MEDIA RELEASE – Research Australia and Bupa Health Foundation partner to celebrate advances in health data science

21 December 2021

Research Australia was delighted to have Bupa Australia’s Health Foundation as a category Sponsor of the Data Innovation Award at the 18th Annual Health and Medical Research Awards.

Dr Chris Dalton, National Medical Director of Bupa Australia, awarded Dr Tracy Dudding-Byth the Data Innovation Award at the ceremony.

“We continue to sponsor this award as Bupa Health Foundation believes by recognising the inspirational contributions of researchers it encourages us to do more to drive improvements in healthcare that benefit us all with the power to transform lives.

“We believe data is a positive force in health, creating significant opportunities for raising the bar on how health services are delivered; whether it’s having the right information at the bedside when it is needed, or being able to predict where the health pressures will come from, to improving health planning or using data to create new knowledge and knowhow for treatments, interventions, devices and medicines,” Dr Dalton said.

Dr Tracy Dudding-Byth from the Hunter New England Local Health District was nominated for the Data Innovation Award by Professor John Attia from the University of Newcastle for her incredible work on the FaceMatch project.

“I am thrilled to acknowledge Dr Dudding-Byth’s work using data to develop a first-of-its-kind international platform incorporating facial recognition technology to help diagnose possible rare genetic conditions in children.

“FaceMatch and Dr Dudding-Byth’s work is just one example of how health and medical researchers know how to manage and analyse data, which is an essential component of all modern health research and crucial to delivering health benefits to all Australians.

“The health and medical research sector has made significant progress in extracting useful and unbiased information from medical records which can be used in data analyses, and I would like to particularly pay tribute to Professor Jeffrey Braithwaite, the Founding Director of the Australian Institute of Health Innovation at Macquarie University, who has been a leader in many aspects of this work,” Dr Dalton said.

Research Australia CEO and Managing Director Nadia Levin said, “As a Foundation Member of Research Australia, Bupa Australia has been a loyal supporter of our sector through its continued work with Research Australia, particularly through their sponsorship of our signature awards event.”

For more information on Bupa Australia’s Health Foundation go to: https://www.bupa.com.au/about-us/bupa-health-foundation

MEDIA RELEASE – Congratulations to the 2020-21 Health and Medical Research Award Winners

14 December 2021

The country’s leading scientific minds and advocates have been recognised in Research Australia’s 18th Health and Medical Research Awards, celebrating the phenomenal researchers, doctors, and community champions who are working to transform the sector and change lives.

Researchers working to revolutionise the treatment of spinal cord injuries and slash the rate of infection in our hospitals were among those honoured, as well as the dedicated advocates and philanthropists who help make their work possible.

Research Australia CEO Nadia Levin said the standard of the finalists was a testament to the diversity and drive of Australia’s research sector and its role as a global leader in health and medical innovation.

“Australian researchers are continuously making new discoveries that transform our understanding, prevention and treatment of disease,” Ms Levin said.

“These incredible scientists have demonstrated astounding commitment to our collective human progress, while making tangible improvements to our individual health, wellbeing and health services.

“Throughout the pandemic, Australia’s health and medical research sector has ploughed on with remarkable dedication and world-leading discoveries. The pandemic has underscored the critical importance of health and medical research – the fact that we are all here today, vaccinated for a virus which was unknown two years ago, is a triumph for research collaboration and innovation.

“Research Australia is proud to advocate for the sector, marking our twentieth year of doing so. We’re honoured to celebrate the winners of this year’s Health and Medical Research Awards – an inspirational mix of researchers, advocates and philanthropists whose work is both life-changing and sector-defining.”

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt delivered the keynote address at the event. NSW Parliamentary Secretary for Health James Griffin MP (representing Minister Brad Hazzard) presented the Health Services Research Award, the Hon Gabrielle Upton MP co-presented the Data Innovation Award and Dr Fiona Martin MP co-presented the Griffith Discovery Award. Dr Mike Freelander MP presented the Great Australian Philanthropy Award and Zali Steggall OAM MP presented the Advocacy Award.

