Research Matters July 2019

Welcome to Research Matters. With the Federal election quickly receding in the rearview mirror, we take a look at the implications for health and medical research and in particular, what might be coming up.

To contribute to or discuss any of the items in this edition, please email Greg Mullins, Head of Policy, at greg.mullins@researchaustralia.org, or on (03) 9662 9420.

This communication features important information on:

  1. Research Funding – MRFF & NHMRC
  2. Personal Health Information 
  3. Prevention
  4. R&D

Please click here to view Research Matters July 2019

Welcoming a National Preventive Health Strategy

Research Australia welcomes the recent announcement by Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt that he will establish an Australian Preventive Health Strategy.

‘It is widely acknowledged that evidence-based preventive measures are typically the highest return investments that can be made to improve the health of our community. They include measures such as vaccination programs and consumer education and awareness campaigns’ said Research Australia CEO, Nadia Levin.

‘New prevention measures start with research, and research can refine and improve existing prevention measures. Research Australia will be advocating for a central role for research in the new Preventive Health Strategy.’

Research Australia has written to the Minister expressing support for the Strategy and emphasising the need for the health and medical research sector to be represented at the Roundtable being convened to advance development of the Strategy.

Research Australia’s Stronger Together Conference Success

Research Australia’s recently hosted a conference themed, Stronger Together’ which was sponsored by The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services.  This event bought together health service organisations, philanthropists, state and federal government representatives, not-for-profits, medical research institutes, universities and other key stakeholders to talk about the power of collaboration in leveraging government funding for health and medical research.

Around 100 guests heard from industry leaders and sector influencers to better understand how working together can increase success in seeking funding.  Research Australia also launched their report on ‘Non-Government funding for Victorian Health and Medical Research sharing the key outcomes to bring to light some of the challenges and opportunities in the sector.  To view the report please click here.

The Hon. Jenny Mikakos, Minster for Health opened the event welcoming attendees and session included a fireside chat with Prof Graeme Samuel AC, a presentation from Harold Mitchel AC and a panel of Research Australia members sharing their learnings from specific collaborations included Prof Doug Hilton AO, WEHI, Prof Kathryn North AC, MCRI, Prof Ricky Johnstone, Peter Mac, Megan Donnell, San Filippo Children’s Foundation.  The audience also had the unique opportunity to work in tailored groups to form real-time collaborations for funding.

Thank you to our sponsor, the Department of Health and Human Services, to all our wonderful speakers, facilitators and panellists and to the attendees for their participation in this event, we are delighted with the outcomes.

Should you wish to find out more please contact Sally Shepherd (02) 9295 8545 or email sally.shepherd@researchaustralia.org.

Left: Stronger Together Conference Chair, Research Australia Director and Executive Leader Bupa Health Foundation, Associate Professor Annette Schmiede & Right: Frank McGuire MP, Parliamentary Secretary, Victorian Government

Left: Research Australia Chair, Chris Chapman, Middle: The Hon. Jenny Mikakos, Minister for Health, Right: Associate Professor Annette Schmiede

One of the collaborative working groups discussing a funding project over a working lunch.

ALP GUARANTEES $20B HEALTH AND MEDICAL RESEARCH FUND

After years of campaigning by Research Australia, the Australian Labor Party has committed to the full $20 billion capitalisation of the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) by 2020-21.

The MRFF is a once-in-a-generation plan to underwrite health and medical research, providing better health outcomes for all Australians; and a safer, better quality and more effective health system.

Research Australia CEO and Managing Director, Nadia Levin, said she was thrilled that the MRFF now has bipartisan support, with the fund to reach the full $20 billion by 2020-21.

 “Let’s be clear – every dollar invested into medical research is a dollar invested into the health of all Australians, and the health of our economy,” Ms Levin said.

 “This funding will make a tangible, measurable difference to the lives of Australians, from treatments for people touched by common killers, through to those with rare diseases.

 “It is incredibly rewarding to see both sides of politics reflecting so closely the commitment we called for in our Pre-Election Statement<https://researchaustralia.org/pre-election-statement/> on behalf of the health and medical research community.

