A leading UNSW professor has been recognised at the 2023 NHMRC Research Excellence Awards for her work to reduce and prevent substance use related harms. 

Scientia Professor Louisa Degenhardt from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) at UNSW Sydney was honoured at the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Research Excellence Awards in Canberra on Wednesday, 29 March. 

Prof. Degenhardt received the 2022 Elizabeth Blackburn Investigator Grant Award for being the highest-ranked female recipient in the Leadership category for research in Public Health. Her grant application was ranked highest during the NHMRC’s competitive peer review process. 

“I am honoured and grateful to receive this award. The past decade has seen improvement in alcohol, drug, and mental disorder epidemiology, but there is still so much work to be done,” Prof. Degenhardt said.  

“My vision is to significantly increase the evidence around the epidemiology of illicit drug use and interventions that may reduce harm.” 

Prof. Degenhardt has been placed in the Top 40 Researchers within Australia for the past three years and in the top 100 female researchers globally in 2022. Her work on opioid dependence regularly informs policy within the Australian Government as well as national and international health agencies. 

Scientia Professor Vlado Perkovic, Dean of UNSW Medicine & Health and Acting Provost - Faculties, congratulated Prof. Degenhardt on the award. 

“Louisa is recognised internationally for her leading research on illicit drug use, the comorbid mental health problem, and illicit drug surveillance. Her dedication to untangling the complexities of drug-related harm to help ensure policy makers, clinicians and the broader community have the right information to save lives is second to none,” Prof. Perkovic said.

The Investigator Grant Award will see Prof. Degenhardt receive $2,937,110 over five years. 

“Substance use and mental disorders are the leading cause of disability worldwide and alcohol and illicit drug use continue to increase globally,” Prof. Degenhardt said. 

“This Investigator Award will enable me to research the epidemiology of a range of licit and illicit substances, with an additional focus on patterns of use that cause the most significant risk.”

Prof. Degenhardt will also examine interventions to address substance use and mental disorders, including prevention and early intervention among young people, treatment of chronic hepatitis C (HCV) infection among people who inject drugs, and the treatment of opioid dependence.