Professor Brendan Murphy received Research Australia’s flagship award, the prestigious Peter Wills Medal, in honour of his leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the Government Chief Medical Officer, Professor Murphy provided expert advice to Australian governments that helped spare tens of thousands of Australian lives in the first wave of the pandemic and strengthened Australia’s international reputation in the areas of medical and health research. Professor Murphy continues to serve Australians today as Secretary of the Department of Health.

Dr John Parker, founding CEO of Saluda Medical, won the Frontiers Award for his leadership towards developing an innovative treatment for chronic back pain, with potentially beneficial applications for patients with Parkinson’s disease and children with cerebral palsy.

Dr Mo Chen (Griffith University) was awarded the Griffith University Discovery Award for his 3D-printed cellular nerve bridge system that creates ‘artificial’ human nerves using the patient’s own cells, potentially revolutionising treatment and recovery for more than 21,000 Australians living with a spinal cord injury.

On behalf of their family, Andrew and Jean Miller graciously accepted the Great Australian Philanthropy Award for the extraordinary generosity they have shown through the Miller Foundation since it was established in 1974. More than $100 million has been bestowed through the foundation across a spectrum of medical research, including work focused on maternal and child health, cancer, infectious diseases such as malaria, heart disease and diabetes, indigenous health, and research programs addressing socially disadvantaged vulnerable young people and children.

The Advocacy Award was presented to the Chimera Legacy Foundation, established by Damien Thompson and his parents Bob and Debbie, recognising their tremendous efforts towards raising awareness and funds for medical research and improving the experience of patients in hospital.

The Data Innovation Award – sponsored by the Bupa Health Foundation – was awarded to Dr Tracy Dudding-Byth (Hunter New England LHD) for her work using facial recognition technology to help investigate and diagnose syndromic intellectual disability.

Professor Brett Mitchell (Newcastle University) received the Health Services Award – sponsored by the NSW Government – for his leading work in infection control, including research helping to drive greater use of antiseptics to prevent infection in hospital settings.

The GSK Award for Research Excellence was jointly awarded to Professor Jamie Cooper and Professor Rinaldo Bellomo (Monash University). Professor Mark Febbraio (Monash University) was also recognised as winner of the 2020 award.

Ms Levin said that each of the award categories was competitive, and every nominee displayed remarkable achievements in their respective fields.

“On behalf of Research Australia, I would like to thank all our nominees, nominators and members for helping make this night a memorable celebration of the astounding ability and dedication within this sector,” she said. “I would also like to thank the organisations who have supported the awards, including the NSW Government, Bupa Health Foundation, Griffith University, Australian National University and GSK.”  Supporting research is as important as the research itself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

For further information or interview requests, please contact Pia Akerman – 0412 346 746.

A full list of winners follows.

2020-21 Research Australia Award Winners

Peter Wills Medal: Named in honour of Research Australia’s Deputy Chairman, Peter Wills AC, a great leader whose work led to the inception of Research Australia. The Peter Wills Medal is the flagship award and recognises someone who has made an outstanding, long-term contribution to building Australia’s international reputation in areas of health and medical research and fostering collaboration for better health.

Winner – Professor Brendan Murphy, Secretary of the Department of Health.

Frontiers Research Award: Sponsored by Australian National University, this Award recognises the success of innovative health and medical research that extends existing knowledge, boundaries and/or understandings within health and medical research.

Winner – Dr John Parker, Founding CEO of Saluda Medical

Griffith University Discovery Award: This Award recognises an early career researcher (anytime from qualification but no more than 5 years past PhD) whose paper/patent/discovery has already demonstrated its importance or impact.

Winner – Dr Mo Chen (Griffith University)

Great Australian Philanthropy Award: This Award profiles personal philanthropy that is outstanding in its generosity, effectiveness, vision, high impact and transformative quality. The Award recognises and encourages personal philanthropic donations over a period of time by an individual(s) or family to Australian health and medical research.

