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 

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.

Congratulations to the 2019 Health & Medical Research Award winners

MEDIA RELEASE                                                                              20 November 2019

Top accolades, top minds at Research Australia’s Health and Medical Awards

Australia’s biggest hearts and brightest scientific minds have been recognized in Research Australia’s 17th Health and Medical Research Awards, with honours for scientists, doctors and extraordinary Australians who are working to bring life-changing breakthroughs to patients.

Researchers working to dramatically improve the lives of patients with cancer or HIV and make childbirth safer for mothers and babies were among those honoured, as well as the community champions and philanthropists who help bring their work to life.

Research Australia CEO Nadia Levin said the calibre of the finalists demonstrated the strength of Australia’s research sector, with remarkable work emerging from new areas of health and medical study.

“Almost every day, Australian researchers uncover new insights that can change the way we treat or prevent disease,” she said. “Through incredible dedication and skill, these amazing scientists are making an indelible mark on the journey of human progress, with tangible results for the health and wellbeing of us all.

“Australia has a vibrant and innovative health and medical research sector, well represented at last night’s Awards ceremony in Melbourne. We’re honoured to present this year’s winners as an inspiring mix of researchers, advocates and philanthropists who are making a global impact on healthcare and changing lives in the process.”

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt delivered the keynote speech at the Awards, with an address also given by Research Australia patron Sir Gustav Nossal AC CBE. Federal Opposition health spokesman Chris Bowen and Victorian parliamentary secretary for medical research Frank McGuire were among the VIPs presenting the Awards.

Professor Kathryn North AC was announced as winner of Research Australia’s flagship award, the prestigious Peter Wills Medal, recognising her outstanding leadership in genomic medicine which has helped drive Australia’s international reputation in this field.

Professor North – who is Director of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute – is playing a key role in integrating genetic testing and diagnosis into standard healthcare, with the aim to shorten diagnosis times, enable early intervention, and provide access to treatment for people with genetic disorders. Through her own research, she has worked to identify new disease genes and improve diagnosis, setting the benchmark for ongoing research efforts.

Associate Professor Jeremy Micah Crook and team (University of Wollongong) were awarded the inaugural Frontiers Research Award for their work using electrical stimulation to produce advanced living human neural tissue, with potentially beneficial applications for patients with neurological disorders such as epilepsy, schizophrenia and Parkinson’s disease.

Dr Christine Keenan (Walter and Eliza Hall Institute) won the Griffith University Discovery Award for her epigenetics work which suggests an existing anti-cancer drug can ‘switch off’ and reverse the inflammation that causes asthma, potentially paving the way for the first targeted treatment addressing asthma’s root cause that would be easy for patients to take.

Pamela Galli graciously accepted the Great Australian Philanthropy Award, recognising the extraordinary generosity she has shown through The Lorenzo and Pamela Galli Medical Research Trust by supporting advances particularly in cancer and child health, helping generations of researchers and patients as a testament to her late husband Lorenzo.

Professor Gordon Lynch (University of Melbourne) won the Advocacy Award for his 18-year commitment to the ABC’s Overnights program, where he translates the latest scientific and medical research into clear messages that can transform people’s health, inspiring millions of Australians to engage with research and recognise the importance of lifestyle factors in better long-term health.

Professor John Lynch (University of Adelaide) won the Data Innovation Award – sponsored by Bupa Health Foundation – for developing the South Australian Early Childhood Data Project which has provided invaluable insight for policy makers and agencies seeking to give children the best start in life.

Professor Libby Roughead (University of South Australia) received the Health Services Research Award – sponsored by the Victorian Government – for her leadership in improving medicine use within our national health services to reduce the risk of patients suffering or potentially dying as a result of problems with their medicines.

The GSK Award for Research Excellence was presented to Professor Brendan Crabb AC (Burnet Institute) for his research into infectious diseases.

Ms Levin said the competition in each category had been fierce, with all nominees displaying tremendous talent 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 celebration of the remarkable ability and innovative spirit within this sector,” she said.

“I would also like to thank the organisations who have supported the awards, including University of NSW Sydney, Bupa Health Foundation, Griffith University, GSK, Monash University and the Ingham Institute.”

Research Australia CEO Nadia Levin is available for interviews.

Media contact: Pia Akerman, 0412 346 746. A full list of winners follows.

2019 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 Katherine North AC (Murdoch Children’s Research Institute)

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 – Mrs Pamela Galli (the Lorenzo and Pamela Galli Charitable Trust)

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 Libby Roughead (University of South Australia)

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 – Professor John Lynch (University of Adelaide)

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 Christine Keenan (Walter and Eliza Hall Institute)

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 – Professor Gordon Lynch (University of Melbourne)

Frontiers Research Award: 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 – Associate Professor Jeremy Micah Crook and team (University of Wollongong)

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.

Winner – Professor Brendan Crabb AC (Burnet Institute)

“Rising to the challenge of medication harm requires communication and care”

One of Research Australia’s Health Services Research Award nominees, Professor Libby Roughead, wrote an article for the not-for-profit journalism organisation Croakey.

“In 2017 the World Health Organization launched a global challenge to reduce severe, avoidable harm related to medications, by fifty percent within the next five years.

Each participating country will bring its own set of circumstances to the challenge. In Australia, the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care released a discussion paper earlier this year, seeking submissions on how we can use our existing systems to achieve the goal, and where we need to bridge the gaps.

Professor Libby Roughead is Director of the Quality Use of Medicines and Pharmacy Research Centre at the University of South Australia.

In the post below, she outlines the challenge ahead, reminding us that, at its heart, medication harm is a problem that centres on people.” – Croakey

Please click here to view the article

 

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

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