Australian Government Announce New Research Funding

August 29 2019

On 29 August 2019, the Morrison Government announced they will invest over $440 million in world-leading health and medical research projects to improve the lives of all Australians. A total of 298 new projects will receive funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

 Over $26 million of this has been allocated to research funding specific to lung disease.

Thank you to the Morrison Government and Greg Hunt MP for this welcomed investment into the future of lung disease research. Lung Foundation Australia will continue to push for funding of a National Lung Cancer Screening Program and more Specialist Lung Care Nurses.

Investment will be made into the following twenty research programs that focus specifically on achieving better outcomes for people living with lung disease:

A full list of grant recipients is available on NHMRC’s website:

Name Grant Title Total Summary
Dr Andre Schultz Partnerships to prevent permanent disease in children with chronic wet cough $1,429,677.00 Chronic wet cough in Aboriginal children is the dominant symptom of disease that commonly lead to permanent lung damage and premature death. Timely detection and optimal management of chronic wet cough in Aboriginal children can prevent a substantial proportion of chronic lung disease in adults.  We will use implementation science to determine barriers and facilitators to optimal treatment of chronic wet cough. We will develop and implement strategies to improve detection and management of cough
Prof Benjamin Solomon Delivering Personalised Medicine for Lung Cancer $2,682,424.00 Lung cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer in Australia or worldwide. The aim of this investigator grant is to develop and evaluate new treatments for lung cancer patients. This will involve a combination of clinical research extending from innovative phase 1 to practice changing phase 3 clinical trials and laboratory based translational research with blood and tissue directed at delivering precision medicine and improving outcomes for patients with lung cancer.
A/Pr Deborah Glass Cancer and Mortality among Queensland Coal Mine Workers $347,422.05 Coal workers pneumoconiosis has recently re-emerged in Queensland and the USA.  There is interest therefore in whether other dust-related diseases have also increased among these workers.  Data collected within the Queensland Coal Mine Workers’ Health Scheme will be used to investigate the extent of cancer and mortality among male and female Queensland coal mine workers. Targeted action can then be taken to reduce exposure for jobs or at mine types where risk is highest.
Prof Penelope Webb Enhancing Cancer Survivorship $1,853,030.00 One in two Australians will be diagnosed with cancer by age 85 and there will be 1.4 million cancer survivors by 2020. I will use my world-class data/sample resources to improve psychological and physical outcomes for survivors by (1) identifying ways to increase treatment completion rates; (2) optimising follow-up to minimise late effects of treatment and maximise early detection of recurrence; and (3) identifying factors that influence recurrence and survival to reduce mortality.
Dr Chung Kai Chan E-cigarettes and vaping: Holy grail of tobacco control or gateway to a public health disaster? $639,750.00 Tobacco kills over 7 million people annually. Vaping device (VD) holds the promise to reduce tobacco harms as a less harmful substitute but its popularity among young people raises the concern of renormalising smoking. The overall harms and benefits are unknown because of insufficient research. The goal of this research is to generate new knowledge to inform future VD policies. It will provide the evidence base to harness VD’s potential benefits while minimising its harms to young people.
Dr Adam Wheatley Advancing influenza vaccines for broad and durable protection $602,250.00 Current influenza vaccines elicit poor protection against viruses undergoing rapid change. This proposal will define the potential for protective, cross-reactive antibody responses in humans and use this information to identify conserved sites of vulnerability on the hemagglutinin of influenza viruses. This will inform the development and assessment of novel influenza vaccine concepts in animal models of human influenza infection.
Prof Anne Chang Centre of Research Excellence in preventing and managing bronchiectasis, especially in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children $2,498,877.70 Bronchiectasis is an increasingly recognised cause of morbidity and mortality especially among Indigenous Australians. Our CRE’s overall vision is to prevent and reduce the burden of bronchiectasis (consequently in adults), thus improving the lung health of children, particularly for Indigenous children. We propose studies that addresses preventing and improving understanding and management of bronchiectasis, using classical and novel techniques.
A/Pr Ricky O’Brien A New Medical Device for Fast, Low Dose Cancer Patient Imaging in Radiotherapy $727,419.00 We will develop a medical device that can be used to better account for respiratory motion in radiation oncology treatments.  The device allows radiation therapists to better target tumours as they move while the patient breathes at the same time steering radiation away from healthy organs and healthy tissue.  As a consequence, better tumour control and lower radiation induced toxicities are expected on successful completion of this project with a strong commercial value proposition created.
Prof Kanta Subbarao Translating virus biology and host immunity for influenza control $1,800,000.00 Flu epidemics occur every year but some seasons, like 2017, are more severe than others.  Vaccines are the most effective way to prevent flu but they are not always effective. Flu pandemics occur a few times each century, when new influenza viruses emerge from animal hosts, infect people and spread around the world. This research will examine human and animal influenza viruses and immunity to flu infection and vaccines, to improve seasonal flu vaccines and better prepare for future pandemics.
