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COVID-19 Research Grants

Supporting the NSW response to the COVID-19 pandemic

NSW Health COVID-19 Research Grants have been designed to fund research projects in priority areas to directly support the NSW Health response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Round two is now open. Information, including guidelines and application forms are available in the ‘Apply now’ section below.

This round will encompass a broader range of topic areas that have been identified as important to support patients, health care workers, the community and the health system in the NSW response to COVID-19. Further information is available in the round two guidelines.

Round two has an Expression of Interest stage. Submission of a full application is by invitation only, for shortlisted applicants. Indicative dates for round two are:

Round 2 stage Open Close Outcomes notified
Expression of Interest 27 Jul 2020 17 Aug 2020 16 Sep 2020
Invitation to Full Application 16 Sep 2020 Oct 2020 Nov 2020

Funding is available for existing and new research projects. Applications submitted in round one but not funded may re-apply in the second round if the project is eligible and aligns with research topics.

Expressions of Interest for round two must be submitted by completing administrative details and uploading a project summary using the online form.

Applications will be peer reviewed against the eligibility and selection criteria in accordance with the process detailed in the COVID-19 Research Grants guidelines for Round two.

Apply now

Round two

Expressions of Interest for Round Two must be submitted by completing administrative details and uploading a project summary through the online form.

Online Application Form – apply now

 

Guidelines and online submission guidance

  • COVID-19 Research Grants Round Two - Project Summary Template

    DOCX - 29 KB

More information

Any queries regarding NSW COVID-19 Research Program grants may be directed by email to: MOH-COVID-19Grants@health.nsw.gov.au. Please be advised we cannot respond to emails requesting:

  • advice on whether your project fits within the eligible research topics
  • advice on the merit or likelihood of success in receiving funding for a project.

Round one

Round one has now closed. Round one guidelines and application forms are provided below for reference only.

  • COVID-19 Research Grants Round One Application Form for New Projects

    DOCX - 66 KB

  • COVID-19 Research Grants Round One Application Form for Existing Projects

    DOCX - 62 KB

Before you apply

Selection criteria at EOI stage

The Project Summary will be forwarded to reviewers for shortlisting purposes. It should aim to clearly justify that the research topic under investigation is important for the COVID-19 response in NSW, and that the research proposed can provide strong evidence and be translated into policy and practice.

The summary should be succinct and written in plain English, and the format should be easy to follow.

Reviewers will use the following selection criteria to assess the Project Summary:

  1. Strength and utility of the research plan and project team (50%).
  2. Evidence generated will be directly translatable into supporting the COVID-19 response in NSW (50%).

Selection Criteria at full application stage

Submission of a full application is by invitation only. The full application form will be provided directly to successful EOI applicants following notification of EOI outcome.

The following selection criteria will be considered by reviewers at full application stage:

  1. Skills and experience of the research team and collaborators (30%).
  2. Scientific quality of the research project (30%).
  3. Evidence generated will be directly translatable into supporting the COVID-19 response in NSW (40% weighting).

Eligibility and selection queries

NSW Health is receiving a large volume of requests and interest in this grant program and COVID-19 research more generally.  We strongly recommend that all interested applicants note that this is a priority driven research program. Projects that do not directly address one of the research topics outlined in the Grant guidelines will not progress to second review.

Applicants seeking funding for commercial and non-commercial vaccine and therapeutic clinical trials are strongly encouraged to consult clinicaltrialsNSW for advice on integration with existing research and enabling infrastructure, before submitting the application. Please contact clinicaltrialsNSW@health.nsw.gov.au early in the development of your application for advice.

For assistance with engaging with a NSW Ministry of Health Policy Branch, please contact MOH-COVID-19Grants@health.nsw.gov.au.

 

Research topics: round two

General principles

For all research topics, NSW Health will prioritise projects that fulfill the following criteria:

  • Research using a system-wide approach so that findings can be scaled in NSW.
  • Research that has high potential for translation into policy and practice.
  • Studies measuring clinically important outcomes.
  • Large, multidisciplinary and/or collaborative projects and trials.
  • Research that includes consideration of health equity between different population groups.

Note: applicants proposing new technologies for diagnostics must address future translation potential using the Technology Readiness Level Scale at Appendix 2 (see EOI Selection Criteria on page 9 of the Guidelines).

