Category: Featured

NHMRC Grants announced – Funding for 132 projects in Victoria

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) grant outcomes have been recently announced. The funding adds up to a total of $440 million, distributed among 298 new projects around Australia.

Victoria received 45% of all the research funds, with $203 million for 132 projects. This proportion highlights the unparalleled strength of the Victorian health and medical sector.

BioMedVic warmly congratulates all recipients of the NHMRC grants.

You can find more information here.

Jett Osborne: “My UROP project has showed me how real science is”

Jett Osborne is a Biomed undergrad student at RMIT that applied for UROP in 2018. As he finalises his UROP project at The Bio21 Institute, we interview Jett and his supervisor, Dr Matt Dixon, to discover more about what made this placement so successful.

You were selected for UROP when you were in second year. How did you find the selection process and the interview panel?

Jett: The whole process seemed pretty daunting, but I have never been a nervous person in those kinds of situations. The interview was more like a conversation and I didn’t feel “attacked” by the questions. I actually enjoyed it!

Matt: When I was on the interview panel, I observed that the students that did best were the ones that treated the interview more like a conversation. I can see why some people might get nervous, but as a tip – if you think about the interview more as an informal chat about science and your interests it won’t be so daunting.

Once you were selected, you had to meet your prospective supervisor. How did you prepare before sitting down with Matt?

Jett: The truth is, I stayed awake until 3am on the night before to prepare for it! The meeting went well, and it was easy because Matt explained the project and what I would be doing really well.

Matt:  I could tell you had prepared for the meeting because you had intelligent questions to ask about the project and the research area.

What is the topic of your UROP project?

Jett: My UROP project looks at how the sexual stages of the Malaria parasite change shape and why this is important for the transmission of the parasite by mosquitos. There are 5 sexual stages of development, and my project was to investigate which proteins shape the parasite in the different stages of development. If these proteins are targetable, then maybe we can block them and potentially stop the transmission of the disease.

Matt: We have been working on these stages of the parasite for quite a long time now. The lab has been trying to understand how the banana shape of sexual stages of the malaria parasite supports the survival inside the human host and helps the transmission by the mosquito.

Jett: It’s a very good project, it makes you ask a lot of questions and is very hypothesis-driven. I really like that, as a lab, we are working on the same overarching questions but approaching them from different angles.

Following on from that, how has your lab experience been?

Jett: It’s been really cool. We are all working on different proteins and structures involved in the shape formation of the Malaria parasite, with our work coming together to answer the main research question of why shape is important from malaria transmission. I feel very lucky to have been placed here! Our lab is very social, and people are very supportive. It has been a great learning experience.

Matt: I want the UROP scholars in my lab to work on projects that will lead them to publications, and for them to feel that they have a large role in driving the projects themselves too. Jett fitted in really well from the beginning.

And now that you are about to finish your project, how has it met your expectations?

Jett: The coolest expectation met has been getting to see every step of the research process. My UROP project has showed me how real science is. Now that I have seen how it works and that I have monitored all the steps in our project, I feel I can understand the timings and the whole rhythm of the research project better.

In our lab, everyone is so dedicated and driven
that I felt very stimulated to try harder

What was the biggest thing you learnt from your UROP placement?

Jett: I have learnt about patience, but most of all, I have learnt about work ethic. In our lab, everyone is so dedicated and driven that I felt very stimulated to try harder. And this feeling has affected everything that I do these days. That is my favourite take-away!

Matt: There is a big shift in UROP from your typical marks-driven outcomes that the students are used to from their undergraduate studies, towards being part of a team, which motivates each other and works together to answer big questions. The UROP program gives you a nice taste of what science is like.

Matt, from your point of view, what is an attribute that Jett has that has made this project successful?

Matt: Jett is very enthusiastic, which has been great for the lab. Having a genuine interest in what you do filters into how hard you work on the project, how many extra background readings you do, and how well you interact with others in the lab. In general, the best set of attributes you can have is coming in with eyes open, willing to try different things and to work hard.

Jett: Working in Matt’s lab has also been a humbling experience. I have been working with people with knowledge that goes well beyond mine, so I had to push myself to keep on growing and learning.

