SPHCM academics successful in winning NHMRC Fellowships

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16 November 2017
Infectious diseases virus

Two SPHCM academics have been successful in winning NHMRC fellowships – Professor Raina MacIntyre won a Principal Research Fellow award and Associate Professor Virginia Wiseman won a Career Development Award.

Protecting Australia and the region from emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases

Professor Raina MacIntyre

Infectious diseases are unique because of their capacity to spread from person to person and cause epidemics. For Australia as an island nation, the spread of infections in our region is a matter of biosecurity for this country. Infections are an evolving threat with an unprecedented recent escalation of new avian influenza viruses. The lessons of SARS, Ebola and influenza pandemics illustrate that emerging infections require very substantial responses. The emergence of new technology, CRISPR Cas 9 in the last 3 years makes genetic engineering of pathogens more accessible than ever before and poses a new threat to biosecurity.

Unnatural pathogens add a whole new dimension to epidemic risk analysis, in which I have established an international reputation. Infectious disease control has many aspects which require public health responses, which depend crucially on research to inform policy and practice. As an internationally recognised leader in this field, my aim is to build on my achievements to date and advance my program of research in emerging and re-emerging infections, particularly within my new NHMRC CRE in Epidemic Response, under two National Research Priorities, “Safeguarding Australia” and “Promoting and maintaining good health”. During the course of the fellowship, a range of integrated research studies will be conducted including clinical trials, observational and analytical epidemiology, mathematical and economic modelling and risk analysis under two themes: Vaccinology; and Biosecurity and Emerging infections.

Prof MacIntyre will step down as Head of School to take up her fellowship in March 2018.

Using health economics to improve access to health care in under-served populations

Associate Professor Virginia Wiseman

My research over the next 4 years will involve identifying cost-effective, acceptable and sustainable health interventions that target individual populations, as well as evidence that informs system-wide reforms that promote financial protection and equity. This will provide evidence to promote investment in health policies and programs that potentially benefit, in particular, the populations in greatest need around the world. My research will involve trials of interventions to address over diagnosis of malaria, inappropriate use of antibiotics, and barriers to the scale-up of new diagnostic technologies into the health systems of developing countries. Process evaluations will also be conducted alongside the trials to understand the fidelity, reach and dose of interventions delivered and received especially by those in greatest need. Finally, economic evaluations will be undertaken to help select the optimal mix of health care interventions to maximise the impact of every health dollar spent, an especially important goal in highly resource constrained settings.