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Media Release

New grants give mid-career researchers a funding boost

Issue date:
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The Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) today capped off a month of research investment with nearly $3 million awarded to mid-career researchers for studies that address significant health issues.

The Consolidator Grants announced today will fund five research projects which will respectively investigate the earlier detection of foetal growth restriction; new treatments for mood disorders; new treatments for eye diseases; more efficient diagnosis of genetic disorders, and further development of vaccine adjuvants.

These new grants, offered for the first time by the HRC, give health researchers an additional opportunity to access funding at a stage of their careers when securing grants becomes increasingly challenging.

After completing a post-doctoral fellowship, mid-career researchers usually need to compete in the same pool as more experienced, senior researchers for health research funding, says Dr Vernon Choy, the HRC’s director of research investment and contracts.

“We’ve identified the need for ring-fenced funding for researchers at this stage of their career, to help them build experience and their track record, and hopefully take them to the next level,” he says.

“In addition to other postdoctoral funding we provide, we hope these grants will help a small number of those researchers with high potential, to stay in the field that they have chosen and really cement their career as a researcher.”

Today’s funding announcement takes the HRC’s investment in new research to $11.3 million this month, comprising more than $2.9m in Consolidator Grants, $1.7m in Feasibility Study Grants, $4.1m in Emerging Researcher Grants and $2.5m in Explorer Grants.

The HRC’s chief executive, Professor Sunny Collings, says awarding these grants and ensuring continuity in health research funding was especially important during the unprecedented experience of COVID-19.

“In these past few months, New Zealanders have been guided by some of our leading scientists and health experts, while seeing the true and palpable national benefit of decades of investment in health research.

“It’s essential to support the work of New Zealand's health researchers at all stages of their careers so we can retain their talents, and so they can pursue meaningful research that benefits every one of us.”

Recipients of the 2020 Consolidator Grants are listed below. To read lay summaries of their research, visit the HRC Research Repository and filter by proposal type ‘Consolidator Grant’ and year ‘2020’.

2020 Consolidator Grant recipients

Dr Louise Bicknell, University of Otago
A clinical research alliance for diagnosing genetic disorders in New Zealand
24 months, $599,939

Dr Alys Clark, The University of Auckland
Looking at the placenta through a detailed lens: relating anatomy to function
24 months, $595,829

Dr Angus Grey, The University of Auckland
Spatial oculomics with imaging mass spectrometry for drug delivery
24 months, $596,120

Associate Professor Suresh Muthukumaraswamy, The University of Auckland
Developing serotonergic 2A receptor agonists as treatments for mood disorders
24 months, $596,511

Associate Professor Bridget Stocker, Research Trust of Victoria University of Wellington
Vaccine development: upping the ante
24 months, $596,504