Having a genuine interest in what you do filters
into how hard you work on the project

If you could talk to students thinking about UROP, what piece of advice would you give them?

Jett: If you haven’t applied for UROP yet, first consider if research might be for you. Be proactive, talk to your lecturers and professors, find a field that’s of interest. And if you have already been selected for UROP, prepare for your project, read your supervisor’s papers and get to know what they do specifically in their field. And as Matt said before, remember to go in with fresh eyes!

And what are your next steps from here?

Jett: I’m moving to Hong Kong as part of the New Colombo Plan, which is a very competitive scholarship from the Australian government. First, I’ll finish my undergrad studies at the end of December, and after that, I will do a 6-month internship with a Biotech company.

Matt: This is a great opportunity for Jett. He will now be able to see the industry side of research, and when he comes back, he will be able to choose what he prefers.

Jett: I’m very lucky!

Dr Matt Dixon (left) and Jett Osborne (right) at The Bio21 lab.


Read more about the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) here.

2020 Premier’s Awards for Health and Medical Research

Applications are currently open for the 2020 Premier’s Awards for Health and Medical Research, recognising the exceptional contributions and capabilities of Victoria’s emerging early career researchers in their PhD studies.

Recipients of the Premier’s Awards for Health and Medical Research category awards receive $5,000 and an additional $15,000 is granted to the Premier’s Excellence award winner, receiving $20,000 in total prize money.

The five award categories include:

  • Aboriginal Researcher undertaking research in any field of health and medical research
  • Health Services Researcher
  • Public Health Researcher
  • Basic Science Researcher
  • Clinical Researcher

Key Dates:

  • Applications Open: 1 August 2019
  • Applications Close: 30 September 2019
  • Awards Ceremony: 23 March 2020

You can find more information regarding application requirements, eligibility and selection criteria here.

Cutting-edge science and inspiring research at UROP Conference Day 2019

This year’s UROP Conference Day took place on the 26th of July to celebrate student research talent in Victoria. Former and current UROP Scholars and Supervisors, together with program supporters and future participants full of potential, attended the event at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne and shared their experiences, career plans and research questions during the premier event of the UROP calendar.

Over a 100 people participated in the UROP Conference Day, an event structured around presentations from UROP Scholars sharing their research results obtained during their placements.

BioMedVic’s Engagement Manager, Núria Saladié, welcomed the audience and presented the day, judges and chairs. She also expressed BioMedVic’s gratitude to CSL for their continued support as Principal Sponsor of UROP.

To inspire all attendees and set the tone for the event, the Keynote Speaker, Catriona Nguyen-Robertson, came on stage and spoke on ‘A World of Opportunities”. Her presentation reflected on the many career options offered by science, gave some tips and tricks for effective networking, and inspired all by defending the benefits of having a ‘balanced’ research life. She successfully juggles her PhD on Immunology with science communication hobbies and her passion for singing.

Dr Mike Wilson, Vice President of Research at CSL, warmly welcomed the most recent UROP cohort. After an encouraging speech sharing his journey in science and congratulating all Scholars, Mike awarded the certificates to the new cohort of 20 driven students.

The UROP Conference Day offered the opportunity to 17 Scholars to present their research in front of a supportive audience. For many, it was their first time presenting to such a large group! They strategically used their presentation skills to engagingly communicate their work. The topics ranged broadly, including regenerative medicine, computer aided visualisations and immunity comparisons.

CSL generously provided three Presentation Awards, which were decided by a remarkable panel of judges: Pierre Scotney, Associate Director, Research, CSL Limited; Jessica Holien, Lab Head at St Vincent’s Institute; and Jane McCausland, Student Programs Manager at ARMI. After some tough deliberation, Pierre Scotney presented the winners of the 2019 UROP Conference Day Presentation Awards: Olivia D’Rozario (ARMI), Jett Osborne (Bio21 Institute) and Kathleen Zeglinski (CSL).

BioMedVic is very proud of all UROP Scholars and wants to thank all Judges, Presenters, Chairs and program supporters for their ongoing involvement. The UROP Community gets bigger every day!


If you would like to employ a UROP scholar, please see more information for supervisors here and email urop@biomedvic.org.au.


