Medical research grant recipients announced

Published: 3 August 2020

The Victorian Government is backing cutting-edge medical research projects to better understand, prevent and treat coronavirus.

Seven projects will benefit from the government’s $5.5 million COVID-19 Research Fund, which will support continued jobs growth in a sector that already employs tens of thousands of Victorians.

The Murdoch Children’s Research Institute will use human-derived stem cells to better understand the virus’s effects on different organ systems in the body, including the lung, heart, kidneys, brain, immune system and blood vessels, to support the development of targeted treatments.

Among other grant recipients, the Burnet Institute and University of Melbourne will conduct separate studies focusing on improving our understanding of COVID-19 immunity, while Barwon Health will conduct a study in regional Victoria to determine the long-term biological, physiological and psychological impacts of coronavirus.

Separately, the Victorian Medical Research Acceleration Fund will provide $3 million to fund 12 projects across a range of research fields, including a team at RMIT that is exploring a new way to manage viral infections, which could allow for the repurposing of existing drugs to fight coronavirus.

Victoria is home to 12 independent medical research institutes that employ more than 4,800 people. The state’s wider medical research sector supports more than 30,000 jobs across institutes, universities and industry.

The COVID-19 Research Fund was created in May as part of $8.5 million committed to the work of Victoria’s world-leading research institutes to better understand transmission, immunity and the long-term health impacts of coronavirus. An initial $3 million was allocated to accelerate existing projects relating to COVID-19.

COVID-19 Research Fund recipients

STREAM A – Biomedical research into long term impacts of COVID-19

Lead Organisation

Project Description

Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI)

Evaluate direct and indirect effects of SARS-Cov-2 virus (COVID-19), on multiple organ systems using stem cell-derived human tissues, to understand the disease pathology to change clinical care and facilitate the development of targeted treatment options.

Burnet Institute

Improve our understanding of COVID-19 immunity by providing a highly scalable tool for the measurement of neutralising antibody at both the individual patient level, and for screening of populations at scale.

The University of Melbourne

Study to define immunity to COVID-19 at the individual level and generate knowledge to enable the development of better vaccines and biotherapies for the whole community.

Barwon Health

A comparative observational study in regional Victoria to determine the long-term biological physiological, and psychological impacts of COVID-19 infection on a regional population.

STREAM B – Cohort studies into the long-term impacts of COVID-19 on groups at risk of increased exposure such as on Health Care workers

Lead Organisation

Project description

Alfred Health

Examine the long-term impacts of COVID-19 on workers and workplaces, with a focus on healthcare and aged care.

Eastern Health

Investigate the impacts of COVID-19 frontline workers on the wellbeing of Victorian healthcare staff and their families.

Bendigo Health

Explore the impacts of COVID-19 on the health and wellbeing of the rural and regional health care workforce.

Victorian Medical Research Acceleration Fund: Round 4 recipients

Lead Organisation

Project Description

RMIT University

This research proposes uses a new approach to management of viral infections by targeting cell processes, rather than viral replication, which if successful might allow repurposing of drugs developed for other indications as curative COVID-19 treatments

Royal Women’s Hospital

Safer care for critically ill newborns: a new medical device to assist with placement and monitoring of neonatal central venous catheters

Swinburne University of Technology

Using oxytocin to treat body dysmorphic disorder

Melbourne Health

Development of a genomic diagnostic test for patients with immune dysfunction

Atidia

Utilising machine learning and artificial intelligence to identify procedures and practices to enhance doctors’ decision making and standardise practice. If successful, the new practices will reduce post-operative morbidity and mortality and the duration of hospitalisation and associated costs

Hudson Institute

Developing a low-cost, regenerative medicine for extremely premature babies at high risk of developing severe and chronic respiratory disease

Avipep Pty Ltd

Development of a superior antibody-based therapy for CD30+ lymphoma cancers

The Bionics Institute of Australia

Translating a recently discovered brain signal into optimised deep brain stimulation therapy for people with Parkinson’s disease

University of Melbourne

A novel composite biomaterial for corneal transplantation to restore vision in patients with corneal endothelial disease, a common cause of blindness, affecting over 3.2 million globally

University of Melbourne

Remote expert nurse consultation to assess bed sore prevention and management in residential aged care. Pressure injuries, also known as bed sores, affect up to 28 per cent of aged care residents.

University of Melbourne

Researchers will undertake a longitudinal study to determine whether treatment of hearing loss, using a hearing aid, decreases the risk of cognitive decline and dementia.

Monash University

A Phase One clinical study of a novel inhaled formulation of oxytocin, will be undertaken to assess if it may reduce mortality from post-partum haemorrhage in low and middle-income countries. Postnatal haemorrhage is the leading cause of maternal mortality.