Nobel Laureate Barry Marshall is glad there were no cabbages at the meetings where he and fellow Laureate Robin Warren presented some of their early data.
"If they'd had cabbages, they would have thrown them at us," Professor Marshall said.
"But we knew we were on to something. We had no funding at first and fitted our research in around our regular jobs, late at night, early in the morning, on the weekends. But we were addicted to it - it was pretty exciting."
It is this determination in the face of adversity that the National Health and Medical Research Council now wants to reward, with its new grants for left-of-field proposals - the Marshall and Warren Project Grant Awards.
Announcing the research prize, NHMRC chief Warwick Anderson admitted that the council did not initially fund the pair's work on peptic ulcers.
"By 1984, we had some support from a few drug companies, which helped us to buy a computer to enter our data," Professor Marshall said. "In 1985, the NHMRC funded us for one year. We had asked for a three-year grant but were told they didn't think our idea would work.
"Since then, I think that every peer reviewer on the NHMRC panels has had second thoughts about proposals that sound odd - in case they are saying no to another H pylori.
"They now allow some paradigm shifting and might say: ‘this is not going to make it but it looks imaginative and it's scientifically valid'.
"They are the people who will get the Marshall and Warren Project Grant Awards. There won't necessarily be one awarded every year. Some years there might be none, some years several."
Professor Marshall said that he and Professor Warren often had people sending them their ideas for research. "We have spoken at length to about 10 or 12 of them and I tell them what I'd do if it was my idea. It's not easy, it's a lot of hard work.
"There are groups that provide seed funding so you can get some original data that you can put to the NHMRC in the next round of grant applications. I encourage people to do that.
"Sometimes I've been a bit cynical about the peer review process but they do have the best interests of the researchers at heart," he said.
"One of the problems with not having resources early in the piece is that you can't afford to take out patents. You just have to put your ideas out there without protecting them.
"Now I've told a few people to make their application look really weird and controversial and they might get this new grant."
He said he took his hat off to the small research foundations, such as those at Fremantle, Royal Perth and Sir Charles Gairdner hospitals and the Raine Foundation, who helped him and Professor Warren along the way.
Published in UWA News, 23 August 2010