Melbourne health researchers recognised with swathe of new project backing

It’s been a great few weeks for University of Melbourne researchers in STEMM with a host of new project funding being announced to further understanding and possible treatment of COVID-19, as well as other wicked health problems facing humanity.

The Doherty Institute’s amazing contribution to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic has been recognised with four new Medical Research Future Fund Grants:

  • The Pathogenic Genomics team, led by Director of the Microbiology Diagnostic Unit, Ben Howden in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology has been awarded $10 million to demonstrate utility, cost-effectiveness, and capacity for translation of genomics into public health nationally.
  • Deb Williamson from the from the Royal Melbourne Hospital’s Victorian Infectious Disease Service in the Doherty Institute was awarded $6.9 million to create a Clinical Metagenomics platform.
  • Dale Godfrey, Laboratory Head of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, has been awarded almost $3 million to develop two vaccine candidates. Both vaccines are targeting the tip of the spike protein, known as the receptor binding domain, but use different vaccine techniques to compare which vaccine maximises the production of neutralising antibodies.
  • Katherine Kedzierska and a team of immunologists, many  from the Doherty Institute, have been awarded $1 million to define immune responses in COVID-19 to understand susceptibility and target treatments.

The National Health and Medical Research Council also announced four successful NHMRC Centres of Research Excellence (CRE), each worth $2.5 million over five years. The centres will bring together leading experts in collaborative environments where the limits of knowledge can be pushed and outcomes amplified.

  • Barnaby Johnson will lead the Centre of Research Excellence PRE-EMPT: Prediction of Early Mental Disorder and Preventive Treatment
  • Rebecca Bentley will lead the CRE in Healthy Housing
  • Stephanie Brown from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) will lead the Stronger Futures CRE: building resilience and breaking cycles of intergenerational trauma and social inequity
  • And Fiona Russell, also from the MCRI, will lead the Asia-Pacific Pneumococcal Disease Control in the Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine Era.

Melbourne researchers were also successful in winning more than $5.5 million of National Health and Medical research Council Development Grants including:

  • Erica Fletcher who will examine the development of AD214 – a novel anti-fibrotic treatment for advanced age related macular degeneration
  • Eric Reynolds who is researching repair of tooth enamel/dentine by biomimetic mineralisation
  • Christiane Theda (Royal Women's Hospital) who is examining the Neonav ECG Tip Location System: Better and safer care for paediatric intensive care patients
  • David Grayden from Engineering is developing the Stentrode Neuro-stimulator
  • Stephen O'Leary will lead research into Hear Assure: Saving natural hearing during cochlear implantation
  • And Andrew Wise from the Bionics Institute is working on Delivering hearing therapeutics to the clinic.

University researchers also won four NHMRC Partnership grants totalling nearly $4.5 million. These include:

  • The Doherty Institute’s Professor Sharon Lewin who is developing and implementing an ethical framework for HIV phylogenetic analysis in Australia
  • Also from the Doherty, Professor Jodie McVernon will pursue Piloting, Implementing and Evaluating First Few Hundred Protocols in the Australian Context
  • Tim Stinear from the Doherty’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology will explore Stopping Buruli ulcer in Victoria
  • And Susan Cotton from Orygen Youth Mental Health will develop acceptable, fair and efficient ways of improving the reach and effectiveness of the headspace intervention model for young people.