First Strategy and Priorities to guide funding
The inaugural 5 year Strategy and 2 year Priorities developed by the MRFF Advisory Board were released on Wednesday 9 November 2016. The Strategy and Priorities can be downloaded here.
The Strategy’s vison is ‘A health system fully informed by quality health and medical research’ and its Aim is ‘Through strategic investment, to transform health and medical research and innovation to improve lives, build the economy and contribute to health system sustainability.’
This focus in the vision on the health system is illuminating, and is carried through into the Strategy and Objectives. The objectives underlying this Aim emphasise the importance of creating health and economic benefits, embedding research evidence in healthcare, and driving collaboration and innovation across research and healthcare.
The Strategy itself is new, but provides continuity with existing strategies and programs. It describes the MRFF Strategy as building on the vision outlined in the Strategic Review of Health and Medical Research (the McKeon Review) undertaken in 2012, and seeks to both work with and complement the programs of the NHMRC, the National Innovation and Science Agenda and Innovation and Science Australia.
The Strategy is not seeking to achieve everything- it identifies its role as reinforcing the existing research pipeline and filling in some of the gaps in areas like health services research and the ‘valleys of death’ at the pre-clinical and the post proof-of-concept commercialisation stages.
The Strategy identifies six Strategic Platforms, which in turn provide a framework for the Priorities identified for the first two years. The six Platforms and their related two year Priorities are summarised below.
Strategic and International Horizons
This Platform seeks to position Australia as a leader and collaborator in several key areas of international significance. Priorities in this Platform are: Antimicrobial Resistance; International collaboration; and the impact of disruptive technologies on health services delivery and training.
Data and Infrastructure
This Platform seeks to make better use of existing data and infrastructure. Priorities are:
clinical quality registries; research with other agencies to identify how we can better utilise the MyHealth Record and linked health and social data for research; a consumer- driven health and research agenda; developing the means to measure and report on the economic returns from the MRFF’s investments; and research on the surveillance of and response to current and emerging infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance.
Health Services and Systems
Bolstering health services and systems research is identified by the Strategy as a particular need, and the Priorities are: testing the feasibility of a national institute for evidence based and cost-effective health care and public and preventive health; using the MBS Review to investigate and develop the evidence base for interventions that currently have limited supporting evidence; research in behavioural economics in public and preventive health; and post-clinical effectiveness studies of drugs and other health interventions and pre-clinical work on the re-purposing of existing drugs.
Capacity and Collaboration
Skills development of researchers and healthcare professionals and more collaboration across research disciplines and between sectors is identified as critical. The Priorities are:
identifying and accessing existing high-cost infrastructure; Industry Exchange Fellowships, and expanding the existing NHMRC Practitioner Fellowships Scheme.
Trials and Translation
Particular attention has given by the Strategy to the role of clinical trials. Priories under this Platform are support for new and existing national clinical trial networks; extending clinical trials of proven therapies with the limited commercial potential to at-risk groups; and working with the NHMRC-accredited Advanced Health Research and Translation Centres to support the translation of research in key areas including clinical variation, co-morbidity, and health inequity.
Overcoming barriers to research commercialisation will initially be addressed by: creating incubator hubs for diagnostics, devices and molecular therapeutics; and the Biomedical Translation Fund.