Sunday, June 24, 2012

Australia Making Headway

The Australian Government through their National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has provided $5 million for research to help prevent and treat chronic illnesses. Monash University and the George Institute for Global Health are administering NHMRC research to study how to deal with chronic illnesses such as hypertension in India’s rural areas and in other developing areas.

High blood pressure is increasing in prevalence in urban regions of developing countries, but little is known about its emergence in more rural regions where 70 percent of the population still lives. The research is focused on three diverse rural regions in India that are at different stages of economic and social transition.

Monash University has been awarded $1,033,805 to find ways to improve the control of hypertension in rural India and how to develop effective treatments.With the planned multi-site study, the research team will examine how the barriers to diagnosing and managing hypertension differ between settings and how gender, socioeconomic deprivation, and education also impact hypertension. The information obtained from the research will enable an intervention program to be developed that is suitable across rural regions.

The researchers at the George Institute with funding for $930,259 are presently evaluating whether an Australian-developed smart phone system will help Indian rural healthcare workers detect and manage hypertension and cardiovascular risk.

The system being studied is modeled on the PC based Health Tracker patient records software used by doctors. The system extracts information from the patient’s health record and then the Health Tracker calculates the patient’s absolute risk of heart attack or stroke and automatically synthesizes recommendations from all relevant guidelines to provide tailored management advice specific to the patient’s circumstances.

Another George Institute research project with $1,067,559 in funding is making efforts to develop two or more blood pressure lowering drugs in a single pill. Providing for simplified treatment programs to increase the use of blood pressure lowering medications would help greatly in rural and developing areas.

There are new collaborative research efforts through a Memorandum of Understanding though Australia’s Agency for Science, Technology, and Research, Biomedical Research Council (A*STAR) and NHMRC. The objective is to promote and encourage research development with researchers from Singapore, and Australia to help fight infectious diseases through integrative technologies. Integrative technology is an area of health and medical research that is rapidly expanding which includes bioinformatics, genomics, and proteomics.

A*STAR and NHMRC are jointly supporting research proposals that use integrative technologies to:

·        Improve surveillance and detection of emerging infectious disease threats
·        Advance diagnostic tools
·        Develop new innovative approaches for vaccine creation and therapeutics
·        Bring together synergistic collaborations and expertise from both countries

To be eligible, proposals must involve a collaboration involving at least one research team from Singapore and Australia.

A*STAR and NHMRC have allocated at total of SGD $4 million and AUD $3.5 million to support up to six research projects for up to three years. Research conducted in Singapore will be funded by A*STAR and research in Australia will be funded by NHMRC.

The applications for this joint grant opened on June 6, 2012 and applications must be submitted by August 8, 2012. For information, email Dr. Willie Koh at

NHMRC will be announcing a new funding opportunity for their NHMRC Development Grants program. These grants provide funding to support individual researchers or research teams to undertake research at the early proof-of-principle or pre-seed stage. The funding supports the commercial development of a product, process, procedure, or service that if applied would result in improved healthcare, disease prevention, and provide health cost savings. Applicants must have a basic understanding of what is required to move from research to outcomes that can be commercialized.

Applications opened on April 10, 2012 but will be open until July 11, 2012. For more information, email Paul Forsyth at or John Humann at

Another opportunity in terms of research that is available through NHMRC’s Partnerships for Better Health Projects would create partnerships among decision makers, policy makers, managers, clinicians, and researchers. The funding supports new opportunities for researchers and policy makers to work together. The next call for applications for the third round is September 26, 2012. For more information, email