Research topics

1. Identifying effective models of care

  • Evaluation of the effect of virtual care approaches on specific patient cohorts to health care delivery on clinical and patient-reported outcomes, compared to usual practice, including in GP practices, and particularly in population groups that may be at higher risk of poor outcomes.
  • Conduct rapid cycle evaluations of major affected clinical services. For example, what are the immediate and longer-term impacts of COVID-19 on clinical services? Are there changes that should be sustained? What is the economic impact of reconfigured services? Are there remedial actions we need to take to protect patients who missed out on care?
  • Research to understand the changed visiting patterns to emergency departments, outpatient services and General Practices during COVID-19. For example, what are the consequences of the reduced visits to emergency departments and GPs during the COVID-19 pandemic? What are the best strategies for patient management outside of hospital settings during and after the pandemic? What were the experiences of patients who did not access the ED and what impact did this have on their health and wellbeing?

2. Mental health impact of COVID-19

  • Models of care to predict and respond to increases in morbidity and mortality in mental health during the recovery phase. For example, what are the best ways to support the mental health and wellbeing of the NSW community during the pandemic?
  • Designing and testing ways to reduce mental health issues related to quarantine, isolation, and social distancing, particularly in groups that are already at risk of isolation in the community, for example CALD communities, and the disability sector. For example, what interventions are effective for protecting mental health in different populations during the COVID-19 response?
  • Measuring and reducing the mental health impact of COVID-19 in Health Care Workers and other essential workers.
  • Determinants of successful interventions to support the mental health needs of populations at risk of mental illness during the COVID response, and impact of location on interventions for mental health support for particular population groups, including regional and rural communities, and Aboriginal communities.

3. Public health messaging

  • Designing and testing the effectiveness of communication strategies and platforms to communicate public health messages and increase compliance with these, for example hand hygiene and social distancing.
  • Designing and/or testing the effectiveness of strategies/interventions to maintain high rates of testing and increase testing rates in groups with low rates, including how to reach marginalised groups.
  • Populations of most interest are those who may be at high risker of ongoing transmission, higher risk of serious disease, or marginalised. This includes Aboriginal people, CALD communities, young people, people living in poor quality housing and on low incomes, and marginalised workers who may be highly socially mobile or employed in higher risk settings.

4. Prevention and therapeutics

  • Early-phase interventional trials of novel vaccines, therapeutic agents or devices that may have direct application for COVID-19. Locally developed interventions are also encouraged.

5. Diagnostics

  • Rapid testing platforms, how these are applied and used, and the development of novel approaches.
  • Routine quantification of viral loads, rapid methods for assessing this, and viral loads in other samples e.g. blood, upper and lower respiratory tract, and the correlation of these with clinical indicators.
  • Biomarkers – simple clinical biomarkers (or packages of these) and novel biomarkers.
  • Improving diagnosis through viral load assays and genomic sequencing including further assessment of clinically false positive assays, and causes of persistently positive assays in some patients.
  • Utility of routine serology in outbreak investigation and development of novel approaches outside PC3 facilities to reference standard serological diagnosis.
  • Virus viability in different transmission modalities, e.g. droplet, aerosol, and in different settings.

Out of Scope

Topics not listed above are out of scope for this round. Also out of scope:

  • pre-clinical drug discovery research and development
  • descriptive studies
  • modelling
  • visual display of existing epidemiological information including maps of cases
  • building new statewide information technologies and systems
  • assessing the effectiveness of newly emerging technologies and digital apps in the public health response
  • all evaluations of the COVIDSAFE app.

Studies of the uptake and effectiveness of population level screening programs, prevention programs and preventive health habits.

Research topics: round one

Diagnostics research

  • Enabling representative seroprevalence studies and improving ease and efficiency of serology testing.
  • Diagnostic approaches that reach vulnerable populations, including ease of access and supply chain issues.
  • Nucleic Acid Testing (NAT) testing and increasing access/scale/testing efficiency/turnaround time (TAT).

Prevention of infection

  • COVID vaccine clinical trials (excluding vaccine research and development).
  • Preventing infection in health and aged care workers, including transmission mechanisms and use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
  • Infection control practices in the community.
  • Preventing transmission in vulnerable community settings and workplaces.
  • Preventing transmission in Aboriginal communities, including rural, remote and urban settings.

Treatment, including antivirals and immunosuppressive agents

  • Increasing uptake and ease of access to adaptive clinical trial platforms, to enable rapid assessment of existing drugs, including repurposed and experimental drugs.
  • Using adaptive clinical trials to prevent or minimise unmonitored off-label use of drugs.
  • Predicting and managing early disease and severe disease in acute care facilities and the community.
  • Post-acute management, rehabilitation, and longer term sequelae.

