MRFF funding for Australians leading COVID-19 research

The Australian Government has made available $96 million for the national effort fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Read about some projects, supported by the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF).

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General public

Innovation to prepare the health system for COVID-19

MRFF funding supports our clinicians to find and treat the new and unpredictable disease.

The National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce received an MRFF grant to create living guidelines. The guidelines include the latest worldwide research to help Australian healthcare workers be safe and care for people with COVID-19. Peak health professional bodies across Australia are members of the Taskforce.

Professor Patrick Brennan and his team received an MRFF grant for a way to detect the disease. The project uses lung CT screening and artificial intelligence to train clinicians to diagnose COVID-19.

CovED has trained clinicians in Australia. Global technology companies, such as GE Healthcare, distribute this platform to the world.

Tracking the virus

Genomics offers a powerful tool for tracking viruses. It uses the virus’ unique genetic coding to track and trace transmission between people.

The Communicable Diseases Genomics Network received an MRFF grant to understand the virus. The project helps us to understand virus behaviour and changes to the virus. Network members work together to share resources across the country.

This information helps to investigate and understand infection outbreaks. For example, Government briefings to the media and public use genomics data.

Using novel technologies to generate treatments for COVID-19

COVID-19 can damage the heart. Associate Professor James Hudson and his team received an MRFF grant to investigate this heart damage. The team uses laboratory-grown miniature human heart organoids.

A patient’s own immune system can overreact to the infection. The immune system releases inflammatory substances that damage the organs in the body, including the heart.

The research found a potential treatment. This treatment is in clinical trials with people with COVID-19.

Our immune system and COVID-19

Professor Katherine Kedzierska, Associate Professor Stuart Turville and their colleagues received MRFF grants to study the body’s immune system during COVID-19 infection.

The groups found that the immune response was different early in COVID-19 infection and when the person had recovered. Researchers can use this information to find biomarkers to predict how sick someone will become during infection. Researchers can also use this information to find immunotherapies to treat COVID-19.

The groups also compared the body’s immune system in a COVID-19 infection and after a COVID-19 vaccine. This knowledge could allow better vaccines to be developed faster.

Making COVID-19 vaccines

Vaccines protect people against infectious diseases. MRFF supports research into 9 possible COVID-19 vaccines.

These MRFF grants show the depth of Australian innovation. Each of the 9 vaccines use a different vaccine technology. The technologies include, for example: viral vectors, mRNA, protein-based, DNA and other technologies.

Also, the MRFF enables clinical trials for some of these possible vaccines. New vaccines will help to combat COVID-19 and future pandemics.

MRFF and Coronavirus Research Response

MRFF allows Australia to capitalise on our health and medical research strengths. Australian researchers are:

  • part of the global efforts to control the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • preparing the health system for future pandemics.

The Department of Health updates the list of MRFF coronavirus grant recipients are available online.

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