The Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) has 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 will fund five research projects which will investigate, respectively,  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.”

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