$5.8 million for international health research collaborations

Summary media release information

03 September 2015
NHMRC Media Release
Contact for further information: 
NHMRC Media Team - 0422 008 512 | media@nhmrc.gov.au

More than $5 million has been awarded to Australian researchers collaborating with international experts to solve global health problems.

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) today announced 11 grants to support international collaborative research on health issues such as heart attacks, dementia, stroke and leukaemia. 

Nine grants were awarded under the NHMRC – European Union Collaborative Research Grant scheme, and a further two were awarded under the NHMRC – Californian Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) Collaborative Research Grant scheme. 

The former scheme supports Australian researchers who are contributing to projects that were selected for funding through the European Union’s highly competitive Horizon 2020 program. 

The two grants funded under the CIRM scheme are jointly funded by NHMRC and CIRM and focus primarily on finding novel ways to develop and apply stem cells for the treatment of disease. 

“Improving human health is a goal shared by all countries and accordingly, health and medical research is truly a global venture,” NHMRC CEO Professor Anne Kelso said.

“In participating in international collaborations like these, Australian researchers share their knowledge and skills. In turn, they gain access to technology that is potentially not available in Australia, and they get to work with some of the brightest scientific minds overseas. When they bring that experience back to our shores, it benefits Australian research immeasurably,” she said.

“It’s also worth noting the sheer number of Australian research teams that met the high bar to qualify for this funding. This reflects the talent that these researchers bring to the table when they work with their international counterparts.” 

European Union Ambassador Fabrizi praised the collaboration and said it was a splendid result for both Australian and European researchers. 

"The funding from the Federal Government will allow Australian researchers to pool their considerable talents with European experts to address global societal challenges in health, demographic change and wellbeing," he said.

CIRM Board Chair Dr Jonathan Thomas also welcomed the collaboration. 

“This is excellent news and we are delighted to be teaming up with our colleagues in Australia for this vital research,” Dr Thomas said.

“The importance of these kinds of collaborative partnerships between CIRM and Australia is that they allow the research to be done on two fronts and speed up the work to develop new treatments and cures for patients with unmet medical needs. These projects, studying cells connected to leukaemia and other blood cancers and diseases of the brain such as Parkinson’s, have the potential to be game-changers and transform the lives of millions of people around the world."

Full details are available on the NHMRC Funding Outcomes webpage.

Grant highlights

NHMRC – EU collaborative research grants

Professor Karlheinz Peter, Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute ($450,721)

Professor Peter and his team will work with their European collaborators to uncover the proteins, genes, and biological pathways behind the rupture of atherosclerotic deposits in blood vessels. The knowledge they uncover will be directed towards developing new therapies to prevent heart attacks. 

Professor Georgia Chenevix-Trench, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute ($472,984)

There are many different types of breast cancer, each with different causes, treatments and outcomes. The aim of this project is to use genetic, lifestyle/environmental, mammographic breast density, pathologic and clinical data from a very large number of studies from all over the world to develop ways of predicting which women are at risk of particular types of breast cancer, and if breast cancer develops what the likely outcome will be.

NHMRC – CIRM collaborative research grants

Professor Colin Pouton, Monash University ($902,949)

Microglia cells in the brain play an important role in the development and progression of common neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and stroke. Professor Pouton, his team and collaborators will develop new tools and approaches to create microglia from human stem cells. These microglia can then be studied in the laboratory to better understand their role in neurological disease.

Professor Andrew Elefanty, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute ($881,221)

The treatment of leukaemia and other diseases of the blood involves the transfusion of hematopoietic stem cells. In order to refine these treatments and improve their efficacy, we need to improve our understanding of how pluripotent stem cells – stem cells which can transform into any other type of stem cell – develop into hematopoietic stem cells. Professor Elefanty and his team will create a tool that will allow them to observe this development process, which will allow them to more precisely engineer hematopoietic stem cells for clinical use.