2020 COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate Research



Notice of Intent (NOI) registration OPEN

10am, 24 Feb 2021 (Wednesday)

Draft application due to RIC for  strategic review and compliance & eligibility check (including other supporting documents, if applicable)

10am, 8 Mar 2021 (Monday)

Authority to Submit due to RIC

10am, 8 Mar 2021 (Monday)

Final EOI submitted to RIC

5pm, 10 Mar 2021 (Wednesday)

Final EOI submitted to NHMRC


The objective of the 2020 COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate Research Grant Opportunity is to accelerate the development of promising COVID-19 prophylactic (disease-preventing) vaccine candidates for which research and development is already underway. The prophylactic vaccine must be intended to induce active long-term immunity against COVID-19. This Grant Opportunity is not intended to support research into therapeutic vaccines that are intended to confer transient or passive immunity.

The vaccine candidate must have progressed beyond early or “developmental” stage research to pre-clinical or clinical investigation, and applicants must have already generated proof-of-concept data that supports pre-clinical or clinical development of the vaccine candidate. Applicants must also demonstrate access to critical resources necessary to complete the project in the stipulated timeframes. This Grant Opportunity is not intended to support research programs that do not include optimisation or testing of COVID-19 prophylactic vaccine candidates.

The intended outcome of the research funded under this priority is to support rapid development of a safe and effective COVID-19 prophylactic (disease-preventing) vaccine, which induces active long-term immunity, within the next 12-18 months.

Assessment Process

This Grant Opportunity will consist of a maximum of three Rounds. A Round will comprise the following steps:
- the applicant/s submit an Expression of Interest outlining the proposed project
- the Expression of Interest is assessed by a grant assessment committee
- the decision maker will consider the outcome of the Expression of Interest assessment process to decide whether to invite the applicant/s to submit a full application
- the invited applicant/s submit a full application
- the full application is assessed by a grant assessment committee
- the decision maker will consider the outcome of the application assessment process to decide if the application is successful in obtaining funding
- the applicant/s are notified of the outcome.

Applicants should also note that the proportion of funds committed after Round 1 may determine whether further Rounds are opened.

Upcoming rounds

 EOI due dateApplication due date
Round 115 July 202023 Sep 2020
Round 211 Nov 202027 Jan 2021
Round 310 Mar 20215 May 2021


For this grant opportunity, up to $13.65 Million is available in 2020-21 through the MRFF. The maximum amount available for a single grant is $3 million

The project must be completed by 30 June 2023. The expected completion date of your research must be nominated in your expression of interest/application not extend beyond the project period.

$13.65 Mil Nil Nil


- A person must not be named as a Chief Investigator (CI) on more than one EOI or application submitted to any single Round of this grant opportunity.

- a person must not be named as a Chief Investigator (CI) on an application that has already been successful in obtaining funding via an earlier Round of this grant opportunity

- It is generally required that, at the time of application submission, the CIA is an Australian citizen or is a permanent resident in Australia (see also section 6.4 of the Guidelines). The research proposal must involve CIA being based in Australia for the duration of the grant.

- The proposed research should not duplicate research previously or currently being undertaken. The NHMRC may compare the research proposed in grant applications with grants previously or currently funded by the MRFF, NHMRC or other agencies (e.g. Australian Research Council) and published research (see also section 7.3 of the guidelines)

How to apply

  1. Notice of Intent: Please register your Notice of Intent if you are considering applying for the this grant opportunity.  RIC-MRFF team will then contact each applicant with further information.
  2. Update/complete Sapphire Profile: Each CI will need to obtain access to the Sapphire to complete this step. Applicants (including all Chief Investigators and Associate Investigators) are required to submit a registration form available on the Sapphire Landing Page. NHMRC copied RGMS users’ CV/Profile data from RGMS for migration into Sapphire on Wednesday 12 February 2020 after 5.00pm (AEDT). Any changes made to an RGMS profile after this date have not been replicated in Sapphire.
  3. Review documentation: Review the grant guidelines and category descriptors available below and at Grant Connect.
  4. Create and Complete the application:  Log in to Sapphire, select the relevant grant opportunity to complete the application.
  5. Submit “Review Ready” application to RIC: Submit application to RIC within the RIC internal submission period for review.
  6. Complete application: After taking feedback from the RIC team into consideration, complete the application in Sapphire. It is suggested advice is sought from colleagues, Faculty Mentors, etc. before finalising the application.
  7. Submit the UoM Authority to Submit Form:
  8. This form must be submitted to RIC electronically by the final internal closing date. The form should include:

    • CIA and Head of Department/Institute Director signatures

    Written evidence (e.g. email) from all CIs and AIs is no longer required for applications submitted via Sapphire. Accepting an invitation to participate in an application constitutes a written agreement to be named on an application. CIAs cannot submit an application for RAO certification until all research team members on their application have accepted the invitation.

    This is an NHMRC requirement and the application cannot be submitted to NHMRC until received.

  9. Final Submission:
  10. On the final internal closing date, the applicant must:

    • Certify the application via the ‘Certification’ function in the left panel of your Sapphire application. The applicant will be given the opportunity to download their application and attachments prior to the two-stage confirmation prompt before submission. The application will be locked once certified and status then will be Submitted to RAO.
    • Email the final application documents to RIC enquiries-mrff@unimelb.edu.au as well as a scanned, signed Authority to Submit form.
    • Should you require further information please contact Alvin Wong on 83449352 or via email
  11. RIC will submit the application: Once the application has been submitted to NHMRC, you will receive an email from RIC confirming submission.

Supporting documents

NHMRC Documents

Grant Guidelines

  • EOI related documents

Merit Criteria rating scale

EOI Grant Proposal template

  • Full application related documents

Assessment Criteria Scoring Matrix

Rating Scale for Overall Value and Risk

Full Application Grant Proposal template

RIC Documents

Summary and Tips - Please contact MRFF team

Authority to Submit Form


MRFF questions and primary email

Key Contacts

Alvin Wong and Catherine Nobes
T: Alvin - +61 3 8344 9352; Catherine - +61 3 8344 1471