National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recognises excellence in the health and medical research sector through its annual Research Excellence Awards.


The following is a list of winners of the 2019 Research Excellence Awards.

Stuart Tangye


2019 NHMRC Peter Doherty Investigator Grant Award (Leadership)
University of New South Wales

Professor Tangye heads the Immunity and Inflammation Research Theme at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research. His research focuses on the biology of the human immune system and discovering mechanisms whereby genetic defects cause clinical features of immunodeficiencies. His contributions have been recognised by the award of the 2011 Gottschalk Medal (Australian Academy of Science), Faculty of Science UTS Alumni Award (2013), a Fulbright Scholarship (2015) and the Presidential Award from the Clinical Immunology Society (USA, 2019).

By studying immunodeficient patients, Professor Tangye aims to increase understanding of the requirements for generating an effective immune response and translating these insights into better diagnoses, treatments and outcomes for patients with debilitating immune dysregulatory diseases.

Read more about the Peter Doherty Investigator Grant Award.

Eric Chow

Associate Professor

2019 NHMRC Peter Doherty Investigator Grant Award (Emerging Leadership)
Monash University

A/Professor Chow is a sexual health epidemiologist and the Head of the Health Data Management and Biostatistics Unit at the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre, Alfred Health and the Central Clinical School, Monash University. A/Professor Chow completed his PhD in HIV epidemiology in 2014 and moved into sexual health research supported by an NHMRC Early Career Fellowship.

A/Professor Chow's research aims to improve treatment, prevention and control of sexually transmitted infections, with a focus on gonorrhoea and human papillomavirus. He is currently conducting clinical trials to examine whether antiseptic mouthwash could be used as a novel treatment and preventive strategy for gonorrhoea.

Read more about the Peter Doherty Investigator Grant Award.

Naomi Wray


2019 NHMRC Elizabeth Blackburn Investigator Grant Award (Leadership in Basic Science)
The University of Queensland

Professor Wray holds joint appointments at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience and the Queensland Brain Institute at the University of Queensland. A Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, her research interests bring together genetics, statistics, big data computational analysis and disorders of the brain. She has led key research studies for the International Psychiatric Genomics Consortium and established the Sporadic ALS Australia systems genomics consortium for Motor Neurone Disease research.

Professor Wray's research will develop and apply new genomic methods to catalyse discoveries about the causes of common diseases, ultimately leading to improvements in prevention, diagnosis, treatment options and prognosis.

Read more about the Elizabeth Blackburn Investigator Grant Award.

Glenda Halliday


2019 NHMRC Elizabeth Blackburn Investigator Grant Award (Leadership in Clinical Medicine and Science)
University of Sydney

Professor Halliday is renowned internationally for her research on neurodegeneration. After developing rigorous quantitative methods for evaluating pathology in patients with defined clinical symptoms, she revealed more extensive neurodegeneration in Parkinson's disease and related syndromes than previously thought. Her research has directly influenced clinical practice and shaped current international diagnostic criteria and recommendations for patient identification and management.

Professor Halliday now aims to find preclinical biomarkers that identify under-recognised non-Alzheimer diseases to target with disease modifying strategies.

Read more about the Elizabeth Blackburn Investigator Grant Award.

Jo Salmon


2019 NHMRC Elizabeth Blackburn Investigator Grant Award (Leadership in Public Health Research)
Deakin University

Alfred Deakin Professor Jo Salmon is Co-Director of the Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition, Deakin University. She holds a PhD in behavioural epidemiology and has 20 years of experience developing effective scalable programs to promote children's physical activity.

Professor Salmon's research program will address the current and future health of Australian children by making sure that the latest evidence on how to move a sedentary generation is embedded in practice and policy in Australia and globally.

Read more about the Elizabeth Blackburn Investigator Grant Award.

Joanna Westbrook


2019 NHMRC Elizabeth Blackburn Investigator Grant Award (Leadership in Health Services Research)
Macquarie University

Professor Westbrook is Director of the Centre for Health Systems and Safety Research, Australian Institute of Health Innovation, Macquarie University. She is internationally recognised for her research evaluating the effects of information and communication technology in health care, which has led to significant advances in our understanding of how clinical information systems deliver (or fail to deliver) expected benefits. In 2014 Professor Westbrook was named Australian ICT Professional of the Year and in 2019 as the National Research Leader in the field of medical informatics.

Professor Westbrook's research will investigate how to optimise current medication technologies and look to the future as medication treatment is increasingly personalised for patients. The research will investigate the many variables at the interface between new technologies and the professionals who use them, to deliver systems that support clinicians' work and substantially improve health services delivery and outcomes.

Read more about the Elizabeth Blackburn Investigator Grant Award.

Phillipa Taberlay


2019 NHMRC Sandra Eades Investigator Grant Award
University of Tasmania

A descendent of Mannalargenna and proud Tasmanian Aboriginal woman, Dr Taberlay is based at the Tasmanian School of Medicine, College of Health and Medicine. Her research centres on understanding distal regulatory elements and three-dimensional aspects of gene control, and uses cutting-edge methods to delineate mechanisms of epigenetic reprogramming in development, cancer and neurodegenerative disorders. Dr Taberlay's post-doctoral discovery that enhancer epigenetic states underpin cell reprogramming was an advance for the field that has shaped new theories of epigenetic regulation.

