COVID-19 Healthcare Healthcare News

COVID-19 research funded $31.5 million to boost support


The Australian Government is providing $31.5 million for COVID-19 research to support medical researchers to drive, and contribute to, global efforts to understand and treat COVID.

The Albanese Government will boost support for COVID-19 research to drive innovation and contribute to global efforts to understand COVID-19, including work to assess the impact of long COVID.

Funding is from the 2021 COVID-19 Treatment Access and Public Health Activities grant opportunity under the Medical Research Future Fund’s Coronavirus Research Response.

The MRFF will provide $31.5 million to support 14 research grants that will improve our understanding of COVID-19, helping us find new ways to treat the disease, understand its longer-term impacts and better manage it in the future.

The Hon Mark Butler MP, the Minister for Health and Aged Care, said millions of Australians have now tested positive for COVID-19, with the impacts of those infections being felt across the community.

“The Government is investing more than $31 million to support Australia’s best researchers as they search for better tests and treatments to pair with the protections offered by our high vaccine rates. This work will also help us as we plan for and manage COVID-19 into the future,” Minister Butler said.

Fourteen projects will share the grant for COVID-19 research that will include insights into the longer-term impact of COVID-19 on the health of Australians, increasing the availability of antiviral treatments and improving our understanding of the immune system’s response to inform disease prediction, diagnosis and treatment, and planning for future outbreaks and the rapid development of evidence-based public health measures to strengthen future health emergency and pandemic response planning.

The full list of projects and intended outcomes of the COVID-19 research are as follows:

