This Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) Coronavirus Research Response Initiative grant opportunity will identify antiviral candidates targeting SARS-CoV-2 (new and repurposed) and accelerate promising effective treatments that can be made available to treat Australians infected with SARS-CoV-2.

The ongoing respiratory illness outbreak caused by transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus represents a significant and urgent threat to global health, with numerous cases documented world-wide, including Australia. There are currently no treatments specifically targeting the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The development of novel antiviral treatments is one way to improve protection against COVID-19.

Given the rapidly evolving nature of the COVID-19 outbreak, the grant opportunity requires applicants to propose research to rapidly identify antiviral candidates that can be accelerated into clinical practice. A competitive two stage funding process will be used. 

Stage 1 

Funding of up to $3 million will be provided to support testing of up to 10 antiviral candidates for stability, safety and effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2 to demonstrate proof of concept. Stage 1 projects are to be completed within 9 months of commencement of Stage 1. In addition:

  • applicants will be required to define performance indicators and outcomes to be achieved with Stage 1 funding that are critical for the research to progress to Stage 2
  • successful achievement of these performance indicators and outcomes is a prerequisite to seek Stage 2 funding
  • successful applicants will be required to deliver a completion report for Stage 1 (see section 11.3) that: 
    • measures success against performance indicators and demonstrates achievement of outcomes in Stage 1; and 
    • formalises performance indicators and outcomes for Stage 2.

Stage 2

Funding of up to $5 million will support acceleration of promising antiviral candidates from Stage 1 into clinical practice, enabling clinical trials in humans, progression through regulatory pathways and/or transition to commercialisation. Stage 2 projects are to be completed within 24 months of commencement of Stage 2. In addition:

  • Stage 1 grantees may be eligible for up to $5 million under Stage 2
  • Stage 2 funding will be awarded to the most expedient grantee(s) to complete Stage 1, subject to demonstration of success against performance indicators and achievement of outcomes under Stage 1. 
  • The data and evidence in the Stage 1 completion report will be considered by assessment panel members involved in the awarding of Stage 1 grants to determine if they achieved success against performance indicators and outcomes under Stage 1.
  • Completion reports will be categorised as either: successful, marginal or unsuccessful.
    • If categorised as successful, a recommendation will be made to the delegate to fund.
    • If categorised as marginal, the grantee will have one opportunity to respond to identified concerns or matters of clarification in writing. This response will be considered by the assessment panel in making a final recommendation.
    • If categorised as unsuccessful, a recommendation will be made to the delegate not to fund and no opportunity to respond will be provided.
  • For clarity, the review of completion reports will not be a reassessment against the assessment criteria.
  • Stage 1 grantees that do not have the opportunity to request Stage 2 funding because it has already been awarded, will be notified and encouraged to seek alternative funding avenues.

Applicants will be expected to demonstrate capacity to quickly establish partnerships that will provide access to critical resources necessary to complete the project. This may include access to SARS-CoV-2 material, relevant animal models and appropriate biohazard containment facilities.

Applicants should also provide details of how funding will leverage other complementary funding sources. 

This grant opportunity is being administered by NHMRC on behalf of the Commonwealth Department of Health. This opportunity is supported by the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF).

Further information on the Medical Research Future Fund is available on the Department’s website at:

Apply for funding

A complete application to the grant opportunity must consist of the following:

  • a Profile Report containing information drawn from each Chief Investigator’s Profile in NHMRC’s Granting System (Sapphire)
  • an Application Report containing information that you entered directly into the Application Form in NHMRC’s Granting System (Sapphire)
  • a Grant Proposal. You will upload this PDF file into NHMRC’s Granting System (Sapphire). Refer to section 6.4.
  • a Declaration of Applicant Interests. You will upload this PDF file into NHMRC’s Granting System (Sapphire). Refer to section 12.1
  • letter/s from research facilities (where relevant). These PDF files will be uploaded into NHMRC’s Granting System (Sapphire). Refer to section 6.4.

Where to go for assistance and help

Resources are available to assist you in navigating Sapphire, such as Help (a list of frequently asked questions), how-to videos and access to the Research Help Centre. The Sapphire Helpdesk will be available by email and telephone to assist you with any questions and issues. 

NHMRC will update Sapphire’s NHMRC web page with latest news and other relevant information. We encourage you to check back regularly to keep yourself informed.

Outcomes of funding rounds