March 19, 2020
Urgent research projects covering areas such as diagnostics, treatment and communication are among 16 new priority projects launched in response to COVID-19.
A$630,000 will fund the national collaborative projects designed to fill areas of critical research need and improve Australia’s emergency response to COVID-19.
The research is funded by Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) through APPRISE, a five-year Centre of Research Excellence called the Australian Partnership for Preparedness Research on Infectious Diseases Emergencies (APPRISE) and the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Emerging Infectious Diseases (CREID).
APPRISE was established in 2016 to respond to infectious diseases emergencies with a special call from the National Health and Medical Research Council and total funding of $5 million over five years. APPRISE includes 19 investigators from around Australia and has been able to mobilise $480,000 to support urgent COVID-19 research.
CREID was established in 2016 and focuses on the use of cutting-edge genomic and e-infectious diseases surveillance technologies to enable faster and more effective public health responses, which protect the public from emerging infectious diseases.
Given the synergies between to the two centres, $630,000 was mobilised from both centres to jointly fund the 16 projects.
Professor Sharon Lewin, Director of the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity (Doherty Institute), a joint venture of the University of Melbourne and Royal Melbourne Hospital, and chief investigator for APPRISE said the projects are all focused on informing the national and international response.
“Especially important is the project investigating how engaging with and understanding the perspective of First Nations communities will lead to better decisions to decrease the risk of COVID-19,” she said.
“APPRISE has also activated a research platform to collect key biological samples from people with COVID-19 in hospitals. APPRISE investigators are actively involved in developing clinical trials for new treatments for COVID-19.”
Professor Tania Sorrell, Director of CREID and the Marie Bashir Institute for Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity at the University of Sydney and an APPRISE investigator said projects such as the evaluation of diagnostic tests for COVID-19 are critical to understand which diagnostic test is best suited for detecting infection with the COVID-19 virus, SARS-CoV-2.
“One of the funded projects is looking at how the virus changes in infected people. This will give us important information about how the COVID-19 virus adapts,” she said.
Professor Sorrell said understanding how information can be better communicated during infectious disease emergencies is another critical area supported by the funding.
Professor Lewin said the research projects are in addition to the work APPRISE has already undertaken to prepare for an emergency such as COVID-19.
“For example, we have representatives involved in discussions and providing advice for national and international public health and research bodies including World Health Organization COVID-19 working groups and Australian Government committees and networks directly involved in the COVID-19 response.”