12 October 2022

The National Health and Medical Reseach Council (NHMRC) welcomes the announcement from the Australian Government of the outcomes of this year's round of Investigator Grants. More than $375 million has been awarded to support 225 emerging and established leaders in health and medical research across Australia to tackle our greatest health challenges.

From 2023, NHMRC will award equal numbers of Investigator Grants to women and men in a new intervention to address gender inequities in research funding.

The Investigator Grant scheme is NHMRC's largest funding scheme and a major investment in Australia's health and medical research workforce. The scheme awards around $370 million in research funding each year.

The grants provide a 5-year fellowship and research support for outstanding researchers at all career stages. An earlier intervention to address gender inequities in grant funding has helped to achieve gender targets. However, relatively few women apply at the senior levels of the scheme, reflecting the many barriers that lead to their attrition from the research workforce.

The result is that, between 2019 and 2021, male applicants received about 35% more grants and 67% more total funding (about $95 million extra per year) than female applicants.

The new initiative will see NHMRC introduce a special measure under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 and set targets to fund an equal number of Leadership grants for women and men in the Investigator Grant scheme.

For the first time, non-binary researchers will also be explicitly included in this and other measures to foster gender equity in NHMRC funding, recognising the systemic disadvantage that they experience.

NHMRC welcomes the announcment from the Australian Government of the outcomes of this year's round of Investigator Grants. More than $375 million has been awarded to support 225 emerging and established leaders in health and medical research across Australia to tackle our greatest health challenges.

Among recipients of the funding announced today is Professor Dianna Magliano OAM, from the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, who will use her Investigator Grant to understand trends in the burden, risks and complications of diabetes in Australia.

Diabetes is a significant challenge confronting Australia's health system, with an estimated 1.8 million Australians living with this chronic condition.

Professor Magliano's research will also investigate which interventions are most effective in managing patients with diabetes.

This research will improve care for people with diabetes and ensure interventions are well targeted to limit the global health expenditure on diabetes.

Other recipients of Investigator Grants in this round include:

  • Dr Nicola Waddell (QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute) who receives a $2.3 million grant for research to identify mutations in a range of tumour cell types to determine how a tumour develops and how it can be treated to kill the cancer.
  • Professor Edward Holmes (University of Sydney) who helped map the COVID-19 virus genome in early 2020 and now receives more than $3.9 million to transform our understanding of the disease threat posed by using bioinformatics and metagenomics to rapidly identify viruses of potential public health impact.
  • Dr Graham Gee (Murdoch Children's Research Institute) who will use his grant of over $1.5 million for research on how to support healing and recovery of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

"Despite good progress, gender inequities persist across the health and medical research sector. Disparities in funding of women and men in NHMRC's flagship Investigator Grant scheme have highlighted the barriers that many women face as they seek to advance their research careers" said NHMRC CEO Professor Anne Kelso AO.

"An Investigator Grant can make all the difference to a researcher's career. This is one of the reasons that gender equity in this scheme is so important if we are to build a diverse research sector.

"The changes announced today will provide more encouragement and opportunities for women and non-binary researchers to apply for, and win, these significant grants. With this support, we look forward to seeing better gender diversity at the most senior levels of Australian health and medical research in the years ahead."

Full details of the Investigator Grant recipients are included on Outcomes of funding rounds.

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