Date published: 
4 May 2020
Type: 
Newsletter
Intended Audience: 
General public

MRFF support for important COVID-19 research

The March newsletter outlined the MRFF’s efforts to support research into diagnostics, vaccines, antivirals and respiratory medicine clinical trials in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. When details become available, we will publish the outcomes of the $5 million COVID-19 respiratory medicine clinical trials grant opportunity and the $8 million antiviral development grant opportunity.

A further $1.5 million in MRFF funding has been invested in the National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce to deliver 'living guidelines' on the clinical management of patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infection across primary, acute and critical care settings.

In addition, a consortium led by DetectED-X and the coronavirus Image Biobank has received $1 million to use artificial intelligence to support frontline health workers using CT scans to quickly (and more accurately) diagnose the severity of coronavirus in patients who are having difficulty breathing.

Health impacts of the recent bushfires

The MRFF is providing $5 million to research health impacts of the recent bushfires.

Understanding the medical and mental health needs of frontline responders and affected communities will help Australia remain at the forefront of preparedness of bushfire recovery.

Under two major research streams, nine projects will investigate the health impacts of prolonged bushfire smoke exposure and ongoing mental health stresses.      

Read more about this important research.

Is COVID-19 impacting your grant?

On 1 April 2020, we provided information on the Department of Health website regarding MRFF grants and grant opportunities that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

We will publish significant changes to our grant opportunities in the MRFF newsletter and on the Department of Health website.

You can contact the Grant Hub administering the relevant MRFF Grant Opportunity or Grant Agreement (NHMRC: help [at] nhmrc.gov.au or BGH: MRFF [at] industry.gov.au) or MRFF [at] health.gov.au with any enquiries.

How the MRFF is helping Australians

Hear from Professor Michelle Haber (Executive Director, Children’s Cancer Institute) about how the MRFF helps push toward the goal of zero childhood cancer.

Michelle Haber thumbnail
3:35
Read transcript

[Music plays and images move through of a male walking into the UNSW Children’s Cancer Institute, and a sign on the side of the building]

[Images move through to show a Zero Childhood Cancer brochure, and then Professor Michelle Haber talking to the camera and text appears: Professor Michelle Haber AM, Executive Director, Children’s Cancer Institute]

Professor Michelle Haber: The Zero Childhood Cancer program is directed only towards the children who are at serious risk of dying from their disease.

[Music plays and images move through of various views of the inside of the UNSW Children’s Cancer Institute]

[Images move through of a Zero Childhood Cancer brochure, Michelle and two colleagues talking at a desk, Michelle holding up the brochure,  and then Michelle talking to the camera]

The Medical Research Future Fund have supported, specifically through the Australian Brain Cancer Mission, so that ultimately we can achieve our goal of zero children dying of cancer.

[Music plays and images move through of Michelle and another female in a laboratory walking towards the camera, and then through the laboratory]

[Images move through of researchers at work in the laboratory]

The Zero Childhood Cancer program is at the absolute forefront of child cancer precision medicine programs internationally.

[Images flash through of a laboratory worker drawing liquid up into a syringe and squirting into a test tube, Michelle talking, researchers working in a laboratory, and Michelle talking to colleagues]

It’s one of the most comprehensive, personalised medicine programs worldwide because it combines extremely comprehensive molecular profiling with the responses of the child’s tumour cells

[Camera zooms in on laboratory workers squirting liquid into a test tube and the camera zooms in on the syringe and the test tube]

that are being grown in the laboratory and actually tested empirically for their response to anti-cancer drugs.

[Image changes to show Michelle talking to the camera]

Their tumour cells will be flown here to Children’s Cancer Institute.

[Images move through of workers inside the laboratory, a worker removing a container from a fridge, Michelle talking to the camera, and a researcher studying a liquid in a clear container]

We will extract the genetic material from those tumour cells and in collaboration with our partners that data, the whole genetic sequence of both the tumour and for comparison the normal DNA of that child’s cells, will be sequenced within two weeks.

[Image changes to show Michelle talking to the camera and then the image changes to show a laboratory worker looking through a microscope and the camera zooms in on her face]

And we have been able to turn around that data and give answers back in real time to children who would otherwise have died of their disease and it has fundamentally changed their life.

[Images move through to show the liquid in the container on the microscope stand, the researcher looking through the microscope, Michelle talking, and then holding up a brochure]

The funding from the Medical Research Future Fund has allowed us to address three major challenges in the area of treating these most resistant childhood cancer brain tumours.

[Camera zooms in on the brochure and then images move through of a female listening to Michelle talking, and then Michelle talking to the camera]

The first is to have sufficient funding to actually roll out this program nationally and ensure that every child in the country with high-risk brain tumours has access to this precision medicine platform.

[Images move through of labelled bottles on a shelf in a laboratory, boxes of samples being gently rotated on a machine, Michelle talking to the camera, and researchers working in the laboratory]

The second challenge is having access to the clinical trials of the latest treatments and a significant proportion of this funding is focussed specifically on more, newer, innovative clinical trials for children with brain tumours.

[Images move through of a male looking through a microscope, a hand adjusting the microscope slide, Michelle talking, and then with a colleague in the laboratory]

And the third focus of the MRFF funding is to develop new immunotherapies for children with cancer, to find new ways of treating these children who have such limited opportunities for cure.

[Images move through of Michelle and a colleague in conversation, Michelle talking to the camera, Michelle and the colleague looking at a sample in the lab again, and Michelle talking]

So, this is genuine translation of bench to bedside research and then back again where the responses that we see in the clinic then inform the next experiments in the laboratory.

[Images move through of Michelle and a female colleague in the laboratory looking at data on a screen and talking]

And this is the sort of funding that the MRFF was committed to supporting.

[Image changes to show Michelle talking to the camera]

These are the ways that we will take on this challenge and beat it.

[Images move through of Michelle and a researcher at a microscope, a close-up of a sample under the microscope, the researcher looking through the microscope, and an area outside of a building]

We’ve seen the results of research, the impact of improvements in survival rate from zero to 80% for kids with cancer.

[Image changes to show Michelle talking to the camera]

That’s hundreds of thousands of children who are alive today who would not have been without medical research.

[Camera zooms in on Michelle’s face as she talks to the camera]

That is the power of what we do.

[Music plays and the image changes to show Michelle standing in a laboratory and smiling at the camera and then the image changes to show a hexagonal blue, white and red pattern on the screen]

[Coat of Arms and text appears on a blue screen: Australian Government, Department of Health, Medical Research Future Fund]

You can hear from other prominent members of the research community talking about how the MRFF is helping Australians in a series of videos on the Department of Health website.

Grant opportunities

All MRFF grant opportunities are advertised on GrantConnect.

Register with GrantConnect to receive notifications when a new opportunity is open.

How to access previous editions of the MRFF newsletter

Previous editions of the MRFF newsletter are now available on the MRFF newsletters page on the Department of Health website.

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If you have any questions about the newsletter, please email HMRO [at] health.gov.au