NHMRC announces $640m in funding, plus a boost to female researchers

Thursday, 07 December, 2017

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The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) appears to be getting into the Christmas spirit early, this week announcing $640 million to support Australia’s health and medical researchers as well as an initiative to reduce the difference in funded rates between male and female lead investigators.

Across Australia, 732 projects will receive funding to support research in National Health Priority Areas including (but not limited to):

  • Cancer — $109,372,127
  • Cardiovascular disease — $ 96,807,391
  • Diabetes — $48,138,328
  • Mental health — $53,357,755
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health — $31,345,012
  • Injury — $28,487,333
  • Dementia — $14,278,383
  • Obesity — $13,078,741
  • Asthma — $12,335,400
  • Arthritis and osteoporosis — $10,397,697

Cancer research continues to be a major priority for the Turnbull government, with $109 million allocated to projects for research into better cancer detection, treatments, care and cures. One such project will be led by Australian National University (ANU) researcher Professor Emily Banks, who will lead a project to examine the health and wellbeing issues facing long-term cancer survivors. Also at ANU, Dr Leonie Quinn and colleagues will use their $940,000 grant to investigate new drug therapies for brain tumours, focusing on glioma — the most common type of malignant brain tumour.

The funding also includes what is said to be the single largest investment in HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) research by the Australian Government, with $16.1 million. University of Melbourne researcher Professor Stephen Kent will lead the research program that will bring together an outstanding team of Australian HIV researchers to advance our understanding of the biology of HIV, ultimately leading to significant clinical benefits for HIV-infected patients and those at risk of acquiring HIV.

In addition, the NHMRC is seeking to support Australia’s most talented female researchers by actively reducing the gap in funded rates between male and female lead investigators for Project Grants — NHMRC’s largest funding scheme.

Every year, the funded rates for Project Grants are higher for men than women. The new initiative provides additional funding enabling 34 more female lead investigators to be funded on top of the researchers funded through the usual allocation to the Project Grants scheme. The funded rate through the Project Grants scheme has now increased to 15.3% for female lead investigators, while the male funding rate remains unchanged at 17.1%.

NHMRC CEO Professor Anne Kelso said this strategy is a deliberate approach to keep more women in the health and medical research sector, noting, “Leading research provides an opportunity for women to contribute fully to the improvement of health and wellbeing through research and has a positive impact on their careers.

“NHMRC is continuing to fund research excellence. All applications funded as a result of this initiative were assessed as highly competitive.

“This initiative aligns with the government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda and contributes to the Workplace Gender Equity Agency’s goal of achieving broadly equal outcomes for women and men in the workplace.

This announcement complements a suite of other NHMRC gender equality initiatives, including working with universities and research institutions to ensure gender equality policies are in place to keep women in research.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/WavebreakMediaMicro

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