4 November 2021

NHMRC welcomes today’s announcement of funding for the Ideas Grants scheme.

The Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, announced $239 million funding for 248 innovative research projects to help advance our understanding of a wide range of health and medical issues faced by Australians. 

NHMRC CEO, Professor Anne Kelso, said the Ideas Grant scheme supports innovative and creative research and builds on Australia’s strong skills and international reputation in advanced health and medical research. 

“As always, the Ideas Grant scheme is highly competitive and delivers projects at the leading edge, many very early in the discovery process. We look forward to following the research funded today and seeing the outcomes from these important grants,” Professor Kelso said. 

Funding commences in 2022. 

The Ideas Grants funded in this round cover the spectrum from basic science to clinical medicine, public health and health services research. The grants support important new research on a wide range of health and medical challenges including paediatric brain cancer; use of nano-particles to treat chronic pain; understanding the negative metabolic impacts of sleep loss and treatment with targeted exercise prescription; and investigation of virus genomes to improve pandemic planning and response.

Research to receive funding includes the following projects.

  • A study of the cause of endometriosis led Professor Guiying Nie at RMIT University. Endometriosis is a chronic and painful condition that affects around 10 per cent of women of reproductive age. The research will investigate why cells of the uterus end up in other parts of the body, and how they cause pain and other symptoms, in order to explore new diagnostic and therapeutic options for women with this disorder.
  • A study of intraneuronal immunotherapy to treat Alzheimer’s Disease led by Doctor Ole Tietz at Macquarie University. Dementia is the single greatest cause of disability in older Australians and the second leading cause of death. At present, dementia can only be managed through symptomatic treatment with limited therapeutic effects. Current targets for dementia immunotherapies are restricted to the small amount of toxic protein accessible outside neurons. This project will develop new immunotherapeutics that clear problematic proteins inside neurons in order to halt and reverse the course of dementia.
  • An investigation of the uptake and transport of the SARS-CoV-2 virus led by Professor Frédéric Meunier at The University of Queensland to understand the long-term consequences of potential virus interactions with brain cells and find ways to block infection. COVID-19 is associated with a variety of neurological symptoms, ranging from a transient loss of smell and taste to headaches to severe ischaemic damage in fatal cases. 

  • Research to improve the reliability of cochlear implants. The acute and long-term outcomes of cochlear implantation remain variable and can be unpredictable. One reason is the formation of scar tissue around the electrode which, in some cases, can lead to device failure. Associate Professor Cecilia Prêle at the University of Western Australia will conduct research to determine if anti-fibrotic drugs can reduce the formation of this scar tissue. 
  • Research at Flinders University led by Professor David Lynn will investigate how different vaccines shape how our innate immune system responds to subsequent infections. Evidence is growing that, in addition to protecting us against specific diseases, vaccines can confer nonspecific effects that affect health unrelated to the disease targeted by the vaccine. 
  • Research to examine male infertility which is on the rise in Western society. Doctor Tatiana Soboleva at the Australian National University has discovered a new process that involves the transfer of important information between different cell types in the testis and is critical for the production of viable sperm. The project aims to uncover the molecular mechanism of this process, providing new insights into the causes of male infertility.
  • A project at the University of Tasmania led by Doctor Carlie Cullen to understand the role of myelin in neural circuit function and behaviour, and its role in mental health disorders. Almost half of all Australians aged 16-85 will experience mental illness in their lifetime, yet we do not understand the underlying biological processes that contribute to mental ill health. This project aims to show how brain insulation adapts to and regulates brain function and learn how inappropriate insulation could underpin symptoms of mental health disorders.

The Ideas Grant scheme is designed to support outstanding innovative health and medical research in any area from discovery to implementation. The scheme provides opportunities for talented researchers at all career stages to contribute to the improvement of human health.

Full details of all grant results are available by downloading the Summary of the results of the NHMRC 2021 Grant Application Round on the grant outcomes page.


NHMRC Media Team
M: 0422 008 512
E: media@nhmrc.gov.au