more about the Fiona Stanley Synergy Grant Award.

Professor Trevor Leong


2020 NHMRC David Cooper Clinical Trials and Cohort Studies Award

Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre

Investigating the use of preoperative chemoradiotherapy versus preoperative chemotherapy for resectable gastric cancer

Professor Trevor Leong is a Consultant Radiation Oncologist and past Director of Radiation Oncology at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and University of Melbourne. He is a Director of the Australasian Gastro-Intestinal Trials Group (AGITG), the sponsoring organisation for the TOPGEAR trial. He is also President of the Trans-Tasman Radiation Oncology Group (TROG), Councillor of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists and Faculty member of the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO).


Professor Trevor Leong is the Principal Investigator of the “TOPGEAR” Phase III trial, a large Australian-led international trial that seeks to answer important questions around the best use of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, in addition to surgery, for gastric cancer. This latest grant was the trial’s third from NHMRC and will allow the completion of the trial analyses and dissemination of the results to improve outcomes for patients with gastric cancer.

Read more about the David Cooper Clinical Trials and Cohort Studies Award.

Doctor Ouli Xie


2021 NHMRC Gustav Nossal Postgraduate Scholarship Award

University of Melbourne

Analysing the evolution of Streptococcal  pathovars to inform prevention and treatment approaches to combat streptococcal disease

Doctor Ouli Xie is an infectious diseases physician at Monash Health and Royal Melbourne Hospital with an interest in emerging infectious diseases. He is currently undertaking a PhD at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, University of Melbourne, investigating the genomic epidemiology and pathogenesis of invasive streptococcal disease, including the emerging pathogen, Streptococcus dysgalactiae subspecies equisimilis.


Streptococcus dysgalactiae subspecies equisimilis (group C/G Streptococcus) is a bacterium that is increasingly recognised as a cause of serious human disease. Leveraging the overlap between it and Streptococcus pyogenes (group A Streptococcus), Dr Xie’s research aims to collect and analyse the genome of Australian and global streptococcal isolates to identify common drivers of disease and potential shared vaccine targets.

Read more about the Gustav Nossal Postgraduate Scholarship Award.

Professor Melissa Little


2021 NHMRC Marshall and Warren Ideas Grant Award

Murdoch Children's Research Institute

Generating a higher order kidney by understanding and controlling nephron connectivity

Professor Melissa Little leads the Kidney Regeneration Laboratory at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute where she holds an NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellowship. She is also the CEO of the Novo Nordisk Foundation Centre for Stem Cell Medicine (reNEW), President of the International Society for Stem Cell Research and an Honorary Professor in Paediatrics at the University of Melbourne.


Recreated human kidney tissue from pluripotent stem cells will fail to provide renal replacement without integration with the underlying host kidney. Professor Little’s research uses novel engineering approaches to integrate the transplanted tissue to the host kidney and improve prototypes for transplantation. This includes engineering the orientation of nephrons using growth factors delivered in hydrogels alongside bio-printed cells.

Read more about the Marshall and Warren Ideas Grant Award.

Associate Professor Nigel Beebe

Associate Professor

2021 NHMRC Marshall and Warren Innovation Award

University of Queensland

Removing mosquito populations by releasing incompatible males: a species-specific biocontrol for urban arbovirus vectors

Associate Professor Nigel Beebe works in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Queensland with a joint appointment at CSIRO. His regional mosquito research delivers vital and ever-evolving knowledge about the role these insects play in vector-borne disease, answering fundamental questions about which species transmit pathogens, where they exist and why, as well as broader understandings of how these species move and connect.


The highly urbanised Aedes aegypti mosquito drives the expansion of arboviruses including dengue and Zika across the world. In field trials in north Queensland, Associate Professor Beebe and colleagues recently demonstrated that releasing male Aedes aegypti rendered essentially sterile by a bacterium could radically and lastingly reduce the Aedes aegypti population. His research aims to develop a species-specific biocontrol into a deployable product for Australia and beyond.

Read more about the Marshall and Warren Innovation Award.