 “We would like to express our gratitude to the Shadow Minister for Health and Medicare, Hon Catherine King MP for meeting with us recently in April to discuss the issue.

 “At the end of the day, this funding will allow new medical discoveries and treatments to bring hope to Aussie patients.

 “Research Australia recognises the significant scale of this win, which our membership has been calling for since we convened a Pre-Election summit in 2018.

 “This bipartisan support is an important underwriting of a rapidly evolving area of research and healthcare, and will further strengthen Australia’s expertise and build upon our potential.

 “The beneficiaries of the MRFF are universities, medical research institutes, not-for-profits and commercial medical research, and ultimately the Australian people and the economy.

 “I challenge people to come up with a list more worthy of support.”

 To find out more about Research Australia visit: www.researchaustralia.org<https://www.researchaustralia.org>

 For more information please contact: Lauren Devlin 0449 041 214

2019 Budget Update

Summary

Notwithstanding a slowing global economy, the 2019 Federal Budget provides an optimistic forecast for Australia’s economic future, with a forecast return to Budget surplus, tax cuts and several new funding announcements, as might be expected with an election to be held within weeks.

The imminent election means less certainty than usual around whether all Budget announcements will be implemented. While health and medical research is fortunate to have strong bipartisan support, if the Government changes at the next election so could some spending priorities. With that proviso, the following is what we know about Budget announcements tonight relating to health and medical research.

The Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) remains on track to receive a massive $7.8 billion capital injection in 2019/20 and to reach its capital target of $20 billion by 2020/21.

Since January we have seen more than $800 million in MRFF funding announcements committed to new programs spanning up to a decade, and a 10 year plan for nearly $5 billion in MRFF funding has been announced tonight.

The NHMRC funding announced tonight provides for continued small increases in funding over the four year budget estimates, at less than the rate of inflation. While the same is largely true for the Australian Research Council Funding programs, funding for the Research Support Program has been cut significantly, hampering the ability of our universities to conduct research.

Read on for more detail.

Medical Research Future Fund

$20 billion in capital by 2020/21

As at 31 December 2018 the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) had $9.4 billion in capital. Tonight’s Budget maintains the Government’s commitment to reach the target of $20 billion in capital by 2020/21, with a forecast balance of $20.2 billion at 30 June 2021. $7.8 billion is scheduled to be added to the capital in the next financial year, by far the single largest capital injection since the MRFF’s inception. A further $2.5 billion in 2020-21 would take the balance to a little over $20 billion. We will watch with interest to see how the commitment to $7.8 billion in 2019-20 plays out.

MRFF Capital Injections

$m. 18-19 19-20 20-21 21-22
Capital to the MRFF 2,288.550 7,830.490 2,522.178 Nil

Funding from the MRFF

Forecast spending from the MRFF remains largely as expected, over the forward estimates, with $396 million available to fund medical research and innovation in 2019/20, rising to $650 million by 2022/23. The forecast for 2020/21 is $579.9 million, some $70 million less than was forecast in the Budget last year. The likely explanation is that the Department is unable to keep up with the rapid increase in the funding available, and is opting to spend wisely rather than quickly. Any funds not spent remain in the MRFF and are available in following years.

MRFF expenditure

$m. 18-19 19-20 20-21 21-22 22-23
MRFF Funding 2019 Budget 222.4 396.0 579.9 646.0 650.0
MRFF Funding 2018 Budget 222.4 392.7 650.2 646.0 N/A

MRFF Funding Announcements

The Budget included numerous announcements of further funding to be made in the next financial year and further years, with a plan over 10 years, allocating nearly all available MRFF funds over that period. Nearly all of this is the continuation of programs and Missions that have already been funded, including providing funding of $70 million per annum for the Frontiers program instigated by Research Australia from 2021-22.

The surprise inclusions in the MRRF funding announcements are two programs funding research and innovation infrastructure. The first of these is $605 million over 10 years for National Critical Infrastructure. Starting with $5 million in 2019-20, it rises to $75 million per year from 2022-23. This is the Health Portfolio’s contribution to funding of the 12-year National Research Infrastructure Investment Plan announced in last year’s Budget.