Public and population health

  • Impacts of COVID-19 prevention measures such as social distancing, including on preventive health habits.
  • Safe self-isolation – barriers and enablers and reducing onward transmission, including in Aboriginal communities.
  • Natural history, immunity and re-infection of COVID in different groups/sub-populations
  • Assessing and maintaining the uptake and effectiveness of population level screening programs, e.g. breast cancer screening.
  • Assessing impacts of COVID-19 on uptake and effectiveness of existing population-level prevention programs and preventive health habits.
  • Assessing the effectiveness of newly emerging technologies and apps in the public health response

Exclusions

The following topics are either not currently required or already funded. These topics will not be funded via COVID-19 grants:

  • Modelling the surge capacity of the health care system including ICU utilisation, and growth rates and case projections for SARS CoV-2 infections in NSW.
  • Visual display of existing epidemiological information including maps of cases.
  • Building new statewide information technologies and systems.
  • Further assessment of previously validated commercial serology and diagnostic tests.
  • Vaccine research and development.
  • Population-based COVID-19 serological surveys (note these are already underway).
  • Assessment of COVID-19 exposure in high risk groups including close contacts of cases and health care workers; and attack rate, hospitalisation, and death rates in health and aged care setting.
  • Descriptive epidemiological studies.
  • Investigation and analysis of COVID-19 in schools and early learning settings.
  • Case control studies comparing health and aged care worker PPE use and practices with controls have already been funded. If your application is in this area, please justify how your proposal adds evidence and value.

Frequently asked questions

Please refer to the Grants guidelines for information about all aspects of the program including the application and review process, eligibility and selection criteria, funding amounts, timelines, topic areas and exclusions.

This information focuses on providing answers to specific queries received by NSW Health about the program and will be updated as additional queries are received.

1. What are the objectives of the NSW Health COVID-19 research grants?

The COVID-19 research program has been designed to produce evidence that supports the NSW response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Its objectives are to:

  • support research that provides evidence to inform priorities for the immediate COVID-19 response in NSW
  • support research into medium and longer term issues related to the pandemic in patients, the community and the health system
  • reduce the time from evidence generation to implementation.

2. How many funding rounds are planned?

Two funding rounds have been announced to date:

  • Round one was a rapid funding round, with short application and review timeframes. Applications opened on 6 May and closed on 20 May 2020. Round one was designed for projects that are ready to start in 3-4 weeks. Preliminary data must be available within 6 months.
  • Round two is likely to open in mid-July 2020, allowing more time for research proposals that require a longer development period.

There is sufficient funding to support both funding rounds.

3. How much funding is available?

In April, the NSW Government announced that it would inject $25 million to fast-track statewide research and clinical trials to tackle the global COVID-19 pandemic and reduce its impact on the community. Information about how the $25 million will be split between rounds has not been made public. NSW Health wishes to retain a flexible approach while we see how the pandemic continues to unfold in NSW over the coming months.

Funding of up to $1 million per project, for a period of up to 24 months, is available. Funding requests over $1 million may be considered with clear justification.

4. Are Host Organisations or partners required to contribute or match funding?

Contributions from Host Organisations and partners are encouraged but not compulsory.

5. When will Round 1 outcomes be known and when will funding be paid?

Round one outcomes will be announced in late June 2020, and grant funds will be paid early in the 2020-21 financial year.

6. How do I apply?

There are two application forms for:
• New Projects
• Existing Projects – a COVID-19 extension to an existing peer-reviewed, funded research project.

Both forms are available at in the ‘Apply now’ section above.

7. I already have some funding. Which application form should I use – the one for new projects or existing projects?

The application form for existing projects was developed for research projects which are requesting funding for the expansion of currently funded research that may be applicable to COVID-19.

Funding may enhance or expand existing projects to incorporate elements addressing COVID-19. Evidence of peer-reviewed funding and ethics and governance approvals for the existing component of the research must be supplied.

For example, if a researcher has an NHMRC funded, ongoing research project that collected blood samples from patients in an Emergency Department, they may wish to apply to NSW Health for additional funding to test for COVID-19 in the samples they were already collecting.

If you already have some funding but this was not awarded via a peer-review grant process, please use the application form for new projects. You can refer to the existing funding in sections E of the application form and make clear what different components you are asking NSW Health to fund.

Note that existing and new projects will be assessed by the same reviewers, using the same selection criteria. The purpose of the form for existing projects is to reduce duplication for projects that have already undergone peer review.

8. What areas of research will be funded?

The peer review process for both rounds will be targeted to projects that will support NSW Health to address the NSW pandemic. Details are included in the Grant guidelines.

9. Are any research topics excluded?

Yes. A list of exclusions is included the Grants guidelines. The exclusions are either not currently required or already funded and will not be funded via COVID-19 grants.

10. Are apps eligible for funding?

Building new statewide information technologies and systems, including the development of new apps, will not be funded under this program. Proposals to assess the effectiveness of existing apps in the public health response are eligible to apply.

Note that Commonwealth and NSW Health evaluations of the COVID Safe app are currently underway, so we are not funding research grant applications in this area through the grants scheme.

