As part of the Australian Government’s response to potential per-and poly fluoroalkylated substances (PFAS) contamination on or near Commonwealth sites, a national research program into the human health effect of PFAS has been established.

PFAS has been found at a number of sites around Australia and in food and drinking water from these areas. There has been significant community concern about the potential health impacts from exposure to PFAS.

A TCR is a one-time solicitation for grant applications to address a specific health issue. A TCR will stimulate or greatly advance research in a particular area of health and medical science that will benefit the health of Australians. NHMRC anticipates that a TCR on this subject will commence in late 2018.

NHMRC has established the PFAS TCR Reference Group to assist with the background work required to develop the TCR. This group will inform the development of the PFAS TCR research questions/s, objectives and selection criteria, based on consideration of current, high quality scientific data, government and regulatory authority reports (national and International) as well as a report provided by an Expert Health Panel established by the Department of Health. The Reference Group will identify what research will be within the scope of the TCR and provide contextual information on the background, aims and desired outcomes of the TCR.

Membership

The PFAS TCR Reference Group includes a range of scientific experts.

Name/Position Area of Expertise Declaration of Interest 

A/Professor Barry Noller

(Chair)
Associate Professor Barry Noller has expertise in environmental toxicology; pollution control; toxicology, chemicals in the environment, water pollution, soil pollution, health risk assessment; environmental chemistry and aquatic pollution. A potential expert witness for the Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence regarding Williamtown and Oakey chemical contamination attributed to the use of aqueous film forming foam ( a fire suppressant agent), which contains PFAS
Professor Lisa Bero Professor Lisa Bero, is a researcher in evidence-based health care at the University of Sydney. She is internationally renowned for her studies on the integrity of clinical and basic research evidence that is used to influence health policy. Professor Bero directs the multidisciplinary Evidence, Policy and Influence Collaborative at the Charles Perkins Centre and is a current member of NHMRC’s Synthesis and Translation of Research Evidence Advisory Group.

Published extensively on methods for systematic reviews and risk of bias assessment, impact of conflicts of interest and funding sources on the design, conduct and publication of research.

Professor Jane Heyworth

Professor Jane Heyworth has expertise in environment epidemiology; environmental health research, policy and practice; population health; environmental risk factors; water quality; air pollution and chemical exposure cancer epidemiology. She is currently Deputy Head of the School of Population and Global Health, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences at the University of Western Australia.

Has published on maternal exposure to perfluoralkyl acids and birth outcomes in 2016. Maternal exposure to Perfluoralkyl acids measured in whole blood and birth outcomes in offspring. 

Numerous publications on persistent organic compounds in the last 5 years  
Professor Brian Priestly Professor Brian Priestly has expertise in toxicology, environmental health risk assessment, environmental pollutants and risk perception. He was the inaugural Director of the Australian Centre for Human Health Risk Assessment (ACHHRA). ACHHRA is now affiliated with the Monash Centre for Occupational & Environmental Health and its mission is to provide a national focus for environmental health risk assessment, primarily in the area of food and environmental pollutants.

Contracted reviews of health effects of PFOS and related substances for the Victorian Dept of Health & Human Services; 2015, 2016, 2017.

Participation in enHealth workshops considering health-based guidance values (HBGV) for PFAS; 2015-2016.

Peer review of draft FSANZ reports used to establish PFAS TDI values; 2016.

Appearance before the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into Fiskville; 2015.

Member of CRC-CARE Program Advisory Committee developing PFAS HHRA and clean-up guidance; 2015-2018. 

  • Through personal consultancy activities (Priestly Toxicology Consulting) 2010-11, 2015
  • Advisor to Airservices Australia on PFAS health effects
  • Contracted review of the occurrence of PFOS in food; for the NSW Office of Chief Scientist & Engineer; 2016
  • Peer reviews of reports relating to PFAS contamination at Fiskville, for Victorian Country Fire Authority; 2013-15.
  • Assistance with Commercial Consultancy (CH2M Hill) re HHRA of the Amberley AFB; 2017-
  • Advisor on PFAS Health Issues; Australian Government Solicitor & King Wood Mallesons (lawyers for Dept of Defence); 2017
  • Numerous publications relating to PFAS.
  • enHealth summit on PFCs; Sydney Dec 2015; Potential health impacts from exposures to PFOS and PFOA
  • Aust. Contaminated Land Consultants Assoc. Melbourne 30 May 2017; PFAS – Emerging environmental contaminants.
Dr Christos Symeonides Dr Christos Symeonides is a paediatrician from the Murdoch Children’s Institute.  Has expertise in chemical exposure in utero and infancy and environmental toxicology. Is employed as a General & Developmental Paediatrician at both the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne, and in private practice in Melbourne, and as a Research Officer at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute. 

Note

NHMRC has well defined procedures for the establishment of Reference Groups which are based on obtaining the best experts available while ensuring conflicts of interest (real and perceived) are managed appropriately.

NHMRC does not allow people to apply to a TCR if they have assisted with the development of the research question or associated policies of that TCR. This requirement has been taken into consideration when identifying potential Reference Group members.

The Reference Group will not review the research applications that will be submitted to the TCR. That role will be performed by a separate peer review committee of scientific experts. However, members of the Advisory Committee may be invited to participate in the peer review assessment process for the TCR, if required at the time.

Progress Update

(This section will be updated regularly following Reference Group meetings and as otherwise appropriate).

  • The first meeting of the Reference Group Committee occurred on 6 June 2018. Members considered the EHP Report and Identified priority research themes. 
  • The second meeting of the Reference Group Committee occurred on 6 August 2018. Members discussed previously identifies research and themes in depth. 
  • The third meeting of the Reference Group Committee is scheduled for 8 October 2018. The Reference Group has sought community representation from Williamtown, Oakey and Katherine councils to ensure the research agenda considers the concerns of PFAS affected communities. The community representatives will advise the Reference Group on those issues relating to human health that need further investigation. Their input will inform further refinement of the research themes. 

Terms of Reference

Established under section 39 of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Act 1992, the Reference Group regarding Per- and Poly-fluoroalkylated substances will advise on the objectives, desired outcomes and selection criteria of the grant opportunity.

This will be achieved by:

  • Considering the advice provided by the Department of Health’s Expert Health Panel.
  • Identifying any gaps in the research evidence that would increase an understanding of how PFAS exposure may affect human health.

Applications for Funding under the TCR

Any applications for funding in response to the TCR will be assessed by a peer review panel, established at the time for that purpose. The process is underpinned by the NHMRC Principles of Peer Review, the NHMRC Guide to Peer Review and any Scheme Specific Peer Review Guidelines.

Anticipated timeline

March - Sept 2018
  • Advisory Committee established 
  • Advisory Committee deliberates and considers information
September/October 2018
  • Advisory Committee completes work and formulates research question
  • Consult with community representatives
Nov/Dec 2018
  • NHMRC finalises TCR call-specific documentation
  • TCR opens
February 2018
  • TCR closes
Mid 2019
  • Peer review panel assess applications
  • NHMRC considers Peer Review Panel recommendations and makes recommendation to Minister for Health
  • Announcement of grants and funding commencing

Contact details 

Queries about the work of the Advisory Committee should be directed to targeted.research@nhmrc.gov.au 

Before you submit an application, please make sure you have:

 
01

Step One

Read all relevant reference material

GrantConnect GO Documents

 
02

Step Two

Liaised with your Administering Institution to identify any specific requirements that the institution may have

 
03

Step Three

Ensure your application is complete and correct.