30 March 2022

NHMRC’s annual awards recognising excellence in health and medical research were announced this evening in Canberra at a ceremony attended by NHMRC’s Council Chair Professor Caroline Homer AO and members of NHMRC’s Council, including leading Australian researchers and chief health officers from across the nation.

Thirteen awards were presented recognising the top-ranked applicants to each of NHMRC’s major funding schemes during the past year. 

This year’s awards include the newly named NHMRC David Cooper Clinical Trials and Cohort Studies Award in honour of leading HIV/AIDS researcher Professor David Cooper AC FAA FAHMS (1949-2018). 

Professor Cooper was an Australian clinical researcher and immunologist whose leadership of clinical trials in collaboration with affected communities made a lasting contribution to the treatment of HIV in Australia and around the world. 

Among this year’s recipients:

  • Professor Trevor Leong from the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre is the inaugural recipient of the NHMRC David Cooper Clinical Trials and Cohort Studies Award. Professor Leong’s research investigates the use of chemoradiotherapy versus chemotherapy for patients with gastric cancer. Professor Leong is a Director of the Australasian Gastro-Intestinal Trials Group (AGITG), the sponsoring organisation for the TOPGEAR trial which opened to patients in 2013 and seeks to answer important questions about the best use of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, in addition to surgery, for gastric cancer.
  • Professor Melissa Little from the Murdoch Children's Research Institute is the recipient of the     2021 NHMRC Marshall and Warren Ideas Grant Award. Professor Little is known for her pioneering research developing mini-kidneys – called organoids – grown in a dish from stem cells derived from adult skin or blood cells (pluripotent stem cells). Professor Little is using novel engineering approaches to integrate the transplanted tissue to the host kidney and improve prototypes for transplantation.
  • Dr Simon Graham from the Doherty Institute at the University of Melbourne received the     2021 NHMRC Sandra Eades Investigator Grant Award (Emerging Leadership). Dr Graham is an epidemiologist and, through his Investigator Grant, he will be working in the Global Outbreak Response Network at the World Health Organization in Geneva to examine how the organisation 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 syphilis outbreaks.

 

NHMRC CEO Professor Anne Kelso AO said the awards are an opportunity to celebrate Australian excellence in health and medical research at this time when community appreciation of the significance of research to our health and wellbeing is high.

“These awards are named after Australian researchers who have made major discoveries and delivered important health advances through their research – Elizabeth Blackburn, Peter Doherty, Sandra Eades, Frank Fenner, Gustav Nossal, Fiona Stanley, Barry Marshall and Robin Warren, and now David Cooper.

“Professor Cooper was both an outstanding clinical researcher and a person of deep humanity who earned the trust of a community in shock and grief in the early days of the HIV pandemic. With him, local patients took part in clinical trials that would radically improve treatments in Australia and internationally.

“The story of Professor Cooper’s research is a compelling reminder of the contribution that affected communities and researchers working together make to advances in health care. 

“Today’s NHMRC Research Excellence Award recipients are our present and future research leaders. They follow in the footsteps of earlier giants of Australian research as they seek to understand and solve the health challenges that face our community today.”
 
The NHMRC Research Excellence Awards recipients for grants awarded in 2021 are:
 

Recipient Award Research
Professor Dale Godfrey
University of Melbourne
2021 NHMRC Peter Doherty Investigator Grant Award (Leadership)

Unconventional T cells: Fundamental biology and therapeutic potential.

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.

Professor Brett Mitchell
University of Newcastle
2021 NHMRC Peter Doherty Investigator Grant Award (Emerging Leadership)

Building evidence for strategies to prevent healthcare acquired infections

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.

Professor Susan Ramus
University of New South Wales
2021 NHMRC Elizabeth Blackburn Investigator Grants Award - Basic Science (Leadership)

Developing clinical tests to improve treatment for ovarian cancer patients.

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?

Laureate Professor Clare Collins
University of Newcastle
2021 NHMRC Elizabeth Blackburn Investigator Grant Award - Clinical Medicine and Science (Leadership)

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

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.

Professor Louise Baur AM
University of Sydney
2021 NHMRC Elizabeth Blackburn Investigator Grant Award - Public Health (Leadership)

Transforming the prevention and treatment of child and adolescent obesity.

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.

Professor Julie Redfern
University of Sydney
2021 NHMRC Elizabeth Blackburn Investigator Grant Award - Health Services (Leadership)

Modernising cardiac rehabilitation and secondary prevention of heart disease.

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.

Professor Andrew Roberts AM
WEHI
2021 NHMRC Fiona Stanley Synergy Grant Award Understanding and averting blood cancer resistance to therapy.

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.
Professor Trevor Leong
Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
2020 NHMRC David Cooper Clinical Trials and Cohort Studies Award

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

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 about the best use of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, in addition to surgery, for patients with 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.

Doctor Simon Graham
University of Melbourne

2021 NHMRC Sandra Eades Investigator Grant Award (Emerging Leadership)

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

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.

Doctor Hyon Xhi Tan
University of Melbourne

2021 NHMRC Frank Fenner Investigator Grant Award (Emerging Leadership)

Driving rational improvement of vaccines against respiratory viruses.

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.

Doctor Ouli Xie
University of Melbourne

2021 NHMRC Gustav Nossal Postgraduate Scholarship Award

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

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. 

Professor Melissa Little
Murdoch Children's Research Institute

2021 NHMRC Marshall and Warren Ideas Grant Award

Generating a higher order kidney by understanding and controlling nephron connectivity.

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.

Associate Professor Nigel Beebe
University of Queensland

2021 NHMRC Marshall and Warren Innovation Award

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

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.

 

Further details on the awards and this year’s recipients are available on NHMRC’s website

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

 

 

Share