$25 million research fund to tackle COVID-19

An artist’s impression of part of Westmead Health Precinct, featuring Westmead Hospital, the yet-to-be-open Central Acute Services Building, and Westmead Institute for Medical Research.

Westmead Health Precinct will share in a $25 million funding injection from the NSW Government to fast-track statewide research and clinical trials to tackle the global COVID-19 pandemic and reduce its impact on the community.

The Westmead Institute for Medical Research (WIMR) and the Institute for Clinical Pathology and Medical Research (ICPMR) at Westmead Hospital are among the leading research bodies investigating this new disease.

ICMPR Westmead was the first lab in Australia to develop a blood antibody test to help track the spread of COVID-19, and WIMR researchers are identifying biomarkers that will help doctors identify which patients will fall critically ill.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the $25 million boost is part of about $800 million in extra health funding by the NSW Government to bolster the health system.

“Already researchers in NSW have made huge inroads to improve diagnostics and potentially aid the eventual creation of a vaccine by growing the novel coronavirus,” Mr Hazzard said.

“The $25 million funding boost will further assist the collaborative research efforts of clinicians, universities and research hubs with crucial roles in the NSW COVID-19 response”.

The funding will be directed to research focused on: 

  • accurate and timely diagnosis of COVID-19;
  • support conducting COVID-19 clinical trials including vaccine trials;
  • monitoring, developing and evaluating strategies to slow community transmission;
  • developing and evaluating treatments for COVID-19;
  • preventing the need for intensive medical care; and
  • minimising the impact of physical and psychological trauma on the community.

The $25 million is on top of $108 million already invested in medical research in 2019-2020 and will help ensure all research findings on COVID-19 can be implemented rapidly.

The extra funding will also support clinician-led research into the COVID-19 impacts on the healthcare workforce, vulnerable populations and regional, rural and remote communities.

Professor Anthony Kelleher, Director of the Kirby Institute at UNSW Sydney, said the institute is leading several research projects on COVID-19, including developing an antiviral therapy.

“The infectious disease expertise within the NSW medical research sector is truly world class, and we are eager to turn this investment into research that will transform this pandemic and ultimately save lives,” Professor Kelleher said.

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said: “This funding will go a long way to progressing urgent research to minimise the health, social and economic impacts of COVID-19 in NSW.”

Spanning 75 hectares, the Westmead Health Precinct includes four major hospitals, three world-leading medical research institutes, two university campuses and the largest research intensive pathology service in NSW.