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Independent Funder Pledges $500,000 For Immediate Projects

New Zealand’s largest independent medical research funder has launched an urgent, fast-tracked fund specifically for COVID-19 medical research.

The Auckland Medical Research Foundation (AMRF) says it is accelerating the application process to ensure research can start within weeks in response to the unprecedented need during this pandemic.

“The AMRF COVID-19 Research Fund is a dedicated, fast-tracked investment sitting outside of our usual funding rounds,” Sue Brewster, AMRF Executive Director says.

“It will focus only on biomedical, clinical or population-health research, specifically investigating COVID-19, its impact and outcomes.”

Open to researchers whose principal investigators are based in the Auckland/ Northland region, AMRF can grant up to a maximum of $100,000 for each research project, from an initial investment of $500,000. This is over and above the Foundation’s average of more than $3.5 million – granted annually for a wide range of medical research each year – including dementia, cancers, stroke treatments, antibiotic development, heart health and youth mental health.

“We know there is a high demand for research grants, and we can ring-fence donations, so if we are able to raise more funds, we are hopeful we can extend the minimum amount of $500,000 we are investing,” Brewster adds

“There is the potential for the COVID-19 project findings from New Zealand to feed into global research. It is going to be really important to not only take best practices and share them world-wide but also apply them to our unique population needs.

“If we don’t gather the data about what we are learning during this pandemic, we are doomed to be no further ahead next time and the experts are all saying there will be a next time.”

COVID-19 – like the flu, Brewster says, may never be truly eradicated, and there may be other world-wide pandemics. “The lessons we learn from this will be applicable to the next one.”

She acknowledged that researchers around the globe were working towards a cure for the virus, but says AMRF is hoping for a wide-range of applications, looking not only at prevention and treatment strategies but also at isolation measures and impacts, including recuperation and anxiety. Similarly it could be a research project focused on gathering large datasets in population health.

“We anticipate that for some researchers it will be a smart and logical extension of their research field.

“We have never had such a short turnaround for our research grants and the calibre of our Medical Committee will ensure the integrity and rigour being applied to the assessment process. We are committed to the highest quality of research projects being awarded funding. We believe it is critical the research is current and in real-time, particularly as it is such a rapidly-changing landscape.”

Key dates:

· Deadline for applications: April 17

· Applications reviewed: April 17-23

· Successful applicants notified: April 24

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