Are you a student interested in research? Applications for UROP have kicked off! See information about applying for UROP here.

Catriona Nguyen-Robertson: “I couldn’t imagine not coming into the lab every day!”

Catriona Nguyen-Robertson is a PhD Candidate at the Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity. She did her UROP placement in 2013 at Western Health, where she worked with different research labs. Although she considered pursuing a career in Medicine, she finally decided to go down the research path. Catriona is also an excellent science communicator involved in numerous projects across Melbourne… including an internationally-famous science communication competition! Read this interview to find out more.

After your UROP placement, you did an Honours year in Microbiology and Immunology at The Doherty Institute, where you later embarked on a PhD in Immunology. Could you tell us a bit more about your current research?

I am working on basic Immunology, particularly with certain immune cells, the T-cells, that are very specific with what they target. For a long time, we thought that these T-cells recognised and targeted peptides, which are the broken-down products of proteins. However, we have now seen that some of these cells actually recognise and target lipids, that is, fats and oils. These “new kids on the block” are the ones I am studying. I want to find out what they are and what they do in the context of tuberculosis (TB), because the bacteria that causes TB has a lot of lipids in its wall. I am looking at how our body can fight TB using these T-cells and how this could be used to improve the TB vaccine.

I am also studying these T-cells in the context of skin allergies. Actually, it’s because I developed an allergy myself during my PhD, so I decided to incorporate that as a project too. I am studying the sun protection that I used and trying to find out what ingredient could have activated the T-cells I am studying. It’s such a coincidence! I would like to understand better how the recognition mechanism of our immune cells works so that we can stop skincare products giving people rashes.

Did you know you wanted to study Immunology when you applied for UROP?

Well, I wanted to do Medicine originally, although in the context of research. But I was genuinely very interested in a lot of my lectures and I really liked learning, so I thought that research, being a job where you are constantly learning, could be a good option for me. I wanted to know what real research was and how it felt to be at the forefront of research. I knew that the knowledge that gets into a lecture has been established for years, so I wanted to go to the source.

What was the best part of your UROP experience?

The best part for me was that I got to work in different projects. Together with my original supervisor at Western Health, I also collaborated with two other groups as a research assistant. And I really enjoyed how independent I could be. As I worked, I could also listen to music and sing – music is a very big part of my life. I really enjoyed working in research. So after my UROP experience I said “I’m definitely doing Honours!”. My UROP supervisor put me in contact with my current supervisor at The Doherty Institute, where I did my Honours year and stayed for a PhD. Actually, after finishing Honours I also applied for Medicine… But I ended up deciding for a PhD. I couldn’t imagine not coming into the lab every day!

What would you say is the key to a successful UROP placement?

Rather than the specific project you do, the key for me is to get along with who you work. And is true now only for UROP, but also for Honours and for a PhD. I also think that a successful UROP experience has an engaging project with achievable goals and allows for the scholar to see results along the way.

Apart from your PhD, you are also involved in a variety of initiatives related to science communication.

Yes, I am the science communications officer at the Convergence Science Network and The Royal Society of Victoria. I participate in writing website content, with some social media action and organising events. I am also a member of the SciCurious team of the Science Gallery Melbourne, which acts as a think-tank to develop new exhibit ideas relevant for the target audience of the Science Gallery. And I also write content for Scientell. So a variety of things!

And you are also a FameLab finalist! Congratulations on your performance. You were selected as one of the three Victorian FameLab finalists to travel to Perth for the national contest. Can you tell us a bit more about your experience at this science communication competition?

FameLab is a science communication competition for early-career researchers like me. The idea is that we explain our scientific research to a lay audience in only three minutes, and that we make it interesting, engaging and fun. I really enjoyed my time at FameLab. Putting myself out of my comfort zone while doing science communication was an amazing experience. I have to admit I have a bit of stage practice, because I used to do musical theatre. I knew I enjoyed the feeling after a performance, so I put myself out there with FameLab and did my best.

The content of my three-minute performance at the Victorian FameLab and at the Perth Finals was about the relationship between the immune system and physical exercise… a topic I started researching during UROP!


Catriona went to Perth at the beginning of May 2019 for the National Finals of the FameLab competition. You can see her performance here.


Read more about the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) here.

