Global innovation in intensive care research wins Australian duo GSK Award for Research Excellence

Each year, more than 120,000 Australians require critical care.1 The COVID-19 pandemic has seen increased admissions to intensive care units (ICUs) over the past two years, putting immense pressure on hospitals and health care systems.

Despite these stresses, patients in ICUs continue to receive the highest levels care and support. This is due in no small measure to the efforts of two local researchers who have helped transform approaches to treatment of critically ill patients, not just in Australia, but worldwide.

Professor Jamie Cooper and Professor Rinaldo Bellomo, Co-Directors of the Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Research Centre (ANZIC-RC), have been acknowledged for their global leadership and innovative research in critical care medicine, with the prestigious GSK Award for Research Excellence.

In a collaboration spanning 20 years, Professor Cooper and Professor Bellomo have pioneered landmark patient trials that have transformed clinical guidelines, contributed hundreds of millions of dollars in savings to healthcare systems and significantly improved outcomes for patients with conditions like sepsis, traumatic brain injury, acute kidney failure and acute respiratory failure.

“We are driven by wanting to ensure the best care for critically ill patients and finding better ways to treat the conditions they are experiencing,” said Professor Bellomo, Director of Intensive Care Research and Staff Specialist in Intensive Care at Austin Health.

Professor Cooper and Professor Bellomo have championed large, multi-centric collaborative investigator initiated clinical trials, which have helped establish Australia as the epicentre of world-class research in intensive care.

“Our trials don't just look at the clinical impact of an intervention we are testing, but also the pharmacoeconomic or health economic impact, so there is a global understanding of the effect of what we do.” said Professor Cooper, who is Senior Specialist in Intensive Care, at The Alfred Hospital, and Sir John Monash Distinguished Professor at Monash University.

One of the latest projects being undertaken under the Professors’ directorship at the ANZIC-RC is contributing to global understanding of the impact of highly-specialised extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) technology in the management of cardiac arrest, severe cardiac failure and respiratory failure including COVID-19 patients. 

ECMO pumps and oxygenates a patient’s blood outside the body, completely substituting the function of the lungs and heart.² In places like US and Australia, it has saved numerous lives of COVID-19 patients who were not improving on ventilators.

The Professors said the $80,000 in prize money that comes with the award would be used to support their team of early to mid-level career investigators working on ECMO and other innovative projects.

The GSK Award for Research Excellence was presented at Research Australia’s Health and Medical Research Awards in Sydney.

Prof. Rinaldo Bellomo and Prof. Jamie Cooper
Prof. Rinaldo Bellomo and Prof. Jamie Cooper

The GSK Award for Research Excellence is one of the most prestigious awards available to the Australian medical research community. It has been awarded since 1980 to recognise outstanding achievements in medical research and facilitates career development with potential importance to human health and Australian research.

It was first presented as the Wellcome Australia Medal and then as the Glaxo-Wellcome Medal before receiving its current name.


  1. Warrillow, S., Raper, R. The evolving role of intensive care in healthcare and society. Med J August 2019; 211 (7): doi: 10.5694/mja2.50340
  2. Liverpool Hospital, Intensive Care Unit ECMO Learning Package, 2016, accessed November 2021 at