National Health and Medical Research Council, Australia
GloPID-R member, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funds the Australian Partnership for Preparedness Research for Infectious Disease Emergencies (APPRISE) to improve Australia’s response capacities.
APPRISE was the outcome of a NHMRC call for applications for a Centre of Research Excellence to support a national multidisciplinary team of collaborators to develop Australia’s capacity for infectious disease emergency response research. Drawing on the experience of previous outbreaks, NHMRC decided to invest in outbreak preparedness in advance, rather than relying on urgent calls for research only when an emergency arose.
The aim of APPRISE is to improve the country’s national readiness to undertake emergency response research during an infectious disease outbreak to protect and promote human health. Research is undertaken to inform and enable preparedness and response to infectious disease threats and emergencies in a timely manner. The team includes 19 investigators from 20 research centres across Australia, together with PhD students, research fellows and a large network of national and international collaborators.
Since its establishment in 2016, the partnership has developed a strong, multidisciplinary research team supported by close relationships with government and other relevant partners. These include Australian research collaborations on infectious diseases as well as international networks and organisations including the WHO, French preparedness network Research and ACTion targeting emerging infectious disease (REACTing), and the International Severe Acute Respiratory and Emerging Infection Consortium (ISARIC).
APPRISE research focusses on enabling systems and platforms for response. These include developing pre-approved research protocols, specimen sharing and biobanking capabilities, data and information sharing and analysis strategies and addressing ethics and governance challenges. APPRISE research includes the development of an ethical framework for informing policy on vaccine allocation in the event of an influenza pandemic, and insights into the clinical and epidemiological features of human parechovirus, an emerging infection in young infants.
APPRISE and COVID-19
With the emergence of COVID-19, APPRISE has been involved in discussions with and providing advice for international and national public health and research bodies. Many existing APPRISE projects have been pivoted to focus specifically on COVID-19, including advanced preparation for an enhanced epidemiological study on household transmission, the development of point-of-care and serological tests for COVID-19 and the activation and extension of clinical trial protocols that include specimen collection.
APPRISE has also activated its collaborative network to identify research priorities in response to a call for projects addressing COVID-19 to be preferenced for APPRISE contingency funding or supported through applications to additional COVID-19 funding pools. This mobilisation has so far resulted in A$480,000 of funding for 16 urgent research projects covering areas such as diagnostics, treatment and communication. Joining forces with the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Emerging Infectious Diseases (CREID), a total A$630,000 will fund the national collaborative projects designed to fill areas of critical research need and improve Australia’s emergency response to COVID-19. Further to this, on April 13th, 2020, the NHMRC announced it will be providing an additional $2M of funding to APPRISE for 9 critical COVID-19 research projects that will generate maximum benefits for the Australian public.
First Nations Communities
APPRISE is supporting and developing research capacity to address infectious disease challenges in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. This comes from a recognition that many historical inequities in disease impact stem from a lack of meaningful and ongoing engagement with First Nations communities. Aside from supporting First Nations researchers, APPRISE is funding work to understand how research protocols can be adapted for use and governed by First Nations communities, and exploring new ways for engaging community representatives in research projects. APPRISE has also provided cultural respect education to its investigators and students to help embed culturally appropriate research practices.
Recognising the importance of ensuring ongoing capacity for preparedness research, APPRISE is working to support the professional development of emerging researchers. A joint Early Career Researcher Academy with other Australian infectious disease research collaborations provides networking and professional development opportunities, and researchers are offered opportunities to observe and participate in meetings of key government public health committees.