The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) is the Australian Government’s leading expert body in health and medical research. We fund research and build research capability in universities, medical research institutes and hospitals; we support research translation by producing and endorsing evidence-based health guidelines; and we develop frameworks to promote the highest standards of ethics and integrity in health and medical research.
NHMRC funding supports the creation of new knowledge about the origins, prevention and treatment of disease, including global preparedness and response to infectious diseases. In 2016, we funded the Australian Partnership for Preparedness Research on Infectious Disease Emergencies (APPRISE), which has been at the forefront of the Australian research response to COVID-19.
NHMRC works across disciplines, professions, sectors and geographic borders to meet health and health system needs and capture emerging national and international scientific opportunities.
There are two sorts of preparedness for major challenges. The first is what you do to prepare for predictable challenges. Everyone working in infectious diseases knew that pandemics are inevitable. They don’t run to a timetable but when they hit, you’d better be ready.
The second is for the challenges you don’t know are coming. To prepare for the truly unpredictable, you need capability – the skills and expertise that can adapt to new needs, whatever they are and whenever they arise. For both you need international collaboration, the sharing of knowledge and resources. GloPID-R is now a vital force building the global partnership we need to meet these challenges.”
Professor Anne Kelso, Chief Executive Officer, NHMRC
Membership of GloPID-R has provided NHMRC-funded researchers with valuable opportunities to collaborate and share information before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.
NHMRC invested more than AU$23 million between 2000 and 2020 in research on pandemic preparedness.
Some projects looked to the lessons of history:
Some projects tackled vector-borne diseases such as dengue and Zika virus, while others investigated how society would need to respond to a pandemic:
When a novel H1N1 influenza virus spread around the world in 2009, NHMRC initiated a suite of rapid response projects, including research on early warning systems, mapping, sharing data, and managing the disease in prisons.
Rapid response research for the current pandemic was undertaken through Medical Research Future Fund grant calls which NHMRC administers on behalf of the Australian Government Department of Health.
We also invested in novel leaps forward that might transform our response to future pandemics:
NHMRC supports a wide range of research on infectious diseases with epidemic and pandemic potential through its major grant schemes. NHMRC also provided grant holders with the flexibility to redirect their research to COVID-19. Some relevant activities are noted below.
APPRISE was established by NHMRC in 2016 as a multidisciplinary national network to undertake research to inform Australia’s emergency response to infectious diseases. It has played a critical role in Australia’s COVID-19 research response.
With international partners, NHMRC supported the development of REMAP-CAP – Randomised, Embedded, Multifactorial, Adaptive, Platform Trial of Community Acquired Pneumonia – built to deliver fast results in a pandemic. REMAP-CAP was quickly adapted to trial treatments for critically ill COVID-19 patients.
NHMRC supported the National COVID-19 Health and Research Advisory Committee established to provide rapid, evidence-based advice to the Australian Government’s Chief Medical Officer.
NHMRC also coordinated national COVID-19 vaccine forums to share information and enable discussion among government officials, clinicians and researchers on the COVID-19 vaccine rollout and associated developments.
In 2014, NHMRC supported the establishment of PRISM, the Centre for Research Excellence in Policy Relevant Infectious Diseases Simulation and Mathematical Modelling. PRISM brings together experts in infectious diseases epidemiology, public health and modelling to solve issues in applied infectious diseases research and develop new methods to study of disease distribution and transmission.
NHMRC engages in a range of funding calls and other activities, such as scientific meetings and training programs, with other members of GloPID-R.
One pathway is through our membership of the Global Alliance for Chronic Diseases and the e-ASIA Joint Research Program. Another is through our continuing relationship with the European Commission through the NHMRC-European Union Collaborative Research Grant Scheme.
NHMRC is also a member of the Human Frontier Science Program Organization and the Global Biodata Coalition.
In addition, NHMRC sometimes develops bilateral funding calls with international partners in areas of common strategic interest such as dementia research and urban environments and health.
The GloPID-R Secretariat is a project which receives funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 874667.