Researchers win significant share of prestigious NHMRC funding

The George Institute for Global Health has won $3.5 million in prestigious fellowship funding to support five leading researchers to pursue work on their flagship projects.

The Government funding will underpin projects around ICU resuscitation fluids, stroke management, improving healthcare delivery to treat chronic disease and falls prevention, and using big data to combat heart disease.

George Institute Australia executive director Professor Vlado Perkovic said: “These fellowships are extremely prestigious. This is an extraordinary result for the institute, and highlights the calibre of researchers working here, and driving the work of our organisation.

“This result augers well for our future and for the future of the millions of people who will be touched by the healthcare improvements as a result of our research.

“In general, the Government funds 30 per cent of practitioner and research fellowship applications from Australian researchers. We are most fortunate to have success rates of 50 per cent and 75 per cent respectively for Practitioner and Research Fellowship applications from our institute.”

Professor Perkovic said the research was aimed at better informing healthcare policy and practice in Australia and around the world and providing evidence to underpin changes and investment needed to improve the health of millions of people worldwide.

The research fellowships, announced by Health Minister Peter Dutton, are awarded to senior researchers with excellent track records in conducting high impact research.

Fellowships are as follows:


Professor John Myburgh $551,436

CCT Division

This fellowship will facilitate the consolidation of a research program that Prof Myburgh has developed over the last 15 years, with substantive outputs achieved during the first three years of his current Practitioner Fellowship.

The research program has two main objectives. Together with colleagues and through the ANZICS Clinical Trials Group network and The George Institute, Prof Myburgh has established a comprehensive program of research in resuscitation fluids in critically ill patients. This includes the completion of the two largest randomised controlled trials (RCTs) in Intensive Care Medicine – the Saline vs. Albumin Evaluation, and Crystalloid vs. Hydroxyethyl Starch Trial (CHEST) – the latter which had a substantive impact on clinical practice.

Prof Myburgh will complete further analyses from CHEST and conduct translational studies to assess the impact of these trials on clinical practice.  In addition, he and his team are developing a cluster-RCT to determine the efficacy and safety of crystalloid resuscitation fluids within conventional and restrictive paradigms. This is a fundamental and unresolved question in Intensive Care Medicine and Prof Myburgh’s group is in a unique position to conduct such a program that will have a substantive impact on clinical practice worldwide.

Another of Prof Myburgh’s priorities is to consolidate and enhance a series of projects to provide the next generation of clinician-researchers with high-quality research opportunities. These include a series of projects including RCTs in sepsis, traumatic brain injury, endocrine function in critical illness. These studies will provide the platform for current and future higher degree students to substantially increase capacity development Intensive Care Medicine.


Professor Craig Anderson $836,913

NMH Division

As an international authority on the causes, treatment and management of stroke, and other aspects of cerebro- and cardio-vascular disease, Prof Anderson has maintained a sustained program of research over two decades with the specific aim of generating reliable evidence to inform health care providers and policy makers in Australia and overseas, in their decisions regarding the optimal strategies for the prevention and treatment of for these conditions. His approach is to conceive, design and efficiently conduct innovative large-scale, collaborative, inter-disciplinary, epidemiological and clinical trials research. In doing so, Prof Anderson has established himself as one of the world’s leading clinical stroke trialists, and is recognised for promoting clinical and public health policies, research and capacity-building activities, particularly within the Asian region.

The program of research under this new fellowship uniquely links clinical medicine and public health, involves multidisciplinary teams in over two dozen countries, and addresses a broad spectrum of topic areas ranging from acute medical and non-medical treatment, preventative approaches, models of service delivery and rehabilitation, and the cognitive, psychosocial and economic impact of acute events. Prof Anderson also aims to further develop the research program within an established global clinical trials platform to include evaluations of complex interventions and systems of care using cluster clinical trial designs. He is seeking to expand his research activities to increase capacity, improve clinical services and health practitioner training, and development of health policy in Australia and overseas.

Professor Anushka Patel $686,645


Cardiovascular and other chronic diseases are the leading causes of premature death and disability globally. Highly effective treatments for the prevention or control of these conditions are established, however their use remains far from optimal. This is particularly true in lower income countries, but is also an important problem in Australia.

Prof Patel’s current and proposed research will develop and evaluate new solutions to reduce large evidence-practice gaps in healthcare delivery. The focus will be on Australia, as well as regional neighbours representing the world's most populous nations - China and India. Through individual context-specific projects, the proposed research will focus on two inter-related approaches to improved healthcare delivery for chronic conditions - first, new models of care that incorporate task shifting (where a task normally performed by a physician is transferred to a health professional with a different or lower level of education and training, or to a person specifically trained to perform a limited task only, without having formal health education) with embedded clinical decision support (wherever possible, taking advantage of massive global gains in electronic connectivity); and second, better delivery of essential medicines. 

The over-arching program of research will address the need for real change to be enacted within complex health systems. Consequently, this research will bring together cross-disciplinary teams taking a mixed-methods approach to provide reliable evidence about effectiveness, affordability and acceptability to consumers, providers and healthcare funders alike.

Professor Cathie Sherrington $686,645

MSK Division

Disability and falls have substantial and increasing societal and personal costs. One fifth of Australian adults report a lasting disability and one-third of older people fall each year. Prof Sherrington’s research plan for the next 5 years directly targets these important health problems with physical activity interventions and has the following aims.

  1. Establish the impact of novel physical activity approaches on mobility, falls and fall-related injuries.Prof Sherrington will lead four randomised controlled trials to address key unanswered questions in: affordable technology in rehabilitation; combined fall prevention and physical activity interventions; yoga for falls prevention; and exercise to prevent fall-related injuries. Each intervention has been designed to be able to be widely implemented if found to be effective and each trial has a cost-effectiveness component.
  2. Evaluate the “real-world” implementation of physical activity interventions, previously found to prevent falls, in partnership with health services.This work tests the feasibility and impact of interventions when implemented by health services (rather than within a trial context) and involves data linkage studies and three collaborative trials testing pragmatic interventions with cost-effectiveness evaluations.
  3. Increase physical activity in Australian adults with disability through leadership of a Centre of Research Excellence.Little is known about the patterns and determinants of physical activity participation in people with disability and health promotion campaigns rarely target this important segment of our society. To address this inequality Prof Sherrington has assembled a group of investigators and supporting organisations and designed a series of projects to be undertaken within a Centre of Research Excellence.

Professor Mark Woodward $739,980

Professorial Unit

Prof Woodward’s five-year program of research is designed to exploit several large national and international databases to answer important issues in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease (CVD), which makes a huge contribution to the burden of illness and premature mortality in Australia and accounts for an enormous part of our health care expenditure.

An underlying, explicit, aim is to provide the evidence base to facilitate improvement of the existing CVD risk assessment guidelines in Australia, for the better targeting of clinical advice and treatment. This will be done using existing data sources, taken from landmark research studies and from very large-scale registration databases, which is clearly a cost-effective approach. The research includes a considerable degree of collaboration, exploiting and extending the wide international networks that I have already established.

Prof Woodward’s research program will address such issues such as the roles of socioeconomic status, diabetes, kidney disease, psychological well-being and rheumatoid arthritis in CVD risk, blood biomarkers and genomic variability in relation to CVD, and how variations in the delivery of health care affect outcomes after a CVD event. The expected benefits from these initiatives are improved vascular care amongst those Australians who most need it, as well as cost savings to the Australian health sector.