Australians continue to place improving hospitals and healthcare as the number one spending priority for the Australian Government ahead of infrastructure, education standards and employment opportunities.
We are pleased to see that more funding for health and medical research is the 6th most important of the 27 priorities presented in the poll. (It has been consistently in top 10 ever since we started polling in 2003.)
Interest among Australians in health and medical research is high with 89% saying they are interested in health and medical research. However, while confident in their ability to contribute to decision making about the future direction of HMR most Australians don’t know how, and many don’t believe they’d be heard. Our governments and research organisations clearly have more work to do to meaningfully engage with the broader community.
Continue reading “Australians embrace health and medical research in a changing landscape of healthcare”
1 August 2018
My Health Record: Health and medical researchers welcome strengthened privacy
Australia’s health and medical research sector has welcomed Government moves to strengthen privacy protections of the My Health Record.
“Australians must be able to confidently participate in this scheme. Strengthening the My Health Record Act is an important first step in ensuring public trust in the system.
“People have real concerns over privacy and access of their My Health Record and those concerns must be heard and addressed through additional communications to the public about the benefits and purpose of the My Health Record. This is too important an opportunity to forego because of a lack of information,” said Research Australia’s CEO, Ms Levin.
An overnight poll of Research Australia members shows continued support from the health and medical research community for the My Health Record, with a majority of respondents in favour of the scheme.
Research Australia has written to Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt, offering the assistance of health and medical researchers in explaining how My Health Record data could be used to further vital health and medical research and improve our health system.
Research Australia is the national peak body representing the whole of the health and medical research pipeline: www.researchaustralia.org
Media contact: Lucy Clynes 0404 068 912
The Education and Training Minister has asked The House Standing Committee on Education, Employment and Training to inquire into and report on the efficiency, effectiveness and coherency of Australian Government funding for research, in the following terms:
- The diversity, fragmentation and efficiency of research investment across the Australian Government, including the range of programs, guidelines and methods of assessment of grants;
- The process and administrative role undertaken by research institutions, in particular universities, in developing and managing applications for research funding;
- The effectiveness and efficiency of operating a dual funding system for university research, namely competitive grants and performance-based block grants to cover systemic costs of research; and
- Opportunities to maximise the impact of funding by ensuring optimal simplicity and efficiency for researchers and research institutions while prioritising delivery of national priorities and public benefit.
This inquiry will be focused on federally funded research agencies, their funding mechanisms and university collaborative research. The inquiry will not consider the National Health and Medical Research Council’s Funding Programs, which are in the process of being reformed.
Research Australia will be making a submission, and we want input from our membership, to ensure we are accurately representing your views.
For context, areas areas we have addressed in the past include:
- The inadequate level for funding of indirect costs
- ‘falling between the cracks’- the scope for research proposal to fall between the ARC and NHMRC. Do you have an example?
- The need for predictable, sustainable levels of funding for programs.
Please contact Greg Mullins, Head of Policy, (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Lucy Clynes, Head of Government Relations (email@example.com) if you would like to have any questions or would like to contribute to Research Australia’s submission.
Nominations for GSK’s Award for Research Excellence are open until 6 July 2018. The longstanding award seeks to assist leading Australian researchers by providing the winner with an $80,000 grant to support their research journey.
The GSK Award for Research Excellence is one of the most prestigious available to the Australian medical research community. It has been awarded since 1980 to recognise outstanding achievements in medical research with potential importance to human health.
Last year’s award was received by Professor Timothy Hughes – considered a world-leader in chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) research – for pioneering the use of tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) in the treatment of CML. You can view his winning video here.
Speaking about the award, Professor Hughes said “Awards like GSK’s Award for Research Excellence bring much needed support to the research community in Australia. Not only through the direct impact of the award’s funding, but also through raising awareness of the scientific expertise and innovative activities in our country.”
Professor Hughes and his team at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute are currently focused on treatment response to optimise disease management and patient outcomes. The $80,000 prize that comes with the GSK Award for Research Excellence will help support a Leukaemia Fellow to work alongside Professor Hughes in furthering research into CML.
The award was presented to Professor Hughes at Research Australia’s Health and Medical Research Awards 2017 in Melbourne. Dr Andrew Weekes, Medical Director, GSK Australia, said, “GSK is proud to be able to support Australian researchers with this award, now in its 38th year.
Successful applicants are generally mid-career researchers with a long-standing commitment to their field. The winner will be announced on Thursday 8 November 2018 at the Research Australia Health and Medical Research Awards dinner, being held at the Sofitel Sydney, Darling Harbour.
An incredible panel of data experts has described and challenged the opportunities that data provides in delivering better outcomes for patients and consumers at Research Australia’s inaugural Speaker Series event at NSW Parliament House.
Researchers, policymakers and politicians discussed some of the most topical issues around the use of data in health and medical research, diving in to the complex issues of data safety, how data can be used to make Australian’s lives better and exactly why the research community wants your data.
The Hon Catherine Cusack MLC, NSW Parliamentary Secretary for Digital Inclusion welcomed attendees to the first in a series of events designed to highlight some of the most topical issues facing the sector today, with big names in the sector both on the speaking panel and in the audience.
