Skip to main content
12 Oct 2022

Garvan researchers awarded five NHMRC Investigator Grants

The NHMRC has allocated $9 million to fund the critical research projects of five outstanding Garvan researchers.

Researchers at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research have secured five National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Investigator Grants to pursue critical research projects over the next five years. The new funding will recognise researchers’ past achievements, their publication track record, and the potential impact of their research.

Professor Peter Croucher, Garvan’s Executive Director (interim) says, “The NHMRC Investigator grants recognise the research creativity and excellence we strive for at Garvan, in the areas of cancer, autoimmune disease and immunodeficiencies. We are thrilled to see the Institute’s esteemed position bolstered in the ever-competitive landscape of medical research and we commend our researchers on their success.

“We also acknowledge the outstanding efforts of the researchers whose applications were unsuccessful on this occasion and commit to further efforts to find funding for their important research in future.”

Garvan Institute grant recipients

Professor Paul Timpson

Pancreatic cancer is a devastating disease in which high levels of dense tissue (otherwise known as fibrosis) surrounds the tumour and effectively protects the tumour from efficient drug delivery and penetrance, causing poor drug response. Professor Timpson’s vision is to target this dense impenetrable fibrotic tissue to effectively improve drug delivery and response in this aggressive disease.

Associate Professor Cindy Ma

Allergic diseases affect around one in three Australians and carry significant health and financial burdens. Primary immunodeficiencies (PIDs) result from damaging mutations in genes that affect the development and function of immune cells. In addition to life-threatening infections, PID patients often suffer from severe allergies.

Associate Professor Ma is planning to investigate immune cells from PID patients and other cohorts of patients with allergic disease, to reveal mechanisms of disease. This will lead the way for novel approaches to understand and treat these debilitating conditions.

Associate Professor Alex Swarbrick

Solid cancers are complex cellular ‘ecosystems’ in which the growth and drug response of the tumour is controlled by cell interactions. Associate Professor Swarbrick aims to use cellular genomics to understand the nature and interactions of cells that make up breast cancers. This will lead to a better understanding of the role of specific cell types in the progression of cancers, and improvements in cancer treatment.

Dr José Alquicira Hernández

Autoimmune disorders represent a considerable burden for the healthcare system, affecting a significant proportion of the human population. While genetic factors are the most significant contributors to autoimmune disease risk, their effects on individual immune cells have yet to be established. Dr Alquicira Hernández’s research seeks to characterise how genetic factors impact pathological cell states and their role in autoimmunity, to ultimately improve the treatment of autoimmune conditions.

Dr Ksenia Skvortsova

Our immune system is a complex network of cells that defend us from infections. In 5–8% of people, the immune system goes awry and mistakenly attacks the body’s healthy tissues, leading to autoimmune disease. Remarkably, 80% of autoimmunity patients are women; however, the molecular mechanisms behind this bias remain unknown. Using cutting-edge technologies, Dr Skvortsova will investigate female-specific mechanisms leading to autoimmunity, which will provide tools for diagnostics and drug target prioritisation.


Professor Timpson is a Conjoint Professor at St Vincent's Clinical School, Faculty of Medicine and Health, UNSW Sydney. Associate Professor Ma is a Conjoint Lecturer at St Vincent's Clinical School, Faculty of Medicine and Health, UNSW Sydney. Associate Professor Swarbrick is a Conjoint Associate Professor at St Vincent's Clinical School, Faculty of Medicine and Health, UNSW Sydney. Dr Skvortsova is a Conjoint Associate Lecturer at St Vincent's Clinical School, Faculty of Medicine and Health, UNSW Sydney.