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13 Oct 2021

Executive Director's Message October 2021

  • VCCC Alliance

Funding sustains health research through challenging times

Victoria’s position as a national leader in health and biomedical research was certainly highlighted in the recent NHMRC Investigator Grants. With 62 of the 105 Victorian grants awarded going to outstanding researchers within VCCC Alliance member organisations, there is good reason to feel optimistic and proud of the work and innovation happening here and the multi-faceted benefits this offers to the community, our state and the country.

Notably the number of Emerging Leadership grants will ensure early and early/mid-career researchers will be among the celebrated cohort of high-calibre researchers who are making a difference in basic, clinical, health services and public health research worldwide.

We recognise the continuing commitment from the NHMRC and the support for health and medical research especially at this time when unprecedented challenges and pressures are being felt on health research and education secondary to the impacts of COVID-19 across our sector.

Three new grant opportunities are now open in the Primary Health Care Research Grant Initiative, the brain cancer GBM AGILE Grant Opportunity and the Genomics Health Futures Mission Grant Opportunity through the federal government’s Medical Research Future Fund. Across the alliance we have a lot to offer in these key areas and it would be great to see some strong new initiatives come forward. As we know, involving consumers increases relevance, weight and value to proposals so if you want to know how to get started in that space, make sure you join the Melbourne Academic Centre for Health Consumer Engagement Webinar in November and save the date for the VCCC Alliance annual consumer engagement forum on 3 December. 

Appointment to VCCC Alliance staff team

In other good news, I am thrilled to announce the appointment of Lisa Somerville, GAICD to the VCCC Alliance senior leadership team. Lisa is joining as Head of Quality and Strategic Initiatives and Co-lead of our Collective Impact Portfolio, replacing long-serving staff member, Karen Lacey who has relocated to the UK.

Lisa has had a long career at Alfred Health where she was the Director of Allied Health and Chief Allied Health Officer. She was appointed Adjunct Associate Professor in the School of Allied Health within the College of Science, Health and Engineering at Latrobe University in 2017.  This year she completed the Australian Institute of Company Directors Course and has been a board member for Yea District Memorial Hospital Board since June 2021. 

Lisa will be a huge asset to our team in strategic and business development, overseeing consumer involvement and equity initiatives, and providing leadership for program management frameworks and evaluation.  We look forward to welcoming her from 8 November.

New initiatives in childhood and liver cancers

In another key recruitment to commence shortly, we are thrilled to be moving on a long-held vision for a new Chair in Childhood Cancer. The new academic leadership position has been made possible thanks to generous funding from the Children’s Cancer Foundation and My Room in collaboration with VCCC Alliance members: the University of Melbourne, The Royal Children’s Hospital, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. I am very excited at the prospect of further expanding our efforts in Children’s Cancer and the new Chair joining Professor David Eisenstat who came to the Royal Children’s as Director of the Children’s Cancer Centre in November 2020 after a COVID-delayed move from North America.

In another new initiative for 2022, members of the alliance are currently engaged in strategic and broadly inclusive discussions with the Centre for Cancer Immunotherapy, headed by Director Professor Joe Trapani, for a new initiative in liver cancer.  I am very much looking forward to the VCCC Alliance and our partners tackling this critical unmet need in cancer control.  Joe, as most of you are aware, has led the highly successful Cancer Immunology Program at Peter Mac for over two decades during the transformation in cancer care brought on by immunotherapy.   His leadership of the Centre of Cancer Immunotherapy will enable Victoria to continue to grow the impact of this central pillar of care for our patients.

Finally, as we move towards further changes to our lives post-lockdown , I want to acknowledge that for many in our cancer community this will be a time of new stress and anxiety. Whether you are a healthcare professional working under extraordinary pressures as case numbers increase, or a patient who is immunosuppressed and still vulnerable even if vaccinated, the next few months won’t be easy.

Please look after yourselves and each other - and stay safe and well.

Prof Grant McArthur
Executive Director