MEDIA RELEASE – Budget shows strong support for health and medical research as a critical national capability

MEDIA RELEASE

Budget shows strong support for health and medical research as a critical national capability

Australian health and medical researchers have cautiously welcomed a suite of support measures contained in this year’s Budget.

Higher education Research Support Program

“A one-off injection of $1 billion this financial year in support for university research through the Research Support Program will go some way to stemming the loss of crucial early and mid-career medical researcher jobs from our universities. While it is not the panacea to the problem, without this crucial injection of funds, we were at risk of losing a generation of Australian health and medical researchers – the minds behind the next Gardasil or Cochlear would never have been given the chance to save lives and boost our economy,” said Research Australia CEO and Managing Director, Nadia Levin.

More than half of all Australian health and medical research is undertaken in the higher education sector. It is clear that Australia can no longer rely so heavily on international student fees to subsidise university research.

“This funding is absolutely welcome in the short term, in the long term we need to look at effective partnerships between higher education, government, industry and philanthropy to create a more sustainable higher education sector,” said Nadia Levin.

Research and Development Tax Incentive

The Government will invest an additional $2 billion through the Research and Development Tax Incentive over the next four years to help innovative businesses that invest in research and development. This is welcome news for Australia’s medical innovators, those future job creators and exporters who will be so crucial to Australia’s post-pandemic economic recovery. It is achieved by winding back some of the proposed reforms to the RDTI legislation currently before the Senate.

“One of the key lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic is that we have become overly reliant on global supply chains for vital materials, particularly medical supplies. The inclusion of medical products as a National Manufacturing Priority in the $1.3 billion Modern Manufacturing Initiative will help alleviate this sovereign risk.”

The MRFF and the NHMRC

The Health Budget has also delivered key funding with the Medical Research Future Fund now fully matured and on track to deliver $2.5 billion in research funding over the next four years.

“We remain concerned that the NHMRC is experiencing a decline in funding in real terms. The NHMRC plays a unique and vital role in funding medical research separate to the MRFF and at a minimum, its funding must keep pace with inflation if it is to guarantee the pipeline of health and medical research so vital to our national health and wealth,” said Nadia Levin. “While the universities benefit from the one- off increase in the Research Support Program, there is no similar support for researchers in Medical Research Institutes who are grappling with the delays and disruptions caused by COVID-19.”

Research Australia Chairman, Chris Chapman said, “Last year’s forecast budget spending for 2020-21 was $82.5 billion. This forecast has been revised up to $115.5 billion, as we begin to see just how much COVID-19 is driving up healthcare costs.

“In the coming months and years, Australians will look to health and medical research and innovation to deliver more effective treatments and more efficient pathways of care to curtail these costs. Research Australia will continue to work with Government to ensure support for the crucial role all parts of the health and medical research pipeline have to play in delivering better, more sustainable care.”

Tonight’s budget announcements are part of the equation, Research Australia will continue its advocacy efforts, influencing smarter investment in health and medical research and innovation.

Health and medical research must be seen and treated as the critical national capability it is. Not only to ensure our health and quality of life, but as a key driver of our economy.

Research Australia is the national peak body for Australian health and medical research.

Media contact: Lucy Clynes 0404 068 912

MEDIA RELEASE – Impact of COVID-19 on health and medical researchers

MEDIA RELEASE 

Impact of COVID-19 on health and medical researchers – one of Australia’s crucial lines of defence

More than half of Australia’s health and medical research workforce face job insecurity according to a report released by sector’s national peak alliance, Research Australia. 

The report, The Impact of COVID-19 on Health and Medical Researchers, details the short term nature of careers in what should be regarded as a critical national capability. 

In unprecedented numbers, health and medical researchers have been rapidly redeployed to work on COVID-19 – but it has come at a cost. This sudden and necessary mass pivoting of so many researchers away from business as usual, coupled with the pandemic lockdowns and restrictions, has thrown existing projects and their funding streams off course. 

“No one is immune to the effects of this pandemic. Laboratory work can’t be done from home, social distancing restricts access to patients and without access to hospitals and clinics, many researchers have struggled to recruit new participants in studies. It can take weeks and months and additional funding to restart projects, or valuable research will be lost. 

“COVID-19 has been a wakeup call to the health and medical research sector for the need to not only sustain and enhance Australia’s world-class research capability but increase its resilience, flexibility and sustainability. 

“Beyond immediate action, there is a clear need for long-term reframing of the system’s architecture. The pandemic has forced us to look at the challenges facing Australian medical research and consider how we can improve the not only the framework for investment in medical research but importantly to enjoy the considerable opportunities that this sector offers the country,” said Research Australia Managing Director and CEO Nadia Levin. 

The key findings of the report are: 

    • 90% of medical researchers were supportive of the Australian Government’s response to the pandemic, overwhelmingly agreeing that the response has been both timely and effective. 
    •  Nearly 70% of medical researchers expect their research to be affected by COVID-19 beyond 2020. Nearly half (47.7%) of those who expect to be affected anticipate they will be unable to complete current projects. More investigation is needed to understand the extent to which currently funded research programs may never be completed or may need to be restarted at a later date.
    • Only 34.8% of researchers were not currently applying or about to apply for funding. 
    • Nearly two thirds of medical researchers (62.5%) support a longer-term restructure of Australia’s heath and medical research funding framework. 

