UNSW research projects, exploring non-Alzheimer dementias, the immune system’s response to infection and cancer screening programs, have been recognised among the best in the country by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

The three projects are among 20 that will be recognised at an awards ceremony tonight in Canberra for the NHMRC 2014 Research Excellence Awards and 2015 Biennial Awards.

UNSW Professor Glenda Halliday, based at Neuroscience Research Australia, will receive the Elizabeth Blackburn Fellowship for being the highest ranked female applicant in the clinical category of the Research Fellowship scheme.

It is the second year running that the NHMRC has recognised top female scientists at UNSW with Elizabeth Blackburn Fellowships, with Scientia Professor Katharina Gaus taking out the biomedical category and Professor Lisa Maher recognised in the public health category in 2014.

Professor Halliday is working to identify and understand the biological mechanisms behind non-Alzheimer dementias and degenerative motor syndromes. Through another NHMRC-funded grant, Professor Halliday is leading an expert team to identify factors that drive the degeneration of the brain in dementia patients, improve methods for diagnosis and maximise the effectiveness of treatments.

NHMRC post-doctoral fellow Dr Si Ming Man, from UNSW’s School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, will receive the Frank Fenner Early Career Fellowship for the highest ranked application in the Biomedical Early Career Fellowship category.

NHMRC Early Career Fellowships enable developing health and medical researchers of outstanding ability to undertake advanced training in health and medical research either in Australia or overseas. Dr Man is currently based at St Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, United States.

Molecules known as interferons are produced by the immune system in response to infection. Dr Man will seek to identify the role of interferons, and the proteins that regulate their production, in immune responses against the food-borne bacteria salmonella and listeria. This research aims to uncover new treatments and ways to prevent these bacterial infections.

UNSW Conjoint Professor Karen Canfell, based at the Cancer Council NSW, will receive a Career Development Fellowship (Level 2) for the highest ranked application in the population health category.

Level 2 fellowships are awarded to researchers who completed their PhDs between 7–12 years ago.

Professor Canfell’s research looks at how to optimise screening programs to prevent cancer and ensure there is a balance between harms and benefits. The research project will evaluate the role of human papillomavirus (HPV) screening, address emerging issues with HPV prevention and quantify the impact and costs of vaccination and screening in developing countries.

NHMRC ‘highest ranked’ fellowship winners are based on a competitive peer review process where each application is given an individual score.

Read the NHMRC media release for the full list of recipients.