The second is a smaller program of funding for Data Infrastructure, expected to fund registries, biobanks and data linkage. This Program provides $10 million a year from 2020-21, and applications for funding are expected to be called for soon.

Together these programs represent a very significant investment in infrastructure, totaling $685 million over 9 years, and nearly $1 in every $7 of MRFF funding over the 10 year plan.

Health and Medical Research Office

Tonight’s Budget also includes $20 million over the next four years to create the Health and Medical Research Office (HMRO) within the Department of Health. The new HMRO will oversee the rapidly increasing level of investments made by the MRFF. It will have its own CEO, appointed by the Secretary of Health, ensuring the MRFF continues to have ‘the right administrative support.

‘The new CEO will be a contact point for greater community and international engagement, provide greater expertise around investments from the MRFF and ensure greater expertise around developing HMR strategy and policy.’

NHMRC and ARC Funding

In Research Australia’s Pre- Budget Submission and our Pre-Election Statement we have called for increases in funding for the NHMRC and ARC’s research programs. This Budget sees both schemes continue to decline in real terms, which is of genuine concern to the health and medical research community.

NHMRC Programs

The 2019/20 Budget reveals funding for the NHMRC’s programs falling in real terms. Funding to the Medical Research Endowment Account (MREA) for the NHMRC’s research programs is $842.766 million for 2018-19. Continuing the pattern of last year’s budget, the estimates for the following three years have the funding remaining virtually stable with increases of roughly 1.5% each year.

The CPI was 1.8% for the year to 31 December 2018, so in real terms Government funding to the MREA continues to decline over the forward estimates, as it has for several years now.

(In Budget Paper 1 at page 9, the following forecast for CPI is provided. ‘Consumer price inflation is forecast to be 2¼ per cent through the year to the June quarter 2020 and 2½ per cent through the year to the June quarter 2021.’)

NHMRC MREA Funding

$m. 18-19 19-20 20-21 21-22 22-23
Funding to the MREA 2019 Budget 829.324 842.766 856.250 869.950 883.870

ARC Programs

The Australian Research Council’s Funding Programs are critical to Australian publicly funded research including to the life sciences and medical technologies.

Over the forward estimates, the funding to the ARC for the Discovery Program declines slightly in later years compared to the estimates in last year’s Budget, a trend that has been continuing for three years now. The increases year on year are a little greater than the current inflation rate of 1.8% and around the forecast CPI.

$m. 18-19 19-20 20-21 21-22 22-23
Discovery (2019 Budget) 493.951 507.044 513.542 525.537 538.350

The Linkage Program was singled out in the Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA) as an important component of Australia’s innovation system, and it was announced that from 1 July 2016 the Program would be open to continuous applications and decision making would be fast tracked. Funding over the forward estimates is lower than forecast in last year’s budget and shows increases at around the rate of CPI.

$m. 18-19 19-20 20-21 21-22 22-23
Linkage (2019 Budget) 265.974 279.168 288.788 295.246 301.741
Linkage (2018 Budget) 273.990 285.432 293.492 297.862 N/A

 While not funding ‘medical and dental research’, the ARC Linkage program remains important to the health and medical research and innovation sectors. For example, the latest round of ARC Linkage Program grants included funding for tissue engineering of blood vessels and the reduction of anxiety in children with autism.

Research Support

In addition to providing funding for the ARC Program, the Department of Education and Training also provides funding to universities to help cover the indirect costs of research. The Research Support Program has suffered significant cuts compared to the Budget forecasts for last year; funding for 2019-20 is more than $50 million lower than forecast last year, and nearly $100 million lower in 2021-22.

Research Support Program

$m. 18-19 19-20 20-21 21-22 22-23
2019 Budget 894.016 902.062 920.573 941.748 962.455
2018 Budget 903.425 959.816 1,018.879 1,042.302

Funding for the indirect costs of research funded by the MRFF is now to be provided from the Research Support Program. With the MRFF providing hundreds of millions of dollars in funding to universities over the next few years, a substantial increase in the Research Support Program is needed just to maintain the levels of research support funding for research projects at their current already inadequate level. The cuts to the Research Support Program represent a real threat to the capacity of our universities to undertake vital health and medical research.

