The Merck-AGITG Kristian Anderson Award

The Merck-AGITG Kristian Anderson Award supports a clinician undertaking a higher degree (MD or Ph.D) researching an aspect of personalised medicine in the area of gastro-intestinal cancer.

The award will provide one year’s funding at an equivalent level to NHMRC support for a higher degree ($36,700). This would be the first year of a planned three-year project – the grant aims to allow the clinician to be more competitive for funding agency support in later years. 

Kristian Anderson
Kristian Anderson advocated for better treatments for colorectal cancer before passing away from bowel cancer in 2012.

How To Apply

Candidates will be assessed on:

  • The Scientific Merit of their proposed project and whether it fulfils the criteria of being an aspect of personalised medicine in the area of gastro-intestinal cancer, and
  • Personal suitability based on their CV.

Eligible applicants must:

  • Be commencing their first year of a PhD or MD (subsequent years are ineligible)
  • Not hold alternative or additional sources of funding.

Condition of funding:

  • It is a condition of funding that the Kristian Anderson Award funding is to be returned to the AGITG if the applicant accepts alternative funding for the first year of study.

The award recipient will be announced at the 22nd AGITG Annual Scientific Meeting Dinner. The recipient will be required to present on the status of the project at a future AGITG Annual Scientific Meeting.

The Merck-AGITG Kristian Anderson Award is supported by an untied grant from Merck.

Leah Goodman, Managing Director of Merck KaG stated that “Research and Innovation is at the core of what Merck stands for and priorities in our quest to Make Lives Better for people around the world. This is why Merck is so pleased to contribute to furthering clinical research in Australia and New Zealand through a continuation of our longstanding support for the Merck-AGITG Kristian Anderson Award. The award is important recognition of the legacy of Kristian Anderson and his family in the treatment and prevention of bowel cancer.”


About Kristian Anderson

Kristian Anderson (1975-2012) was diagnosed with cancer in his bowel and liver in October 2009, at age 34. He gained international attention in 2010 as a result of a video he filmed for his wife’s birthday. The touching clip thanked her for her support in his illness, and featured then New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and movie star Hugh Jackman. Anderson was interviewed on the Oprah Winfrey show alongside his wife, where he used his platform to raise public awareness of bowel cancer.

After his life was prolonged by cetuximab, a drug used in the treatment of advanced colon cancer, Kristian used his profile to successfully lobby the federal government to subsidise it to extend availability. After two years of extensive treatment, he passed away on 2 January 2012. He is survived by his wife Rachel and sons Cody and Jakob. Kristian has also left behind a legacy as the man who secured federal funding for cetuximab, which has improved the treatment of many colon cancer patients.

“It is fitting that we have launched an award in honour of a man who fought so hard to find better and more affordable treatments for people with bowel cancer,” says Professor Tim Price, Chair of the AGITG (2013-2020). “Australia has one of the highest incidences of bowel cancer in the world and it is vital that we encourage young researchers to continue to develop better-targeted treatments for this disease.

“We are very grateful to the support of Merck who has made this award possible.”


AGITG 2019, Adelaide, August 2019.
Dr Ryan Cohen, pictured with Merck Managing Director ANZ Leah Goodman and Merck Country Medical Director ANZ Dr Arthur Alston, was awarded the Merck-AGITG Kristian Anderson Award, receiving the first year’s funding for his PhD, titled ‘Predicting colorectal cancer metastatic risk: the tumour immune microenvironment, circulating exosomes and tumour DNA as biomarkers of disease progression’.



rosemary habib
AGITG 2018, Brisbane, November 2018.
Dr Rosemary Habib has been awarded the 2018 Merck-AGITG Kristian Anderson Award for her research that could help unlock immunotherapy for colorectal cancer patients. Dr Habib received a $36,700 grant to fund the first year of her PhD research. She will study genetically engineered  immune cells known as chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cells, which target abnormal
clones of immune cells.