Winner – Andrew and Jean Miller (Miller Foundation)

Advocacy Award: This Award recognises and congratulates exceptional contributions made by research champions who help raise community awareness and understanding about the importance of health and medical research.

Winner – The Chimera Legacy Foundation, founded by Damien, Debbie and Bob Thompson

Data Innovation Award: This Award recognises an individual or team whose innovation is considered to represent one of the most impactful new data innovations in the HMR sector within the past five years. Sponsored by Bupa Health Foundation.

Winner – Dr Tracy Dudding-Byth (Hunter New England LHD)

Health Services Research Award: This Award is for an individual or team who has provided leadership and made an outstanding contribution to health services research; driven research that has led to a significant improvement in healthcare; and/or has championed the development of the health services research field. Sponsored by the Victorian Government.

Winner – Professor Brett Mitchell (Newcastle University)

GSK Award for Research Excellence: One of the most prestigious awards available to Australian researchers, this prize has been awarded since 1980 to recognise outstanding achievements in medical research with potential importance to human health. This year’s Award is accompanied by a grant of $80,000 to further the winner’s research.

Winners –  Professor Jamie Cooper and Professor Rinaldo Bellomo (Monash University)

MEDIA RELEASE – NATIONAL HEALTH AND MEDICAL RESEARCH STRATEGY ANNOUNCED AT RESEARCH AUSTRALIA AWARDS

13 December 2021

A NATIONAL Health and Medical Research Strategy will see a national approach to research, bringing earlier treatments to Australians and those around the world.

Health and Aged Care Minister Greg Hunt announced the development of the Vision 2040 Strategy at Research Australia’s 18th Annual Health and Medical Research Awards on Thursday night.

Research Australia, the national alliance representing the entire health and medical research pipeline, has been leading the call for a national strategy to implement a nationally coordinated approach to investment in all stages of research to best meet health system needs and health priorities.

Research Australia CEO Nadia Levin welcomed the commitment by Minister Hunt to develop a national strategy in collaboration with the health and medical research sector.

“This is fantastic news for the future of Australian health and medical research. A national strategy will facilitate coordinated investment in research and strengthen the connection between research and healthcare as we move out of pandemic mode and into Covid normal,” Ms Levin said.

Ms Levin said a national strategy, which has been recommended by previous reviews of health and medical research over 15 years, will further support researchers’ capacity to innovate and translate research to improve both health and economic outcomes for Australia.

“Smarter, more strategic investment in health and medical research is the only way to future-proof our health system and secure our nation’s economic productivity.

“Australia can become a regional gateway for the provision of world class medical services and clinical trials, reinforcing our global reputation as the regional flagship health system, helping to improve health outcomes worldwide.”

Research Australia hosted the 18th Annual Health and Medical Research Awards in celebration of the outstanding achievements in health and medical research throughout 2020 and 2021.

The flagship award of the night, the Peter Wills Medal, was awarded to the former Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy, for his outstanding, long-term contribution to building Australia’s reputation in areas of health and medical research and fostering collaboration for better health.

The Vision 2040 National Health and Medical Strategy will be developed over the next year and will become the legacy of Minister Hunt’s successor.

“Our task together, through the 10-year plan for the MRFF, through the Vision 2040 for medical research and the Strategy that comes with that, is to bring cures and treatments earlier to more Australians and more people around the world,” Mr Hunt said.

For more information on a National Health and Medical Research Strategy and related reforms, visit Research Australia’s consultation hub – https://researchaustralia.org/health-and-medical-research-australia-can-do-better/

MEDIA RELEASE – AUSTRALIANS CALL FOR GREATER HEALTH AND MEDICAL RESEARCH FUNDING POST-PANDEMIC

5 December 2021

Support for health and medical research funding is at its highest level in more than a decade, with the COVID-19 pandemic prompting Australians to urge policymakers to prioritise research above taking action on climate change, keeping the national economy strong, defence and national infrastructure projects.