The issue of indirect research costs remains unresolved for the whole health and medical research sector and indeed publicly funded research more broadly. Research Australia continues to call for a whole of government approach to the issue of funding indirect research costs. Research Australia proposes that the Chief Scientist lead a review of the funding of indirect research costs to establish a sustainable and equitable funding program.In the short term, the pool of funding for the Research Support Program must be increased substantially.

CRC Program

Funding forecasts for the CRC Program are largely in line with last year’s budget. The program is forecast to receive $922 million over the period from 2018/19 to 2022/23.

CRC Program $million

$m. 18-19 19-20 20-21 21-22 22-23
2019 Budget 167,341 184,150 187,356 192,239 191,223

The CRC Program is important to health and medical research and innovation with about one third of the CRCs funded over the life of the program being health-related. The most recent round of CRC funding included $55 million over 7 years for the Digital Health CRC.

Australian Honours to our Members

One of our key roles as the peak body for health and medical research (HMR) is to bring to light the importance of HMR in our society and to honour and recognise the work being done in the sector.  Just as our annual awards give members the opportunity to recognise outstanding contributions, so do the esteemed Australia Day Honours and we’re delighted that so many of our member organisations have recipients in the list of those receiving such honours.

You might be interested to know that The Australia Day 2019 Honours list is the largest in the history of the Order of Australia – recognising 1127 outstanding and inspirational Australians. Women received 422 – or 37.4 per cent – of awards – the highest number and percentage ever. The number of nominations and awards for women are trending up.

We’d like to acknowledge the wonderful group who have received honours, and recognise that many recipients have worked collaboratively with a number of our members, so we spread our congratulations widely across our alliance.

To view the official Australia Day 2019 Honours List – please click the below link.

https://www.gg.gov.au/australia-day-2019-honours-list

 

Research Matters December 2018

Welcome to the last Research Matters for 2018. It has been another big year in policy for health and medical research, and with next year an election year the pace will not let up. While we are fortunate that HMR enjoys support from across the political spectrum there are differences in emphasis and approach that have implications how research is rounded, who is funded to do it, and the types of programs that are funded.

We look forward to keeping you informed in 2019, and are keen to hear from you about what you think the research priorities should be.

To contribute or discuss, please email Greg Mullins, Head of Policy (greg.mullins@researchaustralia.org), or phone (03) 9662 9420.

This communication features important information on:

  1. Research Funding, including MRFF
  2. Public Data
  3. TGA
  4. Charities
  5. R&D
  6. Senate Inquiries
  7. Submissions and Consultations    

    Please click here to view Research Matters December 2018

Introducing Flying Blind 2

Introducing Flying Blind 2

Australia holds high quality digital
health data that could be of incredible value to health and medical researchers. In spite of the abundance of digital data, Australian health and medical researchers spend several months and even years to assemble data required for their research.

Research Australia’s annual consumer surveys demonstrate that Australian consumers are willing to share their health data to support research. However, this is not reflected in the current restrictive environment where researchers face a myriad of problems as they navigate a complex environment enmeshed in legislative, ethics and other barriers around data accessibility for research. Very often these obstacles result in long delays where research funding almost runs out, forcing many researchers to abandon linked data studies and make do with small data sets or seek overseas data banks to address their research questions.

Flying Blind 2 offers a way forward with a series of recommendations to enhance medical research in Australia, saving lives and saving dollars. The report proposes:

1. A harmonised process of data governance that provides a path from collection to researchers, and that ensures privacy and confidentiality are maintained.

2. Appointing organisations to act as data holding organisations for both structured and unstructured data

3. Creating Accredited Release Agencies to build data collections suitable for research

4. Privacy, Security, Confidentiality by Design

5. Publicly accessible protocols so that all Australians can see how health data is used, and how it is making a difference.

6. A single national data rich access point for researchers, that would also benefit the healthcare and health technology sectors.