11. Can I get advice about whether my research topic is eligible?

No. NSW Health is receiving a large volume of requests and interest in this grant program and COVID-19 research more generally. We cannot provide advice on whether your project fits within the eligible research topics outlined in Appendix A of the Guidelines. Please read the topics and exclusions carefully and consult with colleagues if required. Advice on merit of projects will not be provided.

12. Does COVID research require ethics approval?

All COVID research requires appropriate ethics approvals. The Public Health Act may bypass the need for ethics approval for government work under certain circumstances but it should be assumed that all research requires appropriate HREC approval for the purposes of this grant.

13. What is the process for reviewing applications?

The Selection and Funding Process is summarised on page 9 of the Guidelines.

  1. Eligibility check – Applications will undergo initial review by NSW Health to ensure eligibility criteria are met.
  2. First review – an initial assessment of eligible applications will be undertaken by NSW Health and scientific experts to identify applications that directly answer questions of relevance to the NSW COVID-19 response and will add significant new knowledge to the area and not duplicate other research planned or underway.
  3. Second review – applications selected to progress will undergo scientific review according to published selection criteria. Additional peer reviews may be requested from other technical experts as required.
  4. Recommendations to NSW Health: The review process will result in recommendations to NSW Health who will then make a final decision on grant recipients and amounts. Applicants will be notified, and funding agreements prepared.

14. What are the eligibility criteria?

Applications must meet all eligibility criteria including:

  • Rapid start
  • Address nominate health research topic areas
  • Based in NSW
  • Submit a complete application
  • Australian citizen, permanent residency status or appropriate visa
  • Host organisation requirements
  • Administering organisation requirements

For full eligibility details please refer to the guidelines.

15. What are the selection criteria?

Applications that meet all eligibility criteria and are selected at first review will be assessed against the following selection criteria:

  • Skills and experience of the research team and collaborators (30%)
  • Scientific quality of the research project (30%)
  • Evidence generated will be directly translatable into supporting the COVID-19 response in NSW (40%).

Applications should be written in plain English and technical terms explained. For full selection details please refer to the guidelines.

16. Can Local Health Districts (LHDs) and other public health organisations apply for COVID-19 Research Grants?

Yes. LHDs, NSW Health Pillars, Specialty Health Networks and other public health organisations are eligible to be the Host Organisation. However, these organisations are not eligible to hold the funds for COVID-19 Research Grants. LHDs and public health organisations need to nominate an eligible NSW-based administering organisation that has capacity to hold funds over the period of the grant. Eligible administering organisations include universities, medical research institutes and non-profit organisations that conduct health and medical research.

17. Can a private for-profit organisation apply for funding?

For-profit organisations are not eligible to be Host Organisations or Administrative Organisations. However, OHMR welcomes the involvement of private for-profit organisations in this funded research as partners with a University, Medical Research Institute (MRI) or non-profit organisation. The majority of the research must be conducted at an eligible Host Organisation that is based in NSW and funding held by an eligible Administrative Organisation based in NSW. The criteria are outlined on page 7 of the Guidelines.

18. A NSW-based team is considering leveraging off an existing overseas project with existing investment and technical capacity, and 50-60% of the funding is likely to be expended in NSW. Would the project still meet the funding conditions?

As per the Funding Conditions, research may link with projects outside NSW, but funding must be expended in NSW. Applications will be assessed on a case-by-case basis in this regard.

19. What are the dates for Round two?

Planning is underway for Round two to open in mid-July 2020. However, NSW Health wishes to retain flexibility regarding the timing of Round two while we see how the pandemic unfolds over the next month. Dates will be advertised on this page as soon as they become available. Sign up to email alerts to be informed when this occurs.

20. Will Round two Guidelines, Application Forms and Health Topic Areas be the same as Round one?

Round two Guidelines and application forms will include an updated list of COVID-19 Research Program Topic Areas. We expect that similar topics to Round one will be included and additional topics may be added. However, Research Topic Areas for Round two may be modified according to pandemic needs, and will be advertised on this page.

There may be other minor changes to the Guidelines and application forms for Round two.

21. How many Chief Investigators can be listed on the application?

As this is a rapid funding round, only one Chief Investigator can be listed on the application and only one track record is required. There is no limit on the number of Associate Investigators who may be listed as members of the research team in section B. The Chief Investigator must be based in NSW. Other Investigators may be based in NSW, Interstate or overseas.

22. What procedures will be followed to protect intellectual property contained within COVID 19 grant applications?

All review panel members must sign a confidentiality agreement with NSW Health declaring that all information is confidential, not to be disclosed, and remains the property of the applicant.

Current recipients

The research directory lists all COVID-19 and other research projects and devices that Office for Health and Medical Research have funded.