$4.1 million boosts Australian research hope

More than $10 million will be invested in Australian researchers, including those hunting for a vaccine and lifesaving treatment for COVID-19.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt will on Thursday announce funding for 13 biomedical projects through an arm of the Medical Research Future Fund.

A potential coronavirus vaccine being developed in Adelaide is among 5 coronavirus research projects that will receive a share of $4.1 million.

A ventilated bubble-shaped covering developed by University of Melbourne researchers for hospital patients with the virus to isolate will also receive funding.

Mr Hunt said the “hood” would also give hospital staff greater protection from COVID-19 and reduce viral levels in the immediate surroundings.

“The novel hood is effective, comfortable, reusable and can be rapidly improved for urgent supply to Australian hospitals, clinics, GP surgeries and beyond,” he said.

Other COVID-19 research projects include a new treatment for respiratory complications, a preventive nasal spray and a rapid response test to predict how severely the disease will progress.

In SA, Vaxine research director Nikolai Petrovsky said a $1 million grant would move the company “one step closer to the ultimate goal”.

“(The vaccine) does not involve giving viruses to people so it’s very safe,” he said.

“It’s modelled on a previous SARS vaccine, which we developed many years ago, which was able to protect animals.”

A treatment that could reduce inflammation and scarring in the lungs of coronavirus patients and prevent respiratory failure will also receive $1 million.

In Victoria, Dimerix chief executive Dr Nina Webster said the funding would enable the company to manufacture its ingredient, apply for approvals, and get its drug to 240 clinical sites in 16 countries for a World Health Organisation-endorsed study it is participating in.

Mr Hunt said the research was a key weapon in the fight against COVID-19 but was also about jobs and exports.

“Which is particularly important as we tackle both the social and economic disruption of the pandemic to our lives and livelihoods,” he said.

Opposition health spokesman Chris Bowen has previously criticised the government for not investing enough in coronavirus vaccine development.

Under the second round of the Biomedical Translation Bridge program, a further 8 research projects will receive $6.3 million to help patients including those with muscular dystrophy, breast cancer and prostate cancer.

Researchers at the University of Adelaide will also be awarded $1.35 million to accelerate the development of a world-first vaccine for the zika virus that is needle free and could prevent the infection of pregnant women.

NSW Pharmaxis chief executive Gary Phillips said the company’s $1 million grant would enable it to progress a treatment for Duchenne muscular dystrophy that would reduce symptoms in the debilitating disorder, which typically affects boys and confines them to wheelchairs by the time they are teenagers.

Industry partners have contributed a further $28 million to the 13 projects.

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