Honouring career excellence

Biomedical Research Victoria is delighted to announce the recipient of the 2018 BioMedVic Clinician Researcher Career Recognition Award – Professor Rinaldo Bellomo AO.

Professor Rinaldo Bellomo has an internationally outstanding track record in conducting patient-based research and a three-decade long influence on peers, colleagues, the healthcare sector, patients and the next generation of clinician researchers.

He has published over 1200 peer reviewed publications and is the most cited critical care researcher in the world. Prof Bellomo is also the most cited biomedical investigator in the history of Australian medicine. His research has resulted in the Medical Emergency Team (MET) concept, which is now the standard of care throughout Australian hospitals, all Scandinavian countries, and dozens more.

Prof Bellomo is Director of Intensive Care Research (Austin Hospital), Professor of Intensive Care Medicine (The University of Melbourne) and Senior Research Advisor (Melbourne Health).

When talking about Prof Bellomo mentorship, his nominator, A/Prof Adam Deane, identifies as “one of the many fortunate mid-career clinician researchers to whom he tirelessly provides ongoing support and mentorship”.

The Award will be presented by BioMedVic CEO Prof Jan Tennent at an event to be hosted by Austin Health later in the month.


You can find more information about past recipients of the award here.

Catherine Granger: “The BioMedVic Early Career Clinician Researcher Award really made a difference to my career”

Dr Catherine Granger is Head of Physiotherapy Research and Chair of the Allied Health Research and Quality Committee at The Royal Melbourne Hospital, and a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Physiotherapy at The University of Melbourne. In 2017, Catherine won a BioMedVic VCRN Early Career Clinician Researcher Award in recognition of her achievements and commitment to clinical research. In 2018, she was selected by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) as one of the “Top 5 scientists” for the year. For the first time, the 5 scientists were all women, and were identified by ABC as “ambassadors for their fields and role models for future scientists”.

Catherine’s research has been praised because of its relevance. Her work brings insight into the role of exercise and physiotherapy in the treatment of patients with lung cancer; more specifically, Catherine is researching how being physically active can improve outcomes for patients with cancer, such as quality of life and daily functioning. She is also interested in the current models of care within the health system, and how they can be improved to ensure that patients with cancer are advised regarding the benefits of physical activity.

BioMedVic spoke to Catherine about her career and scientific endeavours some months after receiving the BioMedVic VCRN Early Career Clinician Researcher Award and her selection as a “Top 5 scientists for 2018”. Read on to find out how these recent recognitions have impacted her career.


Yours was not a traditional pathway into research. As practicing physiotherapist you got into research after finding some gaps in the literature regarding exercise and lung cancer patients. How did this shape your approach to research?

I had been working for four years in public hospitals in Melbourne as a physiotherapist before starting my PhD, so my academic research has truly complemented my practicing experience. These double skills help me to easily translate research into practice and therefore my studies are clinically meaningful.

How did the BioMedVic Early Career Clinician Researcher Award impact your work?

It has made a very deep difference. As an early career researcher, my biggest challenge is funding. Regardless of your ideas or team, without financial support you can’t continue your career. The BioMedVic Early Career Clinician Researcher (ECCR) Award allowed me to travel to two amazing conferences, the Australian Lung Cancer Conference in Sydney and the World Lung Cancer Conference in Canada. Participating in these events was extremely important for subsequent funding, because publicly presenting my research at conferences, networking with other researchers and health professionals… it all helps to build up a track record, improve my CV and raise my profile, which collectively make my grant applications more competitive.

And the results are already visible: this year I have received the biggest project grants of my career from the Cancer Council Victoria, which will enable me to continue my research on lung cancer and exercise. I want to highlight that the BioMedVic ECCR Award really made a difference to my career. I’m very grateful to BioMedVic!

In 2018, you also got selected by the ABC as one of the “Top 5 scientists” for the year. How did that recognition impact your career?

Well, the recognition came with a science communication training that was extremely valuable. We were working alongside science journalists who helped us a lot in the process. We wrote an online media article for the general public, produced a radio segment and podcast for a more specific audience, and filmed engaging social media videos. The whole experience was very rewarding and changed the way I think about communicating science. Now I understand the crucial role that good communication can play for my research, not only in the form of academic papers but also in the way my research findings reach and inform clinical practice and thus can have a positive impact on patients.

