Category: News

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 the 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 the 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 presented ‘A World of Opportunities”. Her speech 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 supporting audience. For many of them, it was their first time presenting to such a large group! They strategically used their presentation skills to communicate their work engagingly. 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 the support from all Judges, Presenters, Chairs and program supporters. 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.

The 2019 BioMedVic Communicators Forum gathers 70 professionals to debate ‘Change’

On May 30th the fourth annual BioMedVic Communicators Forum took place in the RMIT Storey Hall. The event attracted about 70 communication professionals to network and discuss the role and impact of change in the medical and health sectors. The concept of “Change” acted as the leitmotiv of the event and unified the individual sessions.

The program design was influenced by feedback received from attendees at last year’s Forum who gave suggestions about speakers, case studies, and professional development topics.

The Forum started with a warm welcome note by Núria Saladié (BioMedVic), who set the tone by reflecting on the role of science communication and its responsibilities. In his keynote address, award-winning science journalist Jason Gale (Bloomberg News) shared some inspiring stories about how shining a light on global health issues can be a catalyst for change. No matter whether it was writing about the lack of toilets perpetuating disease cycles, or the unregulated use of antibiotics in chicken and pig farming underlying the spread of multi-resistant pathogenic bacteria, Jason clearly articulated how science and health communicators can drive positive change and shape new policies.

An expert panel comprising Tony Abbenante (DHHS), Megan Prictor (Melbourne Law School) and John Carlin (MCRI) tackled the opportunities and challenges of the ‘big data’ revolution and explored the relevance of e-health information and how it should be communicated.

In the case study session, we heard how Lauren Love implemented the social media tool ‘Workplace’ at Ambulance Victoria with great success. Imogen Crump (The University of Melbourne), spoke about how platforms like ‘Pursuit’ fill a gap in the media landscape of the specialist science journalist. And Rachel Mitisano (APR.Intern) unpacked the value of using multiple media channels when implementing a marketing strategy.

Through role-playing with actors and lots of laughter, Leadership Victoria confronted attendees with sector-relevant workplace scenarios during the “Courageous conversations” training session. It proved a great opportunity to discuss how commonly-encountered challenges in the science communication sector can be approached and managed practically for positive outcomes.

The Communicators Forum is an annual event supported by BioMedVic and organised by and for communications professionals working in health and biomedical organisations. The buzz at the Closing Networking reception confirmed that this year’s Forum had once again “hit the mark” to foster collaborations and forge a sense of community between the communication specialists from organisations across Victoria.

See the program of the event here.

Photo gallery of the event:

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.

BioMedVic and Osaka University collaborate on an innovative PhD program

Established in 2014, the partnership between BioMedVic and Osaka University (OU) continues to strengthen with the recent signing of a MoA to collaborate on OU’s new doctoral program, the “Transdisciplinary Program for Biomedical Entrepreneurship and Innovation” (TPBEI). The first of its kind in Japan, this innovative program involves over 20 organisations including four OU Graduate Schools, Osaka University Hospitals, the Osaka Prefecture Government, the Japanese Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency, the Japan Patent Office, and industry partners such as Pfizer, Novartis Pharma and Shionogi.

A delegation from Osaka University visited Melbourne on March 25th to meet with Jan Tennent, BioMedVic’s CEO, and Núria Saladié, BioMedVic’s Engagement Manager, and sign a Memorandum of Agreement. The delegation included Prof Eiichi Morii (Dean, Graduate School of Medicine), Prof Yoshikatsu Kanai (TPBEI coordinator, Graduate School of Medicine), Prof Yasushi Okamura (Graduate School of Medicine), A/Prof Kyoko Hombo (Co-ordinator, TPBEI) and Ms Noriko Inoue (Assistant Director, Partnering Manager Global Health Initiative Graduate School of Medicine and Osaka University Hospital). The meeting was also attended by Ms Shelley Jackson, Assistant General Manager, Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade).

In the afternoon, the delegation was hosted at the Melbourne Town Hall by Mr Shane Mcilroy, Senior Business Development Coordinator, International and Civic Services Branch, who gave a short briefing on the ongoing importance of the sister city relationship between Osaka and Melbourne now in its 41st year!

The TPBEI aims to develop professionals with the dual ability to create innovative solutions to real-life challenges through world-leading academic research and apply those research outcomes to the benefit of society, while also developing their skills as entrepreneurs. BioMedVic is honoured to be the only TPBEI partner from Australia and will contribute to the curriculum and internationalisation of the program, with a focus on how cooperation between industry, academia and government nurtures entrepreneurial “knowledge professionals”.

More information on the “Transdisciplinary Program for Biomedical Entrepreneurship and Innovation” is here.

A delegation from Osaka University last visited BioMedVic in 2016; details about that visit can be found here.

Prof Jan Tennent and Prof Eiichi Morii after the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement