$4.5m in NHMRC grants will help fight disease and improve health

The George Institute for Global Health has been awarded $4.5 million in the latest round of funding by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). These grants will go to a number of initiatives aimed at fighting the burden of non-communicable diseases in Australia and around the world.

The largest grant, worth $2.5 million, will establish a Centre of Research Excellence to reduce the amount of excess salt in Australians’ diets, in line with the World Health Organization’s target of reducing population salt intake by 30 per cent. This Centre will be led by Professor Bruce Neal, Senior Director of The George Institute’s Food Policy Division.

Prof Neal said: “Australia, along with many other countries, has signed up to reduce its salt consumption by 30 per cent by 2025. But we don’t know the most effective ways of meeting this WHO target. We will use these funds to drive global policy change and press for industry action. Excess salt consumption kills thousands of Australians and causes about 1.7 million deaths worldwide each year, so we are delighted to receive this investment from the NHMRC.”

Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley said these grants will play a vital role in funding new research for treatments of diseases that affect Australians.

“Health and medical research is a powerful investment and one that delivers immense benefits through better health and health care.

“The researchers we have funded are at the leading edge of health and medical research from which considerable benefits will flow.

“Congratulations to these grant recipients and I look forward to seeing the outcomes of this work in improving the health and wellbeing of all Australians.”

See below for details of the projects being funded. Further details on all NHMRC Project grants and Career Development Fellowships will be announced soon.  


Scheme: Centres of Research Excellence (CRE)


CIA: Professor Bruce Neal [Food Policy]

TITLE: Reducing salt intake using food policy interventions

FUNDING: $2,491,067

YEARS: 2016-2021


Excess salt consumption has been linked to almost 2 million deaths per year nationally. Australia has signed up to the 30% reduction in population salt intake recommended by the World Health Organisation. However, the best strategies required to achieve this goal remain unclear, and effective delivery of research findings to those most in need has been very difficult to achieve.

This pioneering CRE will deliver evidence that can be used to drive global policy change and industry action on the excess salt consumption, and the implementation of real-world interventions to tackle this priority health issue.

As part of the first CRE at TGI, the team led by Professor Neal includes well-established leaders in food policy research as well as dedicated young researchers who will further develop their skills and training. Their work will deliver high-impact findings and measurable reductions in the salt intake of millions of Australians, preventing tens of thousands of deaths and contributing to global health policy and action on excess salt consumption.


Scheme: Research Fellowships


CIA: Professor Stephen Jan  [Office of the Chief Scientist]

TITLE: Addressing the health and economic burden of chronic conditions

FUNDING: $838,845

YEARS: 2017-2021


Over the past decade, Professor Jan has established a successful and growing program of health economics and health systems research at TGI, and heads a team of six researchers who undertake an array of studies globally. With this fellowship, Professor Jan will expand on his work in evaluating health financing policies in Australasia. His research findings will address and inform financial investments by governments and other agencies into the most pressing health and development issues worldwide.

Through his research program, Professor Jan will also continue to employ and train young researchers in health economics and health financing – a growth area with current academic skills shortage.


Scheme: Practitioner Fellowships


CIA: Professor Simon Finfer  [Critical Care & Trauma]

TITLE: Saving money and saving lives: integrating comparative effectiveness trials and translational research in critically ill patients

FUNDING: $338,937

YEARS: 2017-2021


Professor Finfer’s fellowship will enable him to combine his clinical duties with his research work on sepsis and fluid resuscitation – both of which have enormous impact on mortality worldwide, and are a greater burden on the Australian health care system than breast cancer or vehicle accident deaths. Professor Finfer is already a world leader in critical care research and with this fellowship, he will further expand and consolidate his work and continue to influence clinical practice on a national and global scale.


Scheme: Early Career Fellowships


CIA: Dr Manoj Saxena  [Critical Care & Trauma]

TITLE: Therapeutic Thermal Regulation in Critical Illness

FUNDING: $189,384

YEARS: 2017-2020


Dr Saxena is a rising star in the field of critical care research, having completed a PhD on temperature management in the treatment of patients with traumatic brain injury and after cardiac arrest.

This fellowship will enable Dr Saxena to undertake advanced training in large-scale clinical trials at TGI, and his research findings will provide significant evidence for clinicians who treat critically ill patients with brain injury and severe infections.


CIA: Ms Helen Trevena  [Food Policy]

TITLE: Improving the healthiness of the foods in Australian supermarkets

FUNDING: $318,768

YEARS: 2017-2020


Ms Trevena’s fellowship will enable her to expand her work on the effects of company (private) food standards on the food supply, and identify the main influences on supermarket decision-making regarding food and nutrition standards.

As an emerging researcher in her field, Ms Trevena’s work will have concrete and real-world implications for public health nutrition, by informing government policy on food labelling and the wider efforts to reduce diet-related chronic disease.


CIA: Dr Ruth Webster [Office of the Chief Scientist]

TITLE: Better Use of Established Medications for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease

FUNDING: $348,768

YEARS: 2017-2020


Dr Webster’s research focuses on generating new evidence around better use of established medicine in the treatment of cardiovascular disease. Although there are medications which have been shown to effectively reduce events such as heart attack and stroke, up to half of those in high income countries and up to 80% of people in developing countries are not taking these medications.

This fellowship will enable Dr Webster to help inform the treatment of cardiovascular disease and blood pressure for millions of people in Australia and globally.