A major nationwide survey from peak health and medical research body Research Australia, conducted by Roy Morgan, has found that Australians rank health and medical research in the top three priorities for government, sitting only behind improvements to hospitals and healthcare and improvements to education standards.

More than one-third said the pandemic had prompted them to change their views on the importance of health and medical research and think that more funding should flow to the sector.

The survey – which has been conducted annually since 2003 to gauge Australians’ views – also shows that over 90 per cent of people support vaccination. Of those who did not support vaccination, nearly 8 out of 10 indicated that they would feel more confident about vaccines if they understood more about how they are created and tested, suggesting better education is the key to improving vaccination reach.

Research Australia CEO Nadia Levin said the findings clearly showed how COVID-19 had shaped Australians’ understanding of the enormous impact delivered by health and medical research.

“The pandemic has touched all of us and taken a terrible toll across the world,” Ms Levin said.

“Thanks to vaccines created through unprecedented international collaborations between researchers, hope is now in sight – but we wouldn’t be at this stage without the expertise and hard work of the health and medical research community, and the financial support to enable this enormous response.

“Australians are telling us that health and medical research has to remain a priority for our decision makers post-pandemic, and they’re absolutely right.

“Health and medical research delivers innovations and discoveries which shape all of our lives, improving our healthcare systems and driving breakthroughs in chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.

“The Australian health and research sector punches well beyond its weight, but competition for funding is extremely fierce. With additional pressure on Australian universities due to the loss of international students, the risk of losing many of our brightest research minds overseas has magnified.

“As the peak body for Australian health and medical research, representing the entire pipeline from the laboratory to patient and the marketplace, we urge policymakers to closely read these findings and listen to the views of voters.

“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.”

Please see 2021 Public Opinion Poll on Health and Medical Research here.

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

Media contact: Pia Akerman 0412 346 746

MEDIA RELEASE – AUSTRALIA’S HEALTH AND MEDICAL RESEARCH SECTOR PAYS TRIBUTE TO MINISTER GREG HUNT

December 2021

Research Australia, the national alliance for Australian health and medical research, has thanked the Hon Greg Hunt MP for his incredible 20-year service as the Member for Flinders and his extraordinary commitment to health and medical research during his time as Minister for Health and Aged Care. 

Research Australia CEO, Nadia Levin said, “Minister Hunt has been unequivocal in his support for the health and medical research community, and we have been delighted to call him a true friend to the health and medical research sector. 

“Research Australia has been pleased to work side by side with Minister Hunt on a range of initiatives in support of health and medical research, including development of the $570 million Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) Frontiers Fund. 

“It was under Minister Hunt’s watch that the MRFF reached full capitalisation and we have been pleased to watch that important stream of funding mature. We continue to strive for a fund which truly delivers research that meets the needs of the health system” 

Minister Hunt has demonstrated immense dedication, determination and personal commitment to keeping the population safe during the pandemic in incredibly difficult circumstances. Importantly, he has put expertise and advice of our health and medical research community at the forefront of our response. 

“It is prior investments in health and medical research, like the MRFF, which the Minister has championed, that have enabled Australia to respond so ably in our time of crisis,” Ms Levin said. 

Research Australia looks forward to building on Minister Hunt’s legacy and continuing to work with his successor on the challenges and opportunities facing the health and medical research community, including national coordination of the multiple streams of funding for health and medical research through a National Health and Medical Research Strategy. 

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

Further information on the range of reforms Research Australia is driving is available via the Research Australia Consultation Hub. 

Media contact: Peta Garrett, Senior Government Relations Adviser, 0400 011 394 

MEDIA RELEASE – NOBEL LAUREATE PROFESSOR BRIAN SCHMIDT AC APPOINTED TO THE BOARD OF RESEARCH AUSTRALIA

July 2021

The nation’s peak body for health and medical research and innovation, Research Australia, has welcomed Australian National University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Brian Schmidt AC, FRS, FAA, to its Board.

