Burnet malaria researchers secure NHMRC grant

Burnet Institute

13 January, 2022

Professor Freya Fowkes will lead a major malaria research grant

Leading Australian malaria researcher and Head of Burnet Institute’s Malaria and Infectious Disease Epidemiology Group, Professor Freya Fowkes has been awarded more than AUD$745,000 in Federal Government funding to accelerate malaria elimination in the Asia-Pacific region.

The funding announced by Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt is part of the $1 billion available for the National Health and Medical Research Council’s (NHMRC) 2021 grant round.

Professor Fowkes received the grant as part of the NHMRC e-ASIA 2021 Joint Research Program, which aims to support regional collaboration to combat complex health challenges.

In the Asia-Pacific, more than two billion people are at risk of malaria. Encouraged by the World Health Organization (WHO), 21 malaria endemic countries in the Asia-Pacific aim to eliminate malaria by 2030.

“Our goal is to address the need for innovative, feasible and scalable tools to measure malaria transmission accurately, at both an individual and population level, to underpin elimination efforts,” Professor Fowkes said.

“This grant, bringing together researchers from Australia, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and Lao People’s Democratic Republic will develop and validate human antibodies to mosquito salivary antigens as a tool to measure exposure to malaria vectors and malaria transmission intensity in the Greater Mekong Subregion.

“This innovative tool will ensure progress towards malaria elimination targets is accurately tracked and ultimately accelerated.”

As part of the NHMRC e-ASIA 2021 Joint Research Program, Professor Freya Fowkes will lead a diverse investigator team of immunologists, epidemiologists, biostatisticians and implementation researchers from the Burnet Institute (Melbourne and Myanmar). They include Dr Julia Cutts, Dr Katherine O'Flaherty, Professor James Beeson, Professor Alyssa Barry, Dr Win Han Oo, Mr Paul Agius, Ms Ellen Kearney, Dr Win Htike and Myo Naung, as well as collaborators from the University of Melbourne, Shoklo Malaria Research Unit (Thailand), Cambodia National Centre For Parasitology, Entomology & Malaria Control and the Center for Malariology, Parasitology and Entomology (Laos).

The grant round also saw Burnet Research Assistant, Dominic Delport receive a NHMRC Postgraduate scholarship for his work using mathematical models to generate evidence to support Australia’s COVID-19 responses and prepare for future pandemics.

“The main objectives are to address current COVID-19 policy questions (e.g. vaccination strategies), learn lessons from deep analysis of previous COVID-19 outbreaks in Australia, and produce generalisable and impactful guidelines for future pandemic responses,“ Mr Delport said.

“I am incredibly excited and proud to have been awarded this grant, and I am looking forward to exploring some important and interesting problems in the infectious diseases and pandemic preparedness space.

“I think that undertaking my PhD through Burnet and under the guidance of Head of the Modelling & Biostatistics Group, Doctor Nick Scott is a fantastic opportunity, and I cannot wait to get started.”

Doctor Elizabeth Armari from Burnet also received a scholarship for her work developing and evaluating an evidence-based training program for improving labour and childbirth care in India.

Find out more about Burnet’s malaria research, a key infectious disease focus.

Contact Details

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Burnet Institute

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