The cream of Australian researchers have been honoured at the annual National Health and Medical Research Council Research Excellence Awards in Canberra, presented by the Federal Minister of Health, Sussan Ley.
The Marshall and Warren Award, given to the applicant with the most highly innovative and potentially transformative project grant application, went to Professor Peter Thompson and his University of Western Australia team, to follow up on the promising results of a clinical trial to confirm whether a low cost drug can reduce incidents that may damage the heart muscle in patients with stable coronary heart disease. This follow-up study will involve around 5 000 participants, up from around 500 in the earlier trial.
The Rising Star Research Excellence Award, given to the top-ranked application by an Indigenous researcher in the Early Career Fellowship scheme, went to Mrs Catherine Chamberlain, from the University of Melbourne, for her research into the cardio-metabolic health of Indigenous Australian women during pregnancy and after birth. Mrs Chamberlain will investigate and pilot strategies to achieve this aim, with the strategies based on the best available evidence about women with gestational diabetes, epidemiological data and data on social determinants.
Dr Si Ming Man, from the University of New South Wales, was awarded the Frank Fenner Early Career Fellowship for his research into the role of interferons, and the proteins that regulate their production, in immune responses against the foodborne bacteria Salmonella and Listeria. This research aims to uncover new treatments and ways to prevent these bacterial infections.
The Gustav Nossal Clinical Scholarship went to Dr Jonathan Brett from the University of Sydney, who will seek to reduce waste in the health system, focusing on situations where the prescribing of medications results in little benefit for the associated cost. He will look specifically at inappropriate antipsychotic use in residential aged care facilities and within the general community.
Three Elizabeth Blackburn Fellowships were awarded. Professor Glenda Halliday, from the University of New South Wales, won the clinical fellowship for her research into the biological mechanisms behind non-Alzheimer dementias and degenerative motor syndromes. Professor Anushka Patel, from the University of Sydney, won the public health fellowship for testing two approaches to healthcare delivery – the first delegating specific roles to persons other than the treating physician; the second involving better delivery of essential medicines. The biomedical fellowship went to Associate Professor Anne Voss from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research for her work on gene expression.
Other Research Excellence Awards went to: Highest ranked Project Grant to Associate Professor Ian Seppelt (University of Sydney); Highest ranked Program Grant to Professor Alan Cowman (lead investigator), Professor Brendan Crabb, Professor Ivo Mueller, Professor James Beeson, Professor Stephen Rogerson (The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research); Highest ranked Research Fellowship to Professor Mark Smyth (QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute); Highest ranked Practitioner Fellowship to Professor Ben Mol (University of Adelaide); Highest ranked Career Development Fellowship – Clinical, Level 1 to Associate Professor Mario Alvarez-Jimenez (University of Melbourne); Highest ranked Career Development Fellowship – Population Health, Level 1 to Dr Philip Batterham (Australian National University); Highest ranked Career Development Fellowship – Population Health, Level 2 to Associate Professor Karen Canfell (University of New South Wales); Highest ranked Career Development Fellowship – Industry, Level 2 to Dr Tony Velkov (Monash University); Highest ranked Career Development Fellowship – Biomedical, Level 1 to Dr Kate Hoy (Monash University); Highest ranked Career Development Fellowship – Biomedical, Level 2 to Associate Professor Kevin Pfleger (University of Western Australia); Highest ranked Development Grant to Professor Mark Smyth (QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute).
In addition, three NHMRC Biennial Awards were announced.
The Ethics Award went to Associate Professor Ian Kerridge, from the University of Sydney, who has spent his career dissecting ethical issues in health practice and policy, and promoting high ethical standards in health care and research. He was a member of the Legislation Review Committee that examined human cloning and the use of human embryos, and most recently, was a member of the Australian Health Ethics Committee and the Assisted Reproductive Technology Review Committee.
The Science to Art Award went to Dr Victor Anggono (University of Queensland), a group leader at the Queensland Brain Institute and a member of the Clem Jones Centre for Ageing Dementia Research. His winning entry shows neurons extending their axons to establish synaptic connection and form neural circuits, the activity of which is essential for brain function such as learning and memory.
Professor Melissa Little, from the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, won the Outstanding Contribution Award. Over the last two decades, Professor Little has made extensive contributions to NHMRC and the broader medical research sector in Australia. She was a committee member on the two most recent federal reviews of health and medical research and also a member of NHMRC’s Research Committee from 2009 to 2015.
Two medical educators from Flinders University have been recognised in the Australian Awards for University Training. Dr Sarah Mahoney (pictured) and Jacky Lowe are receiving joint citations for their academic and administrative leadership of Flinders’ Onkaparinga Clinical Education Program (OCEP). Dr Mahoney and Ms Lowe’s work at OCEP has led to “the development and ongoing success of a unique, immersive, longitudinal program of urban community-based medical education”. Dr Mahoney is a general medical practitioner with extensive clinical experience who began university teaching at Flinders University in late 2009, while Ms Lowe is an administrator with a long and successful track record in education, training and project management. Between them, they have overseen the growth of the OCEP from a small pilot in 2009 to a “robust, comprehensive, complex and unique community-based program that also incorporates social accountability”.
Flinders University’s Dean of Medicine Professor Paul Worley has been appointed as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences. Prof Worley’s work has focused the science of rural community based medical education, and its impact on addressing the maldistribution of doctors for rural and underserved areas. He is a past President of the Rural Doctors Association of SA, a previous national Vice President of Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine, and a current Council Member of the AMA (SA). Also receiving their Fellowships were ophthalmology expert Professor Justine Smith, palliative care expert Professor David Currow, and Australia’s Chief Medical Officer and Flinders professorial fellow, Professor Chris Baggoley, AM.
Publication of your online response is subject to the Medical Journal of Australia's editorial discretion. You will be notified by email within five working days should your response be accepted.