Project Title Project Summary Recipient Funding Amount
A coordinated multiplatform randomised trial for hospitalised patients with COVID-19 This proposal supports two established adaptive platform trials, ASCOT-ADAPT and REMAP-CAP, to joining to identify effective treatments for COVID-19 as fast as possible.  The new interventions which will be evaluated are optimal antiviral, the dose of dexamethasone; comparing two immune modulators (tocilizumab and baricitinib) to determine which is most effective, and convalescent plasma in patients who are immune suppressed. Monash University $3,997,914.20
A lethal and irresistible combination: Simultaneous targeting of the SARS-CoV-2 proteases Mpro and PLpro Drug development to fight the global pandemic caused by the SARS-Cov-2 virus has progressed at a lightning pace, thanks to effective vaccines. Anti-viral compounds are the final piece in this puzzle, but only two are currently available to patients. Our program will progress two new anti-viral molecules targeting distinct Achille’s heels of the virus and will demonstrate their efficacy, not only as single agents but also in combination, offering a treatment that avoids the emergence of resistance. The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research $999,687.40
Aerosol Infection Research: Better mOdels to Reduce iNdoor Exposure (AIRBORNE) This project will bring together clinicians, virologists, aerosol scientists, engineers, epidemiologists and mathematical modellers to further our understanding of airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in indoor spaces. Experiments will be done to gather more information about the infectiousness of individuals over time, how aerosolised particles and viruses move through complex spaces and the effectiveness of mitigation measures. The information will be used to improve mathematical models. University of Melbourne $998,338.80
Aerosol transmission of SARS-CoV-2 experimentally and in an intensive care setting This research uses a four-stage, multidisciplinary study design: real world, experimental & airflow modelling. In a hospital Intensive Care Unit (ICU), we will use air and surface sampling methods to detect SARS-COV-2. We will do various experiments in 2 labs to get more understanding of how the virus travels through the air; and will model the movement of the virus inside a hospital ICU ward using these data. It will help understand the flow of air and virus within ICU and inform mitigation measures. University of New South Wales   $992,908.20
Compound repurposing into novel therapeutics to treat SARS-COV2 infection. With continued SARS-CoV-2 mutant variants causing death, it is imperative that repurposed medicines be use clinically where possible. We have identified a number of approved safe compounds with acceptable safety profiles to test. Using our 3D organotypic cell model, we will identify those most beneficial. Treatment with these agents may prevent infection, transmission, stop the cytokine storm, prevent the need for hospitalization, and reduce the overall healthcare burden caused by SARS-CoV-2. Curtin University $998,520.00
Development of antiviral RNA therapeutics targeting SARS-CoV-2 infection There is an urgent need for antiviral treatments for COVID-19 infection due to evolving vaccine resistance and lack of adequate immune responses. This project develops direct acting antiviral RNA therapeutics to prevent and treat COVID-19 infection. The antiviral RNA will be delivered by inhaling nanoparticles that carry the therapeutic directly to targeted respiratory sites. The project will also provide pre-clinical data for accelerated translation to human proof of concept clinical trials. University of New South Wales $998,339.60
Experimental Validation of the Target of ESFAM289 – a molecule with in vivo efficacy against SARS-CoV-2 Esfam has identified a molecule, ESFAM289, which has been demonstrated to be an effective treatment for COVID-19 in small animal studies. This project will generate data necessary to enable the commencement of clinical trials including information on how the molecule binds to its potential target and how it interrupts COVID-19 infection. Esfam Biotech Pty Ltd $1,000,000.00
Immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 variants across age groups and vulnerable populations Understanding immune responses underpinning protection against emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern is urgently needed. Our MRFF encompasses Australia’s most advanced COVID-19 immunology program which will define protective and long-lasting immunity against emerging variants across age groups and vulnerable populations. Our in-depth immune studies in wide-ranging cohorts will inform potential therapy and vaccine regimens for at-risk groups to limit disease spread and protect high-risk groups. University of Melbourne $3,001,424.40
Intranasal TLR2/6 activation to prevent COVID infection in the elderly Elderly Australians in aged care are highly vulnerable to COVID-19. Vaccines are essential but their protection fades with age and new vaccines can take over a year to make. We will test a new medicine called INNA-051 that strengthens natural defences against COVID-19 in the nose where infection starts. INNA-051 is highly effective in preventing respiratory viruses, is safe in the elderly and works on top of vaccines. It provides protection within a day that lasts about a week after each spray. University of Melbourne $3,883,462.60
mRNA-based antiviral therapeutics for SARS-CoV-2 using Cas13 SARS-CoV-2 emerged on the world stage with a mortality rate of ~2.0%. Rapid development of vaccines curbed the severity of the pandemic, however, development of antivirals that can be used as both treatment and prevention has been slow. We propose using antiviral mRNA packaged in lipid nanoparticles as a novel approach to treat and prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection. This pipeline could be used in the future to suppress any RNA virus of pandemic potential spread by the respiratory route. University of Melbourne $1,000,000.00
Pre-clinical testing of novel inhaled RNA therapies for stability, safety and effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2 to demonstrate proof of concept RNA can be used to treat human diseases. It can be used to provide a template to make a new protein, as in messenger RNA vaccines. RNA can also be used to selectively change the message and protein generated from a gene. We have shown that inhaled RNA can change the proteins made by the lungs in a way to protect them against SARS-CoV-2 and its associated hyper-inflammation in the lungs. In this project, we will develop these new treatments in animal studies as a precursor to human trials. Monash University $499,697.24
PROPHECY: Profiling immune RespOnse in Paediatric and High-risk populations to SARS-CoV-2 COVID-19 vaccines protect against severe disease. However, people with underlying health conditions remain at risk of infection and associated complications. The PROPHECY study will evaluate antibodies and cellular immune responses after infection or vaccination in healthy and vulnerable people to evaluate their protection against future variants. These findings will inform future clinical care for COVID-19 and targeted approaches to enhance vaccine responses in the vulnerable patient groups. Monash University $6,327,279.57
The Platform Trial in COVID-19 Boosting: stage 2 (PICOBOO-2)  It is unclear whether periodic C-19 booster vaccination will be necessary in the future, and if so, whether this will be required for all Australians or select vulnerable groups. We will extend the Platform trial in COVID-19 vaccine BOOsting (PICOBOO) to evaluate optimal 3rd dose booster strategies in young children (5-11 years) and adolescents (12-17 years) and 4th dose booster strategies in pregnant women (18-49 years) and adults to inform national immunisation practice and policy. University of Western Australia $3,830,631.40
Towards an Australian COVID-19 Register and linked data set  This project aims to establish a national linked data platform that integrates COVID-19 case information with a range of relevant existing health data sets. This platform would strengthen evidence-based public health and health system planning and management. It will also be made available to external researchers, which would ultimately help improve the health and well-being of Australians affected by current and emerging global health threats. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare



As of 31 August 2022, 63 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Australia.

Original content from the Hon Mark Butler MP media pageNote: Content has been edited for style and length.


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