Sydney University medical researchers have secured more than $19.4 million for their work on cardiovascular and liver diseases and HIV/AIDS in the latest round of National Health and Medical Research Council program grants.
The grants, announced by Health Minister Tony Abbott, saw three new major Sydney research projects receive a share of $115 million over five years allocated to 20 research teams around Australia.
The University received the second highest amount overall and nearly a quarter of all grants awarded to Group of Eight universities. Sydney received 17 per cent of total funding.
NHMRC program grants go to support broad research themes by collaborative teams whose work adds to new knowledge in health and medical research at a leading international level.
The largest single grant of $8.6 million went to a research team at Sydney's George Institute of International Health for its work on the prevention and treatment of heart attack and stroke.
The five-member research team, headed by Professor Stephen MacMahon, brings together clinicians, epidemiologists and statisticians in a unique project designed to improve the prevention and treatment of Australia's biggest killer.
The program consists of observational studies and controlled trials to establish the exact importance of the risk factors linked with cardiovascular disease, such as diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol and smoking.
Professor John Chalmers, senior director at The George Institute, said the grant would enable the team to tackle some of the most pressing questions about heart attack and stroke, as part of a worldwide research program that focuses particularly on low- and middle-income countries in this region.
"It's fantastic that one of the youngest and newest research institutes in Australia should be awarded the largest grant," Professor Chalmers said.
Three hepatitis and liver disorder experts received $4.6 million for their research into chronic liver diseases such as cirrhosis and liver cancer, which are expected to treble by 2020.
Professor Geoffrey Farrell's team from Westmead and Royal Prince Alfred hospitals is aiming to unravel the pathological processes which cause cirrhosis at the molecular and cellular levels. They hope this will lead to an understanding of why some people are at higher risk than others.
Meanwhile a six-strong team of virologists located at three sites in two Australian cities has been awarded $6.1 million to study the long-term effects of HIV/AIDS and the herpes simplex virus and the ways to improve control.
The team, headed by Professor Anthony Cunningham, will look at why current treatments for these viruses are only partially successful and to discover why they persist in the human body.
In addition, three Sydney University researchers are collaborating as chief investigators on separate programs at other institutions, each awarded more than $7 million in grants. They are Professor Macdonald Christie, Professor David Allen and Professor Ian Hickie.