A copy of Research Australia’s Report is available here. 

Research Australia Media Contact: Lucy Clynes on 0404 068 912 or lucy.clynes@researchaustralia.org 

MEDIA RELEASE – Report on Australian COVID-19 Research

MEDIA RELEASE

Report on Australian COVID-19 Research: From vaccines to aircon filters

Since the coronavirus hit Australia’s shores, health and medical researchers have been rapidly redeployed in unprecedented numbers to support the national response.

Research Australia, the national peak body for health and medical research, has released the first report in its COVID-19 series showcasing the incredible breadth of Australia’s COVID-19 research.

“Australians are rightly proud of our world-leading vaccine projects. There’s incredible work being done beyond the lab too – everything from guidelines for breastfeeding mothers to filters that have the potential to remove the coronavirus from air conditioning systems,” said Research Australia CEO, Nadia Levin.

“The true range of COVID-19 medical research is not evident to the researchers themselves, let alone governments and the general public who are relying on our medical researchers to get us through this pandemic.

“In this report we look at over 200 research projects to demonstrate the depth and breadth of COVID-19 research underway in Australia right now,” Nadia Levin said.

The volume of coronavirus medical research is testament to long-term investment in Australia’s medical research capacity, but that it had come at a cost.

“The sudden ‘downing of tools’ that must happen when researchers are called upon to pivot their research towards an urgent pandemic throws existing projects, and their funding, off course. Like other parts of the economy, health and medical research is suffering.

“Research Australia is already talking to its members about how we re-design a medical research system which can withstand these crises because there is a very real possibility COVID-19 won’t be the only pandemic we see in our lifetime,” Nadia Levin said.

The full report is available here: COVID-19: How Australia’s health and medical research sector is responding

Media contact: Lucy Clynes, General Manager, Research Australia on 0404 068 912 or lucy.clynes@researchaustralia.org

OPINION PIECE – ‘Why not join the fight against COVID-19 instead of starting a new one?’

Research Australia Managing Director and CEO, Nadia Levin, presented Research Australia’s position on the COVIDSafe app to the Croakey readership.

Research Australia supports use of the COVIDSafe app. If properly utilised by the Government and Australians, the app will likely prove to be a highly effective tool against the spread of COVID-19.

Please click here to read the full article on Croakey.

The Role of Digital Technology in a Changing Health System

On Thursday 30 January 2020, Telstra Health and Research Australia co-hosted an event highlighting the vital role of digital technology in Australia’s changing health system. Research Australia members and Telstra Health partners from across the entire health and medical research pipeline convened to network and share their thoughts on this important subject over a drink to see in the new year.

Telstra Health’s Managing Director and Research Australia Board Director, Professor Mary Foley AM and Nadia Levin, Research Australia’s CEO and Managing Director, both spoke at the event sharing their views on the developing role of information technology in all aspects of health and health and medical research.

Professor Foley provided her insights on Telstra Health’s role supporting governments, health system managers, and healthcare providers to deliver high quality, equitable, and accessible care in an increasingly complex and specialised health system.

Nadia Levin highlighted the growing need for Australia’s health sector to utilise the many revolutionary benefits current and future digital information technologies can provide. Nadia gave examples from Research Australia’s members making ground-breaking progress in digital technology and later took a moment away from space medicine to focus on the patient, who is at the core of all health and medical research. Focusing on current health outcomes, Nadia acknowledged how something as simple as a digital sensor in an incontinence pad can positively impact a patient in aged care.

 

From left to right: Alex White, Telstra Health; Prof Mary Foley AM, Managing Director, Telstra Health; and Nadia Levin, CEO and Managing Director, Research

 

The evening included a Q&A session with an interactive audience wanting further discussion on the importance of addressing Australia’s health data privacy concerns.   The Frontiers Health and Medical Research funding initiative was also a hot topic of discussion with attendees highlighting the need for greater acknowledgement of the innovative and research-based nature of digital information technology.

 

From left to right: Professor Chris Cowell, Director of Research, Sydney Children’s Hospital Network; and Peter Wills AC, Deputy Chair of the Research Australia Board

 

 

From left to right: A/Prof Annette Schmiede, Director, Research Australia; and Dr Lana McClements, University of Technology Sydney

 

 

From left to right: Dr Henry Cutler Macquarie University Centre for Health Economy & Peter Wills AC Deputy Chair Research Australia

Australian Scientists to Develop a Vaccine for the Wuhan Coronavirus

Research Australia welcomes the news that one of our members, the University of Queensland, has been asked to develop a vaccine for the recent Wuhan Coronavirus outbreak. Through the use of new technologies, the University plans to develop the vaccine within an unprecedented timeframe of 6 months. If successfully discovered, the vaccine may be used as a primary strategy to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

Click here to see the University of Queensland’s news article.

Doherty Institute first to share successfully grown Wuhan Coronavirus

Scientists from the University of Melbourne and The Royal Melbourne Hospital’s Doherty Institute are the first to share successfully grown Wuhan Coronavirus in a laboratory setting. As a member of Research Australia, we commend the University of Melbourne and the Doherty Institute for their important breakthrough that will play a key role in speeding up diagnosis and aid in the development of a vaccine.

Click here to view the Doherty Institute’s media release.