Flying Blind
Flying Blind is a series of three reports dedicated to uncovering the acute levels of data fragmentation existing at all levels of Australia’s health landscape. Flying Blind 1 focused on the consumer health journey and released in 2016. Flying Blind 2 focuses on enhancing medical research through data access. It was released in November 2018. Volume 3 will provide a view of data from the perspective of funders, policy and regulatory agencies.

Flying Blind is a collaboration between the newly established Digital Health Cooperative Research Centre (CRC), the Capital Markets CRC and Research Australia.

The Capital Markets CRC has been transforming research for over 20 years. We apply world-leading research infrastructure and analytical expertise to global markets including finance, health, energy and digital finance. The aim is to make them all fairer and more efficient, thereby benefiting our partners.

The Digital Health CRC was announced in April 2018. It is a $200+ million opportunity to transform health delivery: improving health outcomes; reducing waste in the health system; building businesses and jobs.

Our 80-member organisations represent every segment of the health system from patient to community, hospital to insurer, start-up to big government.

Our researchers, from 16 universities, will work with our health partners to develop and test solutions that work for real patients in real hospitals and other settings of care. And our business partners will work alongside them to ensure that the solutions are scalable and implementable. We’ll develop them in Australia, then take them to the world.

Research Australia is the voice of health and medical research participants across the health and medical research pipeline. We have broad insight into what patients and consumers, funders, researchers and commercial groups can contribute and require from it.

Click here to view Flying Blind, a series of three reports: https://flyingblind.cmcrc.com/

Research Australia Welcomes Frontier Funding Open for Application

Thursday 6 December 2018

RESEARCH AUSTRALIA WELCOMES FRONTIER FUNDING OPEN FOR APPLICATION

Research Australia has enthusiastically welcomed the announcement by the Minister for Health, Hon Greg Hunt MP, that the Frontier Health and Medical Research Program is now open and taking applications.

This morning at the University of Canberra, Minister Hunt officially launched the Frontier Health and Medical Research Program, which will give researchers significant funds for their innovative and transformational medical research.

The Government’s Frontier Health and Medical Research Program will invest $240 million over five years in cutting edge medical science which promises new treatments and technologies to improve health, and open new markets for industry growth. This includes fields such as space medicine, artificial intelligence, robotics and microbiomics.

Research Australia CEO and Managing Director, Nadia Levin, said, “There is incredible frontier research underway in Australia today which will transform the way future generations manage their health.

“Research Australia first called for a funding boost to these disciplines because we understood the potential which already exists in Australia to become a world leader in frontier disciplines.

“We absolutely welcome today’s announcement. It’s wonderful to see the Government and the Australian Medical Research Advisory Board have taken on board the views of the health and medical research sector in developing a program for investing in frontier medical innovation.”

Funded from the Medical Research Future Fund, this Australian-first program was developed in consultation with Research Australia on behalf of the health and medical research community, and consists of a two-tiered process.

In the first stage, up to ten successful applicants will receive funding of up to $1 million each over one year to develop planning for their revolutionary research projects.

In the second stage, a number of research plans developed under stage one will be chosen to receive a further funding boost to progress their ideas into new technological advances or approaches to transform the future of healthcare.

“This is new and bold health and medical research funding which takes an economies-of-scale investment approach. Importantly, it positions Australia as a valuable contender in the global health space which means more opportunities for us all,” Ms Levin said.

To apply visit: www.business.gov.au/fhmr

Media contact: Lucy Clynes, Research Australia, 0404 068 912

To view the media release, please click here

Research Matters October 2018

There’s certainly been a lot of activity over a range of issues and policy areas recently and we’ve consolidated the key areas for our members in on Research Matters update.

This communication features important information on:

  1. Policy & Advocacy – Your Voice
  2. Consultations, Enquiries & Reviews; Mental Health & Aged Care
  3. MRFF; Grants & Priorities
  4. In Parliament; MHR, R&D Tax Incentives, Electoral Funding Reform
  5. COAG; Obesity, Human Tissue Acts
  6. Submissions Update

    Please click here to view Research Matters October 2018