Professor Anne Kelso AO
Former CEO, National Health and Medical Research Council
( from April 2015 to July 2023)
12 May 2021

Support for excellent health and medical research in Australia continues in the 2021-22 Budget handed down on 11 May 2021. 

Current projections indicate that new commitments from the Medical Research Endowment Account (MREA) will reach $1 billion for the 2021 NHMRC grant round.

The Government’s funding of the MREA will continue to grow with indexation over the Budget and forward years. 

With $863.26 million allocated to the MREA through the Budget in 2021-22 and funds carried over from 2020-21 due in part to the impacts of COVID-19, NHMRC expects to deliver substantially more funding through its 2021 grant round than ever before. 

This support is in addition to the significant funding that will be provided from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF), projected to grow to $650 million per annum in 2022–23 and beyond.

With the disruption of research activities by the COVID-19 pandemic, this increased support will be critical to ensuring the resilience of Australia’s outstanding health and medical research sector as it works to address our major health challenges.

Among Budget announcements are grant outcomes that demonstrate NHMRC’s commitment to:

  • improving the health of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities by building the capability and capacity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health researchers
  • advancing Australian research through international collaboration, and 
  • supporting research in areas where there is a gap in critical knowledge needed to address important health problems.

Grant outcomes announced in the 2021-22 Budget:

NHMRC National Network for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Researchers

A National Network of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health researchers has been established that will bring together unique skills across culture, knowledge and health research to address the health priorities of Indigenous communities.

The NHMRC National Network has been established with $10 million funding from the Australian Government as a major new initiative in NHMRC’s 10-year strategy to improve the health of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population (Road Map 3).

NHMRC–NIHR Collaborative Research Grant scheme

International collaboration is essential for tackling shared challenges in health and medicine. 

More than $1.8 million has been awarded to support collaborative health and medical research between Australia and the United Kingdom. The collaborative research grant scheme brings together researchers through NHMRC in Australia and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) in the UK.

The $1.8 million awarded in this round supports two research projects examining ways to improve patients’ quality of life: 

  • Professor Catherine Hill at the University of Adelaide has received funding to test a new protocol to reduce the use and side effects of steroid treatment in people with polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR). About half those on steroid treatment relapse and often suffer from steroid side effects such as diabetes and bone fracture. This clinical trial will determine whether adding an immunosuppressive treatment can reduce steroid use in people with relapsing PMR.
  • Professor Manuela Ferreira at the University of Sydney has received funding to compare the outcomes of two different approaches to rehabilitation and pain relief for people who have had the meniscus cartilage removed from the knee – meniscus transplant versus exercise and physiotherapy.

NHMRC’s partnership with the UK’s NIHR is an effective way to bring researchers in our two countries together to solve practical issues in patient care.

NHMRC Co-funding of the MRFF - Emerging Priorities and Consumer Driven Research Initiative (EPCDRI) – 2020 Silicosis Research Grant Opportunity

Recognising the large gaps in knowledge about the current rise of accelerated silicosis in Australians caused by engineered stone, NHMRC is contributing $1 million to this grant opportunity to fund a Silicosis Research grant awarded to researchers at Monash University who will investigate emerging techniques for earlier diagnosis and assessment of the severity and progression of artificial stone silicosis.

Stonemasons who have worked with engineered stone have been shown to develop a rapidly progressive and potentially fatal form of silicosis. This research will use data from affected workers from Victoria, Western Australia and Queensland. The research will comprise a suite of projects to investigate many uncertainties in radiological screening methods, as well as investigating new methods to assess disease severity and identify indicators of progression to inform future practice.

MRFF is funding several other grants under this grant opportunity.

Mitochondrial Donation Regulation and Clinical Trial 

The 2021-22 Budget includes new funding of $2.4 million over four years for NHMRC to establish and maintain the regulatory and licensing framework for mitochondrial donation in Australia as proposed under the Mitochondrial Donation Law Reform (Maeve’s Law) Bill 2021.

In 2019-20, NHMRC examined the scientific, social and ethical issues associated with mitochondrial donation, consulting widely with the public.

Earlier this year, further Government consultation was conducted on a staged approach to the introduction of mitochondrial donation into Australian clinical practice.

This Budget funding is being provided to support the implementation of a regulatory and licensing framework for a clinical research trial, as proposed under Stage 1 of Maeve’s Law. The introduction of mitochondrial donation would be subject to oversight by NHMRC’s Embryo Research Licensing Committee and include research and training licences and a clinical research trial licence to introduce mitochondrial donation in Australia.

Life Saving Research – Mitochondrial donation. A Budget 2021–22 fact sheet.

For more information on the Health Budget visit 


Professor Anne Kelso AO
Chief Executive Officer