Dr Taberlay aims to define the limits of epigenetic flexibility in healthy ageing and understand why the epigenome is reprogrammed, causing damage that leads to cancers and dementias.

Read more about the Sandra Eades Investigator Grant Award.

Adam Wheatley


2019 NHMRC Frank Fenner Investigator Grant Award
University of Melbourne

Dr Wheatley is based at the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Melbourne. After undergraduate studies at the Australian National University and a PhD at the University of Melbourne, he undertook postdoctoral training at the US National Institutes of Health Vaccine Research Center. There he focussed on defining correlates of immune protection following clinical immunisation trials and characterising humoral immunity elicited to experimental HIV and influenza vaccines. In 2015, Dr Wheatley returned to the University of Melbourne to continue work on B cell immunobiology in the context of infection and immunisation.

Dr Wheatley's research will seek to understand B cell trafficking, germinal centre and memory formation, the basis for cross-reactive antibody recognition of antigenically diverse pathogens, and the rational design and pre-clinical testing of novel influenza vaccine concepts.

Read more about the Frank Fenner Investigator Grant Award.

Olivia Smibert


2019 NHMRC Gustav Nossal Postgraduate Scholarship Award
University of Melbourne

Dr Smibert was awarded a Bachelor of Biomedical Science and a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery from the University of Tasmania. After graduating on the Dean's Honour Roll with first class honours, she completed electives at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, has undertaken a Diploma of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene at Liverpool University, studied Bioethics at Queens University in Canada and has most recently completed a fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard University. Dr Smibert has received multiple prizes including an International investigator Award from the Infectious Diseases Society of America, an American Society of Transplant Fellows Award, and the RACP Richard Kemp Memorial Fellowship.

Through her research, Dr Smibert hopes to increase understanding of the mucosa-associated microbiome and infectious and immunological outcomes after bone marrow and solid organ transplantation. She plans to achieve this by defining the fungal and viral components of this microbial ecosystem longitudinally over the course of transplantation.

Read more about the Gustav Nossal Postgraduate Scholarship Award.

Mark Willcox


2019 NHMRC Marshall and Warren Ideas Grant Award
University of New South Wales

Professor Willcox specialises in ocular and oral microbiology, particularly understanding how bacteria adhere to surfaces and cause disease. His major research focus is on designing ways of preventing adhesion from occurring. Professor Willcox has developed novel antimicrobial peptides, coatings and other strategies that can be applied to medical devices and reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with microbial colonisation.

Professor Willcox's research will use these and new peptide mimics to provide antimicrobial coatings for medical devices and will consider different ways of attaching the mimics and the mechanisms that provide antimicrobial functionality.

Read more about the Marshall and Warren Ideas Grant Award.

James St John

Associate Professor
St John

2019 NHMRC Marshall and Warren Innovation Award
Griffith University

A/Professor St John is Head of the Clem Jones Centre for Neurobiology and Stem Cell Research at Griffith University. He is a neuroscientist who uses multidisciplinary innovative approaches to bioengineer cellular products for human therapies. A/Professor St John's early career focussed on discovery research to understand the development and regeneration of the nervous system. He now applies this knowledge to drive translational research to develop cell transplantation therapies to treat spinal cord injury and peripheral nerve injury.

A/Professor St John's research seeks to determine the efficacy of cellular nerve bridges in repairing large-gap peripheral nerve injuries in animal models, with the aim of progressing to human clinical trial.

Read more about the Marshall and Warren Innovation Award.

Erica Wood


2019 NHMRC Fiona Stanley Synergy Grant Award
Monash University

Professor Wood is head of the Transfusion Research Unit at Monash University and a consultant haematologist at Monash Health. She is president-elect of the International Society of Blood Transfusion and serves on the WHO Expert Advisory Panel in Transfusion Medicine and WHO Anaemia Guideline Development Group.

The team led by Professor Wood will use clinical registries and observational and interventional studies to describe how blood is used in Australia and how its use can be improved to achieve better outcomes for patients, focussing on transfusion in major haemorrhage, blood cancers and critically ill patients, and the use of immunoglobulins.

Read more about the Fiona Stanley Synergy Grant Award.

Jaquelyne Hughes

Associate Professor

2019 NHMRC Clinical Trials and Cohort Studies Award
Menzies School of Health Research

A/Professor Hughes is a clinical researcher at the Menzies School of Health Research in Darwin where she leads a research team focussed on strengthening health services and optimising patient-centred renal care that is aligned to the values of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients and the community.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in Australian regions are known to have a higher prevalence of potentially preventable chronic kidney failure. This study with a cohort of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults builds on a 12-year strong partnership between Indigenous community members, clinical health services partners and the research team to advance knowledge of kidney health and explain mechanisms of lost kidney function.

Read more about the Clinical Trials and Cohort Studies Award.