Chair of Research Australia, Associate Professor Annette Schmiede said, “as the national peak body for the whole health and medical research pipeline, our Board includes leaders from across our membership. As a major figure in science and academia, Brian’s contribution to our strategic focus of health and medical research advocacy, will be invaluable.”

“The opportunity to leverage Australia’s outstanding research capability and research excellence is now, and strong sector leadership is essential to fulfilling that potential. I therefore welcome Professor Schmidt with his distinguished record and commitment to further the advancement of a high performing research sector for Australia.”

Professor Schmidt said “research improves the world every day. It builds the products, industries and jobs of tomorrow. It helps us find solutions for the significant challenges plaguing our planet. It builds societies and economies that are more just and equitable. And it makes us understand the world around us and our place in it. I am honoured to be joining the board of Research Australia and look forward to working with the team to help promote the vital role and positive impact research has every day for all Australians.” 

Research Australia’s CEO, Nadia Levin said Professor Schmidt’s appointment reflects our recognition that much of Australian health and medical research is conducted in our universities, and that, crucially, it is reliant on the broader scientific research endeavour.

“Ensuring that Australia’s people continue to enjoy good health and a quality of life means we must make greater use of our research outcomes to drive greater health and economic impact. Professor Schmidt’s experience and standing will greatly add to these efforts.”

Biography

Appointed the 12th Vice-Chancellor of ANU in January 2016.

Winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics 

Professor Schmidt makes a significant contribution to public debate through the media, and via his membership of bodies including the Prime Minister’s National Science and Technology Council. 

Professor Schmidt received undergraduate degrees in Astronomy and Physics from the University of Arizona in 1989, and completed his Astronomy Master’s degree (1992) and PhD (1993) at Harvard University. Under his leadership, in 1998, the High-Z Supernova Search team made the startling discovery that the expansion rate of the Universe is accelerating. Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, The United States Academy of Science, and the Royal Society, he was made a Companion of the Order of Australia in 2013. Professor Schmidt has spent most of his academic career as an astrophysicist at the ANU Mount Stromlo Observatory and Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, 

Research Australia is the national peak body for Australian health and medical research and innovation. www.researchaustralia.org. 

Contact: Sally Shepherd, Research Australia on 0413 772 285 or sally.shepherd@researchaustralia.org 

MEDIA RELEASE – MORE FUNDING IS WELCOME BUT RESEARCH MUST UNDERPIN AGED CARE AND MENTAL HEALTH REFORM

11 May 2021

Aged care and mental health reform

The national peak body for Australian health and medical research has welcomed additional Government investment in key policy areas including aged care and mental health in the Federal Budget.

However, more thought must be given to the critical role health and medical research plays in health reform.

Research Australia CEO Nadia Levin said, “While more investment in aged care and mental health is undoubtedly welcome, we haven’t yet seen a clear line of funding for the critical role of research in the development and implementation of new programs.

“Within the $2.3bn Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan, there is $117.2 million for data collection, in part to establish the evidence base for reforms. We will be seeking the advice of key mental health research experts to understand how this data can inform continuous, evidence-based improvement to Australians’ mental health care.

“The Aged Care Royal Commission recommended more funding for research into aged care and healthy ageing. We don’t currently have detail on how that recommendation has been reflected in the Aged Care Reform Package.

“Research Australia has brought together an Aged Care Working Group with leading aged care researchers, health economists, service providers and consumer representation. We’ve formed this Group to put the Aged Care Reform Package under the microscope and provide expert advice to Government on how research can underpin aged care reform.”

Health Innovation

Research Australia has welcomed the Federal Government’s commitment to patent box tax treatment to encourage health innovators to manufacture their discoveries onshore.

“Research Australia has been a long-term advocate for a patent box policy. It has been proven to work overseas and it, along with the R&D Tax Incentive, will help in building local medical manufacturing and reducing Australia’s reliance on medical imports,” Nadia Levin said.

