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Investigator grant success: $13M awarded to Kirby Institute researchers

Innovative research projects aimed to reduce the global burden of infectious diseases have received funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council.

News | Published on 02 May 2024

Seven Kirby Institute researchers from UNSW Sydney have been awarded a total of $13,141,802 in funding through the NHMRC Investigator Grants Scheme.

Announced today by the Minister for Health, The Honorable Mark Butler, the funds will support leading Kirby Institute researchers in their goals to tackle some of the world’s most complex infectious disease health challenges.

Projects funded in this round include research to ensure Australia is the first country to end AIDS as a public health threat, research aimed to eliminate hepatitis C, a project to improve HPV vaccination among young people with disabilities, and multiple projects that will analyse major datasets to uncover new insights to reduce infectious diseases globally. 

Kirby Institute Director, Scientia Professor Anthony Kelleher, congratulated the recipients.  

“The investigator grant scheme is highly competitive and these successful grants are a result of the incredible hard work, academic excellence, and passion of Kirby Institute researchers. I look forward to the transformative research that is conducted as a result of this very welcome funding,” he said.  

Congratulations to the Kirby Institute researchers who were awarded 2024 NHMRC Investigator Grants: 

  • Dr Allison Carter was awarded $674,400 for her research on reaching global targets for HPV vaccination in Australia: toward equity for people with disability

    Adolescents with disability face persistent barriers to vaccination against human papillomavirus (HPV). Dr Carter’s research program aims to develop, implement and evaluate a specialised school-based intervention to increase HPV and routine vaccine uptake in this group, through co-design with students, their families, school communities, and health professionals. Outcomes are expected to inform practice and policy to optimise the delivery of programs in all jurisdictions and advance health equity for people the disability in Australia and globally.  


  • Prof Miles Davenport was awarded $2,981,630 for his work on translational analytics: integrating experimental and clinical data to understand vaccination and immunity

    Experimental methods have advanced rapidly to improve our understanding of infection and immunity. However, we need novel analytical approaches to incorporate pre-clinical studies to provide evidence-based guidance for the development and clinical use of vaccines and therapeutics. Prof Davenport will use translational analytics, which draws on quantitative, interdisciplinary, collaborative approaches, to harness the power of experimental data to inform policy and practice in treatment and control of infectious diseases. 


  • Prof Jason Grebely was awarded $2,924,080 for his research on enhancing hepatitis C testing, treatment, and prevention to facilitate elimination

    The World Health Organization has set a goal to eliminate hepatitis C as a major global public health threat by 2030. However, globally, only 20% of people have been diagnosed and 1% have received treatment. Prof Grebely’s research program will evaluate interventions to enhance hepatitis C testing, treatment, and prevention to facilitate disease elimination. This research will improve clinical management, transform health service delivery, and inform policy, placing Australia at the global forefront. 


  • Prof Andrew Grulich was awarded $2,981,630 for research on achieving HIV elimination and control of related conditions in gay and bisexual men.

    New forms of HIV prevention raise the possibility of elimination of HIV transmission. However, the promise has not yet been realised. Prof Grulich’s research will optimise HIV prevention, investigate new long-acting forms of prevention, and expand prevention in Australia’s neighbours. He will examine whether vaccines can prevent STIs and if screening can prevent anal cancer. His vision is that Australia will be the first country to reach the targets defined as ending AIDS as a public health threat.   


  • Dr David Khoury was awarded $1,603,775 for his research on reducing the burden of infectious diseases using translational analytics.

    It is now possible to rapidly collect enormous amounts of data on infectious diseases, such as COVID-19. Thus, the challenge now is – “how do we sensibly integrate data across multiple studies to deliver evidence-based policy for managing infectious diseases?” Dr Khoury’s project aims to use mathematical and data analytics approaches, in close collaboration with local and international experimentalists and clinicians, to guide efforts to reduce the burden of infectious diseases globally. 


  • Dr Marianne Martinello has been awarded $1,301,887 for her research on improving infectious diseases outcomes among people who inject drugs.

    People who inject drugs are more likely to acquire infectious diseases, including bloodborne viruses (such as hepatitis C) and bacterial and fungal injecting-related infections (such as endocarditis). To improve health outcomes, we need to increase hepatitis C diagnosis and treatment, and optimize management of injecting-related infections. Dr Martinello will explore novel diagnostic and treatment strategies among people who inject drugs, addressing preventable infections associated with vulnerability and disadvantage. 


  • Dr Eva Stadler was awarded $674,400 for her research to protect the immunosuppressed from COVID-19.

    Through either vaccination or infection, most people now possess some degree of immune protection from COVID-19. However, nearly 2 in 10 people in Australia have some degree of immunosuppression which can leave them susceptible to severe COVID-19. Dr Stadler’s project aims to link clinical and laboratory data to identify at-risk individuals, develop strategies for the optimal use of vaccines and treatments to protect them from COVID-19, and to inform treatment guidelines to protect the most vulnerable.