2020 Antiviral Development for COVID-19 Grant Opportunity

What is the 2020 Antiviral Development for COVID-19 Grant Opportunity?

The MRFF 2020 Antiviral Development for COVID-19 Grant Opportunity is a program to identify antiviral candidates targeting SARS-CoV-2 (new and repurposed) and accelerate promising effective treatments that can be made available to treat Australians infected with SARS-CoV-2.

The ongoing respiratory illness outbreak caused by transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus represents a significant and urgent threat to global health, with numerous cases documented world-wide, including Australia. There are currently no treatments specifically targeting the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The development of novel antiviral treatments is one way to improve protection against COVID-19.



The Australian Government has committed $2.4 billion to a Coronavirus (COVID-19) National Health Plan to support our health system to manage the outbreak of novel coronavirus in Australia. The package provides support across primary care, aged care, hospitals and research, and includes
$30 million over two years from the MRFF for a Coronavirus Research Response comprising vaccine, antiviral and respiratory medicine research. These research priorities are in line with the priorities agreed at the recent Coronavirus Research Roundtable.

The Coronavirus Research Response will enable Australian researchers to drive innovation and contribute to global efforts to control the COVID-19 outbreak. This measure will use the considerable expertise of Australia’s world-class health and medical researchers, which is critical for ensuring
preparedness and the safety of all Australians and the global community.



For this grant opportunity, the Australian Government has announced a total of $8 million through the MRFF. There is up to $3 million of funding available in 2019-20 for Stage 1 and up to $5 million in 2020-21 for Stage 2.

There is no maximum grant amount but grants cannot exceed the amount of available funds in the relevant stage.


Eligible Projects

Stage 1

Funding of up to $3 million will be provided to support testing of up to 10 antiviral candidates for stability, safety and effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2 to demonstrate proof of concept. Stage 1 projects are to be completed within 9 months of commencement of Stage 1. In addition:

  • applicants will be required to define performance indicators and outcomes to be achieved with Stage 1 funding that are critical for the research to progress to Stage 2
  • successful achievement of these performance indicators and outcomes is a prerequisite to seek Stage 2 funding successful applicants will be required to deliver a completion report for Stage 1 (see section 11.3 of the guidelines) that:
    • measures success against performance indicators and demonstrates achievement of outcomes in Stage 1; and
    • formalises performance indicators and outcomes for Stage 2

Stage 2

Funding of up to $5 million will support acceleration of promising antiviral candidates from Stage 1 into clinical practice, enabling clinical trials in humans, progression through regulatory pathways and/or transition to commercialisation. Stage 2 projects are to be completed within 24 months of
commencement of Stage 2. In addition:

  • Stage 1 grantees may be eligible for up to $5 million under Stage 2.
  • Stage 2 funding will be awarded to the most expedient grantee(s) to complete Stage 1, subject to demonstration of success against performance indicators and achievement of outcomes under Stage 1.
  • The data and evidence in the Stage 1 completion report will be considered by assessment panel members involved in the awarding of Stage 1 grants to determine if they achieved success against performance indicators and outcomes under Stage 1.
  • Completion reports (see section 11.3) will be categorised as either: successful, marginal or unsuccessful.
    • If categorised as successful, a recommendation will be made to the delegate to fund.
    • If categorised as marginal, the grantee will have one opportunity to respond to identified concerns or matters of clarification in writing. This response will be considered by the assessment panel in making a final recommendation.
    • If categorised as unsuccessful, a recommendation will be made to the delegate not to fund and no opportunity to respond will be provided.
  • For clarity, the review of completion reports will not be a reassessment against the assessment criteria.
  • Stage 1 grantees that do not have the opportunity to request Stage 2 funding because it has already been awarded, will be notified and encouraged to seek alternative funding avenues.

Applicants will be expected to demonstrate capacity to quickly establish partnerships that will provide access to critical resources necessary to complete the project. This may include access to SARS-CoV-2 material, relevant animal models and appropriate biohazard containment facilities.
Applicants should also provide details of how funding will leverage other complementary funding sources.

To be competitive for funding, applicants must propose to conduct research that delivers against the above objective. If applicants propose research that is not relevant to the desired objective they will be considered against the assessment criteria and be found uncompetitive*. Administering Institutions are requested to ensure they only submit applications that address the desired outcomes.

*Note: this grant opportunity is not for vaccine development or respiratory medicine research. Separate grant opportunities exist:

  • 2020 Novel Coronavirus Vaccine Development
  • 2020 Respiratory Medicine Research on COVID-19


Eligible Applicants

To be eligible for the 2020 Antiviral Development for COVID-19 Grant Opportunity, you must:

  • be an NHMRC approved Administering Institution
  • have an Australian Business Number (ABN)
  • be incorporated in Australia

and in accordance with s20 and s24 of the Medical Research Future Fund Act 20151, be one of the following entities:

  • a medical research institute
  • a university
  • a corporate Commonwealth entity
  • a corporation (including businesses and not for profits)
  • a state or territory government, or
  • a state of territory government entity

Joint applications are encouraged, provided you have a lead organisation who is the main driver of the project and is eligible to apply.



Applications close 08 April 2020.


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