Research Australia has also welcomed the commitment to funding to develop an onshore mRNA vaccine manufacturing capability in Australia.

“This is an important step towards a national capability to ensure Australia is part of a ballooning global supply chain of future medicines and vaccines which will be mRNA-based.

“A nationally significant capability like this requires a coordinated, national approach. We need to draw in Australian mRNA experts from universities across the country, Australian industry partners already doing work in mRNA and the states who are already progressed in looking at their own local mRNA capabilities.

“Research Australia was one of the first groups to call for a feasibility study into mRNA technology because we know that this complex capability cannot be delivered by researchers or industry acting alone.

“We also know that mRNA is not just about vaccines. With further research, RNA has a potential application in cancer immunotherapy, regenerative medicine and genome editing. It can be used to treat genetic disorders like cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy, cancers, infectious diseases and cardiovascular diseases.

“An onshore mRNA capability is a golden opportunity to match Australia’s world-class research capability with commercial capability,” Nadia Levin said.

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 $2.4 billion in research funding over the next four years.

“Australians deserve access to the latest and best treatments and therapies delivered by the world’s most innovative health system.

While the sustained investment in the MRFF in tonight’s budget is a welcome step towards this, funding for the National Health and Medical Research Council and the Australian Research Council fail to even keep pace with inflation.

“In real terms, funding for the NHMRC and ARC is declining. 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.

Higher education

Australian universities are critical to carrying out health and medical research in Australia. More than half of Australian health and medical research is conducted in Australian universities and they provide a skilled workforce to the health and medical research sector.

“Without a national plan for the safe return of international students, there continues to be a lost revenue stream for universities which will ultimately start to impact how much health and medical research Australia can do. And whilst last year’s $1bn funding commitment was welcome, long-term sustainable funding is needed if we’re to keep pace with global advances in medicine.

“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.” Nadia Levin said.

The 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.

www.researchaustralia.org

Research Australia is the national peak body for Australian health and medical research – representing the entire pipeline from fundamental research through to health innovation and commercialisation.

Media contact: Lucy Clynes 0404 068 912

MEDIA RELEASE – Australia’s health and medical research and innovation sector welcomes new Chief Scientist

10 November 2020

The national peak body for Australia’s health and medical research and innovation sector is delighted to offer congratulations to Dr Cathy Foley AO PSM FAA FTSE on her appointment as Australia’s new Chief Scientist.  

Research Australia CEO, Nadia Levin said, This appointment is a celebration of Dr Foley’s high regard as a renowned physicist and extensive experience as CSIRO’s Chief Scientist and importantly, deep understanding of the scientific landscape and the contribution it does and should make to society. 

Dr Foley’s extensive contributions to areas such as understanding of superconductors has been influential in translating fundamental research into commercial outcomes. The health and medical research community looks forward to working with Dr Foley to translate our incredible lifesciences research into health systems outcomes. 

“I would like to warmly thank outgoing Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel AO for his significant leadership and endeavours during his tenure. Over the past five years, Dr Finkel AO has truly cemented his position as a friend to the health and medical research community, said Nadia Levin. 

Research Australia has welcomed the Prime Minister’s comments yesterday that Dr Foley’s role will be to facilitate collaboration between industry and the science and research community. 

“Research Australia has long encouraged collaboration between research, science and industry and we believe Dr Foley is poised to lead Australia’s science and innovation community as it emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The economic value that health and medical research and innovation offers this country should not be underestimated.  

Working together, we’re confident Australia can lead the world in health innovation and we believe the chance to maximise the health and wealth opportunities within the innovation and science sector more broadly, is now.  

We look forward to working with Dr Foley to achieve this, said Nadia Levin. 

Research Australia is the national peak body for Australian health and medical research and innovation. http://www.researchaustralia.org
Media contact: Lucy Clynes 0404 068 912 

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