Nowadays I’m always looking for new ways to communicate my research. Besides articles, I speak on the radio, present at consumer groups, reach patients and the public via Twitter… I’m trying to get my message out in as many ways as I can!


ABC’s Top 5 scientists 2018. Dr Granger on the right.

What’s the next steps for your career?  

Now it’s time for me to increase my research capacity and grow my team so that we can have a bigger and better impact on clinical practice with patients. My career aspiration is to be a leader of clinical-based cancer exercise research and to generate high-quality research to improve treatment for people with cancer and their outcomes. Particularly, I would like to focus on developing strong skills in randomised control trial best practice.


We wish Catherine all the best in her research career! If you want to learn more, connect with Catherine here.

BioMedVic members at the MRFF Frontier of medical research

The grants from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) Frontiers initiative have been announced. Of the $9,490,429 million awarded, Victoria has secured $6,744,102 million (71.1%). This result highlights the strength of Victoria in medical research nationwide.

Awarded research projects led by or involving as project partners BioMedVic members are:

  • “The Cortical Frontiers: Commercialising Brain Machine Interfaces project” (Monash University). Grant: $924,100
  • “The Innovative Public Health Program Against Mosquito-Borne Diseases” (Monash University). Grant: $964,700
  • “The EVE-M – Enhancing the Vaginal Environment and Microbiome – Initiative” (Swinburne University of Technology and Deakin University as project partners; the project is led by the Burnet Institute). Grant: $895,346
  • “The multidisciplinary research Alliance on pre-hospital care for stroke” (The University of Melbourne). Grant: $1 million

Three other members of Victoria’s medical research community secured funding for the following projects:

  • “The Precision Medicine for Epilepsy project” (The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health). Grant: $999,956
  • “The Australian Lung Health Initiative” (4Dx Limited). Grant: $960,000
  • “The c-FIND: CRISPR Frontier Infection Diagnostics to Detect Infection project” (Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research). Grant: $1 million

BioMedVic congratulates all funding recipients!

The MRFF Frontiers initiative fosters the development of cutting-edge research projects and, as stated in the official announcement, it can “transform healthcare and stimulate growth in the Australian medical technologies, biomedical and pharmaceutical sector, a vital part of the innovation economy”.

You can find the Health Minister announcement here.

BioMedVic CEO Jan Tennent features in expert innovation panel at Melbourne Knowledge Week 2019

This year’s Melbourne Knowledge Week, organised by City of Melbourne, has revolved around the many topics that shape the future of the city. Together with issues of sustainability, diversity, democracy and innovative design, the week-long event explored the role that technology and innovation play in making Melbourne a better place.

Jan Tennent participated in the “Health research and technology in the Melbourne Innovation District” panel discussion held in the fabulous surrounds of the heritage-listed Meat Market in North Melbourne. Moderated by Siegi Schmidmaier (Silver Chain), the panel also gathered Sabeen Shaikh (COO, Medtech Actuator) and Roanne Innes (CEO, Somatrack) to discuss the role of innovation districts in forming, influencing and sustaining a positive city culture towards research and innovation. Jan highlighted the importance of networks such as Biomedical Research Victoria for linking researchers and clinicians with industry, which collectively enhances research translation and innovation, and for lobbying the sectors’ views on science policy and priorities with government.

For more information on the event, please visit this page.

L-R: Roanne Innes, Jan Tennent, Sabeen Shaikh and Siegi Schmidmaier
Photo by Melbourne Knowledge Week (@knowledgemelb)

BioMedVic signs a joint statement on Health R&D

BioMedVic’s CEO, Prof Jan Tennent, has signed a joint industry pre-election statement on health research and development (R&D). The statement defends the need for industry-driven R&D and urges that the R&D Tax Incentive be preserved for the sector in order to reverse the declining trend of R&D investment in Australia.

Development of the joint statement was led by AusBiotech and has been signed, together with BioMedVic, by the CEOs of AusBiotech, Medicines Australia, MTAA, ARCS Australia, BioMelbourne Network and Research Australia.

Read the Media Release here.