Sydney to lead four research centres of excellence

2 September 2022
The University of Sydney has been awarded $10 million for four Centres of Research Excellence.

University of Sydney researchers will lead four new national medical research centres in stroke management, early cerebral palsy diagnosis, lung disease and cervical cancer control.

The University of Sydney has been awarded $10 million for four Centres of Research Excellence (CRE) schemes. 

The goal of the Centres of Research Excellence is to improve health outcomes for diseases and aim to promote and translate their research into policy and practice. 

The Minister for Health and Aged Care, the Hon. Mark Butler MP, announced the successful National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) grants.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Emma Johnston said: 

“I congratulate our successful researchers – Ilona, Richard, Karen, and Tamera, and their teams, who will lead research into stroke management, early cerebral palsy diagnosis, lung disease and cervical cancer control at our four new national medical research centres. These grants are extremely competitive and their success is reflective of their dedication and outstanding research capability. 

“I am proud that the research undertaken through these new national medical research centres will tackle critical health challenges and change lives for the better. Through our partnerships with other universities, communities, and government, we will translate our world-leading research into real-world outcomes. 

“I am confident that we will continue to see much more of this kind of collaborative research that closely connects academics with healthcare practitioners in the future thanks to the University’s recently announced $478m investment in the Sydney Biomedical Accelerator and our strategic focus on contributing towards solutions for the world’s most pressing problems.”

A national screening program to detect cerebral palsy early

Iona Novak

Professor Iona Novak

The Centre for Research Excellence ‘DRIVE CP: Directing Research in Very Early Cerebral Palsy’, led by Professor Iona Novak of the Brain and Mind Centre and Faculty of Medicine and Health has received $2.5m to build upon the success of previous research to diagnose cerebral palsy early through a national screening program. 

DRIVE CP aims to develop, test, and transmit new early interventions to reduce severity and improve independence of people with cerebral palsy. The centre will also aim to help shape policy through the application of clinical practice guidelines and a mobile health aide. 

Australia now has the lowest rate of cerebral palsy worldwide, with a 30 percent reduction achieved though collaborations between patients, clinicians, researchers, and policymakers.

Delivering improved healthcare for stroke patients

Professor Richard Lindley

Professor Richard Lindley

Professor Richard Lindley of the Westmead Applied Research CentreFaculty of Medicine and Health has been awarded $2.5m to lead a ‘Centre of Research Excellence to Accelerate Stroke Trial Innovation and Translation’ in collaboration with 12 universities and research institutions in Australia. 

Stroke incidence remains a common cause of death and disability in Australia. Although stroke incidence is falling in older age groups, it is increasing among younger people. It is estimated 50,000 to 60,000 people have a stroke or recurrent stroke each year. The lifetime risk of stroke is one in four. 

This CRE will deliver better healthcare to stroke patients, by co-designing new trials with patients, ensuring trial access in rural and remote Australia, and training the next generation of stroke researchers. 

Investigating an entire spectrum of lung disorders

Professor Tamera Corte

Professor Tamera Corte

Professor Tamera Corte of the Sydney Medical School, and Director of Interstitial Lung Disease at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (Sydney Local Health District),has been awarded $2.5m toward the ‘Centre of Research Excellence for Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD) - towards Individualised Care.’ 

ILD encompasses a group of lung disorders characterised by fibrosis of the lung tissue. The funding will expand upon earlier research focused on a single ILD (idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis), to now reach the entire spectrum of people with ILD. The goal is to develop more effective, personalised approaches to diagnosis and management. 

Investigating cervical cancer

Professor Karen Canfell

Professor Karen Canfell

Professor Karen Canfell, Director of the Daffodil Centre, a joint venture between Cancer Council NSW and the University of Sydney, and her co-investigators, have been awarded $2.5m to continue the work of the successful Centre of Research Excellence in Cervical Cancer Control - “C4” (C4 - Cervical Cancer Control).

C4 brings together Australia’s leaders in cervical cancer control, in human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination and cervical screening and treatment. The centre involves researchers from the Daffodil Centre, The Australian Centre for the Prevention of Cervical Cancer, the Kirby Institute at UNSW Sydney, the University of Melbourne, and Australian National University.

Prior work of C4 researchers has underpinned Australia’s major innovations in public health in terms of the successful delivery of HPV vaccination in girls and boys and the implementation of an HPV-based cervical screening program.

 C4 investigators have also directly supported the development of the World Health Organization (WHO) strategy to eliminate cervical cancer as a public health problem worldwide by the end of the century, through a ‘triple-intervention’ approach, which sets out simple targets to place all countries on the path toward elimination by 2030. Australia is positioned as the first country in the world with the potential to achieve average cervical cancer incidence rates that are so low that cervical cancer would be eliminated. Activities of this CRE will include the analysis of data from the Compass trial, Australia’s largest trial and the first to assess screening approaches in an HPV-vaccinated population in any country. 

It will also enable a range of new implementation studies focused on achieving high and equitable participation in HPV vaccination, cervical screening, triage and treatment, including developing and evaluating new pathways for HPV self-collection for screening for women in Australia and internationally. This CRE will also build on major global health projects, including C4’s Eliminate Cervical Cancer in the Western Pacific (ECCWP) Project. Through the support of the Minderoo Foundation, ECCWP is a first-of-its-kind philanthropic and research effort to eliminate cervical cancer in the Western Pacific, which will provide the basis for critical implementation research on cervical cancer elimination strategies in low- and middle-income countries.

A full list of grant recipients is available on NHMRC’s website.