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 2020 Research Excellence Awards.

Professor Don McManus


2020 NHMRC Peter Doherty Investigator Grant Award (Leadership)
QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute

Professor Don McManus is senior scientist at QIMR Berghofer and an internationally acclaimed parasitologist. His research targets the control and elimination of parasitic worms, the cause of considerable human suffering and economic loss globally.

He is an elected Fellow of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, the American Society of Parasitologists, the UK Royal Society of Biology, the British Society of Parasitology and the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences.

He was recipient of the Ralph Doherty QIMR Prize in 2014 and the Sornchai Looareesuwan Medal in 2018 for outstanding achievements in experimental and clinical tropical medicine research.

Read more about the Peter Doherty Investigator Grant Award.

Associate Professor Joshua Vogel

Associate Professor

2020 NHMRC Peter Doherty Investigator Grant Award (Emerging Leadership)
Burnet Institute

Associate Professor Josh Vogel is a medical doctor and public health researcher, specialising in maternal and perinatal epidemiology. He is a Principal Research Fellow at the Burnet Institute, where he co-heads the global women's and newborn's health group.

His research addresses maternal and perinatal health issues affecting women and families in limited-resource settings. He leads clinical trials to determine how to improve the quality of maternal and perinatal health care.

Associate Professor Vogel also has an interest in guideline development and implementation research, and was the winner of the 2020 Nature Research Award for Driving Global Impact.

Read more about the Peter Doherty Investigator Grant Award.

Sarah Robertson


2020 NHMRC Elizabeth Blackburn Investigator Grant Award (Leadership in Basic Science)
University of Adelaide

Professor Sarah Robertson is Professor of Reproductive Bioscience at the University of Adelaide. Her research focuses on the immune response to conception and pregnancy, and consequences for reproductive success and offspring health.

Professor Robertson was director of the Robinson Research Institute from October 2013 to March 2021. In partnership with industry, Professor Robertson's research has led to novel interventions for infertility and miscarriage in women.

She is an elected fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, the Australian Academy for Health and Medical Sciences and the Society for Reproductive Biology.

Read more about the Elizabeth Blackburn Investigator Grant Award.

Angela Morgan


2020 NHMRC Elizabeth Blackburn Investigator Grant Award (Leadership in Clinical Medicine and Science)
Murdoch Children's Research Institute

Professor Angela Morgan is head of speech and language at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and professor of speech pathology at the University of Melbourne.

Professor Morgan's work has contributed to understanding the aetiology of childhood speech disorder. This includes demonstrating that there is a genetic basis to severe speech disorders such as apraxia, and that this condition is not always inherited but can occur de novo.

Professor Morgan is co-director of a speech genomics clinic at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne, delivering diagnoses directly to families.

Read more about the Elizabeth Blackburn Investigator Grant Award.

Allison Tong


2020 NHMRC Elizabeth Blackburn Investigator Grant Award (Leadership in Public Health Research)
University of Sydney

Professor Allison Tong is a Principal Research Fellow at the University of Sydney's School of Public Health. Professor Tong has an interest in patient involvement in research, including in setting research priorities, developing core outcomes for research and co-producing clinical trials.

She co-founded the Standardised Outcomes in Nephrology initiative, which aims to establish consensus-based core outcomes in chronic kidney disease treatment and management.

Read more about the Elizabeth Blackburn Investigator Grant Award.

Karen Canfell


2020 NHMRC Elizabeth Blackburn Investigator Grant Award (Leadership in Health Services Research)
Cancer Council NSW

Professor Karen Canfell is the inaugural director of the Daffodil Centre, a joint venture between the University of Sydney and Cancer Council NSW. She is an epidemiologist, modeller and a translation-focused population health researcher.

Professor Canfell has led evaluations of new cancer screening approaches for government agencies in several countries. Her team's work underpins the 2017 transition of the National Cervical Screening Program in Australia from pap smears to 5-yearly HPV-based screening.