Chaired by ABC’s National Medical Reporter Sophie Scott, the panel discussed the topic of “Is New South Wales ready to harness the transformative power of data in health and medical research?”. The panel itself included Dr Jean-Frédéric Levesque (CEO of the NSW Agency for Clinical Innovation), Professor Emily Banks (Scientific Director of the Sax Institute’s 45 and Up Study), Dr Avi Ratnanesan (CEO of Energesse) and Harry Iles-Mann (Patient/Consumer Advocate).
With the Australian Digital Health Agency’s creation of a My Health Record for all Australians, the discussion focused on the collection, use and protection of consumer data in the health system. The audience was taken on a health consumer’s journey through the eyes of Harry Isles-Mann, who shared the good and bad of his experiences and why he is so passionate about engaging the public in the future of health and medical research.
Dr Levesque spoke to the audience about where NSW is heading regarding data-centric projects that will impact health consumers, and how the state is placed compared to other health systems through the lens of his time in senior positions responsible for publicly reporting information in the Canadian health system.
The crowd included representatives from the Australian Digital Health Agency, NSW Ministry of Health, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet, Austrade, the Australian Red Cross Blood Service, the Centenary Institute, Ingham Institute and Bupa Health Foundation.
The 45 and Up study run by the Sax Institute is the largest ongoing study of healthy ageing in the Southern Hemisphere, following a group of more than a quarter of a million people. This placed the study’s Scientific Director, Professor Banks, in a unique position to share insights on how important data is to researchers whilst Dr Ratnanesan described how his company translates the voice of the consumer to healthcare providers.
The discussion’s focus on data was no coincidence, with Research Australia defining “Data as a national resource” as one of their key strategic objectives. The focus of the objective being on harnessing the transformative power of data to accelerate advances in health. You can read a copy of the Collaborative Strategy here.
The event as made possible by the event partners, the Vodafone Foundation and the Garvan Institute of Medical Research. Dan Lloyd, Vodafone Foundation Chief Strategy Officer, was on hand to talk about the DreamLab app which uses smartphones to donate data to download tiny research problems, calculate them, and then send the result back to the research team at Garvan.
Stay tuned to the Speaker Series page on this website for more information on upcoming Speaker Series events.
Australia’s health and medical research sector has welcomed the announcement in tonight’s Federal Budget of a $240m investment in a Frontier Health and Medical Research Program.
Research Australia CEO and Managing Director, Nadia Levin, said “We know that across Australian universities, medical research institutes and of course our thriving health innovation sector, there’s incredible frontier research being done.
“Exponential digital disruption, machine learning, augmented intelligence and an array of new devices will see a digital revolution in healthcare which will easily match the progress of the biological revolution of the 21st century.
“This targeted, confident, large-scale investment sends a signal to the world that Australia is serious about becoming a global leader in health innovation.” said Ms Levin.
The Program announced tonight reflects Research Australia’s earlier call for an investment in Medical Frontiers.
“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.
“It will enable health innovators to explore frontier applications of technology to areas of healthcare which will change the way future generations maintain and improve their health,” Ms Levin said.
The Government’s Frontier Health and Medical Research Program will invest $240 million over four years to establish a landmark program for researchers and collaborators to support innovative ‘out of the box’ ideas and discoveries. It will unlock groundbreaking research which promises new treatments and technologies to improve health, and open new markets for industry growth.
The Program will operate under a two-stage process:
- Stage one will involve a competitive expression of interest, where researchers articulate their idea and its merit, and demonstrate its novelty, competitiveness and transformative nature, and its potential for partnerships. Successful applicants will have approximately one year and $1 million to advance their idea, ready to put forward for potential stage two investment.
- Stage two will support the best applicants to realise a new frontier in health and medical research and build new industry ecosystems through up to five years of funding – ranging from $10 to $20 million per year.
In the 2018 Federal Budget, the Government has reaffirmed its commitment to fully funding the Medical Research Future Fund with $20 billion capital target to be achieved in 2020-21. Consistent with Research Australia’s earlier calls for investment in this area, the Frontier Health and Medical Research Program will be funded from the Medical Research Future Fund.
Case Study: Exploring new frontiers in immunotherapy
Immunotherapy manipulates the human immune system to trigger immune responses to new disease targets. While immunotherapy has shown success in a range of applications, like cancer, its full potential is yet to be realised.
Associate Prof Tony George from the School of Life Sciences at the University of Technology in Sydney is exploring new frontiers in immunotherapy. Assoc Prof George and his team have discovered a compound called ‘CZ’ and are investigating whether CZ could trigger the body’s own immune system to fight malignant mesothelioma.
Exposure to blue asbestos is responsible for causing mesothelioma. Australia has the second-highest mesothelioma death rate in the world, trailing only that of the United Kingdom. According to cancer experts, an additional 25,000 people are expected to die from it over the next four decades.
Early results from trials conducted in mice show that the CZ compound was able to protect the mice from asbestos-induced mesothelioma, almost certainly after tumours had started. Further funding is required to design clinical trials to understand the efficacy of CZ on the human immune system.