A/Pr Christopher Blyth Paediatric Acute Respiratory Infection Management & Prevention: Platforms for the Future $1,288,139.50 Acute respiratory infection affects the lungs and is the commonest reason Australian children are admitted to hospital. Many treatments are available, but it is unclear how best to use them. Vaccines can prevent specific infections but are underused. We must urgently determine which current and future therapies are most effective to prevent or treat respiratory infection. Our multi-faceted program will decrease ARI incidence and morbidity, guide optimal therapy and conserve healthcare resources.
Prof Daniela Traini ‘Breathing in a Cure’: using the lung as a delivery portal for repurposed drugs $2,348,640.00 The lung is an amazing organ, crucial for oxygen exchange and survival, offering a fantastic portal for both the local and systemic delivery of a number of medicines that are quick and convenient to administer. There is a huge need for novel therapies that could impact positively on respiratory diseases management, like COPD, CF, asthma and lung cancer. In this project repurposed drugs, being less risky, cheaper and faster to get approval, will be used to address this significant health gap.
Prof David Dunstan Unlocking the health effects of sitting to reduce chronic disease $131,783.00 This fellowship involves a series of studies that will fill gaps in evidence to inform national and international public health and clinical guideline recommendations on sitting time. It will provide crucial evidence on dose-response relationships, underlying mechanisms and the feasibility of making the relevant behavioural changes, providing more-precise evidence-based contributions to the development of public health policy and guidelines on sitting time.
A/Pr Stephanie Topp Health system governance and tuberculosis control in the Torres Strait: an institutional analysis. $561,800.00 This project will identify, evaluate and formulate recommendations to strengthen health system governance for TB control in the Torres Strait Protected Zone. The Torres Strait is an area of strategic public health importance to Australia due to its proximity to Papua New Guinea, and its substantially higher rates of both tuberculosis and multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.
Prof Brian Oldenburg Centre of Research Excellence in Interactive Digital Technology to Transform Australia’s Chronic Disease Outcomes $2,490,594.00 Half of all Australians have at least one chronic disease and half of these have two or more. Interactive digital technologies can be used to address many of the current challenges contributing to Australia’s poor chronic disease outcomes. Co-designed with users and stakeholders, our CRE will transform Australia’s chronic disease outcomes by investigating how these new technologies can be optimised and integrated into routine healthcare delivery.
Prof David Currow Better Treatments For Breathlessness In Palliative And End Of Life Care $499,430.90 People with emphysema or lung scarring frequently have breathlessness at rest, dressing, showering or preparing meals, despite best treatment for the disease. Globally, no medication is approved for this breathlessness.   This 6 country study will test mirtazapine, a medication usually used in depression, reducing breathlessness even if people are not depressed. This study will give mirtazapine or a sugar tablet (on a coin toss) for 8 weeks to measure benefits and harms on worst breathlessness.
Prof Philip Hansbro Developing new preventions and treatments for chronic respiratory diseases $1,875,000.00 There are no broadly effective treatments for emphysema, severe asthma or lung cancer. Using experimental systems we developed we have identified new drug targets and therapies for these diseases. We will also use new technology to deeply profile changes in cells and tissues and identify pathways that globally control these diseases that can be targeted with new therapies. We will now progress our therapies towards human use that will lead to new treatments for these diseases.
Dr Henry Marshall Enhancing smoking cessation with an innovative mobile health avatar $444,875.00 Smoking causes premature death. We will create and test a state-of-the-art artificial intelligence (AI) smartphone app to help smokers quit. The app will talk – think of Siri on an iPhone – delivering tailored cessation advice, increasing user knowledge and motivation to quit, working in tandem with existing smoking cessation services. The app ‘brain’, built from AI analysis of thousands of smokers’ Quitline counselling conversations, will be like hundreds of skilled counsellors rolled into one.
Prof Philip Hansbro Development of a novel effective therapy for asthma and COPD $1,083,698.90 There are no effective treatments for severe asthma or emphysema. We developed a new therapy and show that it effectively suppresses inflammation in severe asthma and likely emphysema. It is a human protein and so is unlikely to have side effects. We now need to define how it works, optimise delivery to achieve maximum benefit, show efficacy in different forms of asthma, and COPD, and in human cells. This will enable us to perform clinical trials to show that it is effective in human patients.
Prof Franz Babl Centre of Research Excellence in Paediatric Emergency Medicine $2,498,970.20 This proposed CRE will address research in 3 streams identified by Australasian emergency department staff as priorities: trauma (cervical spine and head injuries), convulsive status epilepticus and respiratory emergencies (bronchiolitis and asthma). All of these conditions can cause death and disability. The CRE will create new knowledge for their management, but more importantly ensure that research findings are applied when children attend hospital with these common and important conditions.
Dr Alain Wuethrich A protein phosphorylation mapping tool for monitoring tyrosine kinase inhibition therapy in cancer patients $639,750.00 Phosphorylation is an important modification regulating the activity of cellular proteins. A deregulated phosphorylation can lead to abnormal cell proliferation and cancer. Although targeted drugs are available, the detection of this protein aberration is difficult and invisible at the genomic level – representing the main challenge for personalised medicine. This project aims to develop a protein phosphorylation tool that maps activated cancerous pathways and for clinical translation.