Professor Canfell's work as one of the co-leads of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Cervical Cancer Elimination Modelling Consortium led to WHO's Global Strategy for cervical cancer elimination, launched in late 2020.

Read more about the Elizabeth Blackburn Investigator Grant Award.

Luke Burchill

Associate Professor

2020 NHMRC Sandra Eades Investigator Grant Award
University of Melbourne

Associate Professor Luke Burchill is Australia's first Aboriginal cardiologist and his clinical leadership and research in the field of adult congenital heart disease (CHD) are recognised internationally.

He is a proud member of the Yorta Yorta and Dja Dja Wurrung Nations and associate professor of medicine at Royal Melbourne Hospital.

With more than 60 publications, including in journals such as Circulation, The Lancet Global Health and Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Associate Professor Burchill is committed to improving health equity in the communities he serves, particularly adults living with CHD and Victoria's Aboriginal community.

Read more about the Sandra Eades Investigator Grant Award.

Mario Koutsakos


2020 NHMRC Frank Fenner Investigator Grant Award
University of Melbourne

Dr Marios Koutsakos is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity working on the development of a universal influenza B vaccine and on understanding the fundamental biology of immune responses to vaccination.

Dr Koutsakos has previously worked on the pre-clinical development of universal influenza vaccines, immunity to influenza B viruses and immunity in high-risk groups of severe influenza infection, such as transplant recipients.

His work has been recognised with numerous awards, including the QIAGEN PhD Achievement award, the James S Porterfield Prize in international virology from the University of Oxford, the ASI Pharmaxis award, an ASI International Travel Award and as an ASI New Investigator finalist.

Read more about the Frank Fenner Investigator Grant Award.

Jonathan Pham


2020 NHMRC Gustav Nossal Postgraduate Scholarship Award
University of Melbourne

Dr Jonathan Pham is a respiratory physician at the Alfred Hospital with a clinical interest in severe asthma and allergy. He is passionate about improving the health of disadvantaged minority groups and has researched malnutrition in Bangladeshi children, sleep apnoea in Chinese-Australians and severe asthma in ethnic populations.

Dr Pham has been deployed on humanitarian aid missions in Uganda and Bangladesh, providing medical care to impoverished communities and refugees fleeing war.

He is currently completing a PhD at the University of Melbourne, investigating the impact of ethnicity in asthma expression.

Read more about the Gustav Nossal Postgraduate Scholarship Award.

Ian Alexander


2020 NHMRC Marshall and Warren Ideas Grant Award
University of Sydney

Professor Ian Alexander is a physician/scientist who has dedicated his career to the development of gene transfer and genome editing technology and its application to the treatment of infants and children with devastating genetic diseases using gene therapy (the use of genes as medicine).

Professor Alexander's team was the first in Australian medical history to treat a genetic disease using gene therapy and he has led the development of the field in Australia.

His team takes a bench-to-bedside approach, developing novel genetic therapies in Australia and also bringing worldbest therapies to Australia at the earliest possible time.

Read more about the Marshall and Warren Ideas Grant Award.

Peter Psaltis

Associate Professor

2019 NHMRC Marshall and Warren Innovation Award
University of Adelaide

Associate Professor Peter Psaltis is an academic interventional cardiologist, who holds NHMRC Career Development and National Heart Foundation Future Leader Fellowships.

He is co-leader of the lifelong – health theme and leader of the heart and vascular program at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) and serves nationally as president of the Australian Atherosclerosis Society.

He completed his PhD in Adelaide in 2009 then undertook a postdoctoral fellowship as an NHMRC CJ Martin Fellow at the Mayo Clinic, USA. He returned to Adelaide in 2015 to positions at SAHMRI, the University of Adelaide and Central Adelaide Local Health Network.

His bench-to-bedside research focuses on the developmental origins of tissue macrophages and endothelial cells, molecular and pharmacological regulation of atherosclerosis and the applications of stem cells in cardiovascular therapeutics.

Read more about the Marshall and Warren Innovation Award.