8 rheumatology and musculoskeletal research grant winners revealed by NHMRC


Rheumatology and musculoskeletal clinician researchers have been awarded almost $13 million by the NHMRC for research projects according to its list of outcomes for the 2021 NHMRC Grant Application Round.

  • A team led by Professor Catherine Hill at Adelaide University have been awarded $823,722 to study methotrexate and glucocorticoids in polymyalgia rheumatica. The Steroid-Reducing Options for ReLapsING PMR (STERLING-PMR) study will be a pragmatic, randomised trial to compare the clinical and cost-effectiveness of adding immunosuppression to steroid-tapering treatment for patients with relapsing PMR, versus steroid-tapering. According to the proposal, about 50% of PMR patients treated with prednisolone  will relapse and many patients experience steroid side effects such as diabetes and fractures. “This study will determine whether an extra treatment can reduce prednisolone use in people with relapsing PMR; and improve quality of life. The study will include participants in UK and Australia and provide a unique opportunity for further research in this under-researched area.
  • At the University of Queensland Diamantina Institute, rheumatologist Professor Ranjeny Thomas will use  $2.13 million to investigate immunotherapy options in autoimmune diseases. “Building on early phase immunotherapy trials, my program develops ground-breaking immunotherapy research and technology to deliver: 1) tools to identify people at risk; and 2) preventive immunotherapy and lifestyle interventions to halt disease progression. “My program will build pipeline drug development and delivery opportunities with industry to transform healthcare.”
  • Professor Manuela Ferreira of Sydney University Institute of Bone and Joint Research  is the recipient of $2.548m for research into how new approaches can improve care for low back pain. “The project will improve access to high quality LBP care and will provide knowledge on the safety and efficacy of LBP treatments such as surgery,” her proposal states.
  • At the Sydney University The Institute for Musculoskeletal Health, Dr Giovanni Ferreira has been awarded $ 650,740 to conduct a series of health policy evaluations at the national and state level on the care provided for back pain. The funding will also cover a randomised trial into reducing unnecessary lumbar surgeries and improving return to work, and two studies to investigate barriers and enablers of the right care for back pain.
  • Professor Richard Page and colleagues of Deakin University has been awarded $1.54 million to study the best orthopaedic surgery option for shoulder osteoarthritis. The proposal: “Reverse or Anatomical (replacement) for Painful Shoulder Osteoarthritis: Differences between Interventions” will produce evidence about the benefits, harms and cost-effectiveness of each shoulder surgery to enable patients to receive the best type of surgery.
  • With $1 million in funding, Professor Kim Bennel of Melbourne Uni will lead a research team evaluating HipHealth, an evidence-based telehealth exercise and weight loss program for people with hip osteoarthritis. The HipHealth project aims to improve the health and well-being of Australians with hip osteoarthritis  with interventions delivered remotely by physiotherapists and dietitians. “The program will be tested in the private health insurance setting with view to future scale-up in this and other settings.”
  • Dr Adam Culvenor at La Trobe University, Victoria, has been awarded $1.43 million to study physiotherapy rehabilitation options to reducing the burden of knee osteoarthritis in young adults under the age of 40 following injury. “This program of research leverages established resources to address the urgent need to prevent arthritis in young adults by: i) understanding why some people are more likely to get knee arthritis; ii) enhancing the care of knee injuries to prevent arthritis; and iii) uniting international efforts with a world-first database of early arthritis outcomes.”
  • And as reported in the limbic last week, Professor Lyn March of the University of Sydney will use $2.5million funding to set up a Centre for Research Excellence in inflammatory arthritis, which will “build on our national data-base and biospecimens bank (A3BC-ARAD) to collect a broad range of patient-reported, biological, environmental and health information to unlock the answers using big-data analysis. “We will build a resource and workforce to continue to look for cures to deliver the best outcomes for patients and society.”

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