Beyond its application to mesothelioma, this frontier immunotherapy has potential in encouraging the body’s own immune system to boost the efficacy of other anti-cancer drugs.
To find out more, or to get involved please contact Lucy Clynes, Head of Government Relations on (02) 9295 8518.
The 2018 Federal Budget provides an optimistic forecast for Australia’s economic future, with increased revenue and several new funding announcements, as might be expected of an election year Budget. The health and medical research and innovation sectors have not missed out, with confirmation the Medical Research Future Fund remains on track to reach its capital target of $20 billion by 2020-21 and the announcement of a long list of MRFF funded projects stretching over the next decade (well in advance of the current two year funding priorities).
Consistent with Research Austrlalia’s earlier calls, including in its Pre-Budget Submission, the Government will direct $240 million of MRFF funding to a Frontier Medical Research program to develop innovative medical ideas, research devices and treatments.
A $500m Australian Genomics Health Futures Mission will help more than 20,000 Australians live longer and receive better treatment tailored to their needs.
The Government has announced plans to cap the funding available under the refundable R&D Tax Incentive at $4 million per year. While the caps will probably be more than enough for most small companies developing a new product, such a cap could have had a significant impact on small companies developing new medicines and therapies. However, the Government has heard our arguments and in a really positive development it has announced that clinical trials will be excluded from the cap. This is a great outcome for the health and medical research and innovation sector.
While there is some good news for tertiary students in rural areas with increased funding for sub-bachelor and bachelor programs and new rural medical programs in Victoria and NSW, the cuts announced last year remain.
In other news we have funding committed to research infrastructure.
Read on for more detail.
Medical Research Future Fund
$20 billion in capital by 2020-21
As at 31 March 2018 the MRFF had $6.7 billion in capital. Tonight’s budget confirms that the MRFF remains on track to reach the target of $20 billion in capital by 2020-21, with a forecast balance of $20.2 billion at 30 June 2021. $2.3 billion is scheduled to be added to the capital in the next financial year. The heavy lifting comes in financial year 2019-20, when $7.8 billion is forecast to be added to the MRFF capital balance. This is likely to be after the next Federal election.
|Capital to MRFF||2,242.199||2,288.550||7,830.490||2,409.476||Nil|
Funding from the MRFF
Forecast spending from the MRFF also remains as expected, with more than $222 million available to fund medical research and innovation in 2018-19, rising to $646 million by 2021/22, the first year after the MRFF reaches full capitalisation of $20 billion. Total funding provided by the MRFF up to and including 2021-22 is forecast to be just shy of $2 billion.
|Funding (2018 Budget)||143.315||222.383||392.703||650.236||645.951|
The Budget included numerous announcements of further funding to be made in the next financial year and further years, including:
- $125 million over 10 years from 2017-18 for a Million Minds Mental Health Research Mission to support priorities under the Fifth Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan;
- $75 million over four years from 2017-18 to extend the Rapid Applied Research Translation program that supports Advanced Health Research Translation Centres and Centres for Innovation in Regional Health;
- $18.1 million over four years from 2017-18 for a Keeping Australians Out of Hospital program to support preventive health, behavioural economics and reduce avoidable presentations to hospital;
- $39.8 million over four years from 2017-18 for a Targeted Health System and Community Organisation Research program with a focus on comparative effectiveness studies and consumer-driven research; and
- $17.5 million over four years from 2017-18 for research into Women’s Health and research into Maternal Health and First 2,000 Days to address the underlying social determinants of health that impact on a child’s early days of life.
The Government also announced that it will provide $1.3 billion from the MRFF over 10 years from 2017/18 for a National Health and Medical Industry Growth Plan to improve health outcomes and develop Australia as a global destination for medical sector jobs, research and clinical trials. The announcements include:
- $500 million over 10 years from 2017-18 committed to the Genomics Health Futures Mission, including $10.7 million in 2017-18 for genomics research;
- $240 million committed to the Frontier Health and Medical Research program;
- $248 million for expanded clinical trial programs;
- $125 million over nine years from 2019-20 to contribute to the Targeted Translation Research Accelerator for chronic conditions focussed on diabetes and heart disease; and
- $94.3 million for biomedtech programs and industry research collaborations.
Research Australia is particularly pleased to see the announcement of the Frontier Health and Medical Research Program, which we have been calling for.
NHMRC and ARC Funding
In its Pre-Budget submission, Research Australia called for increases in funding for the NHMRC and ARC’s research programs.
The 2018-19 Budget reveals that funding for the NHMRC’s programs is falling in real terms. Funding to the Medical Research Endowment Account (MREA) for the NHMRC’s research programs is $829 million for 2018-19. Estimates for the following three years have the funding remaining virtually stable with increases of roughly 1.5% each year. The CPI was 1.9% for the year to 31 March 2018, so in real terms NHMRC funding continues to decline over the forward estimates, as it has for several years now.
NHMRC MREA Funding
|Funding to the MREA 2018 Budget
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. The increases year on year are a little greater than the current inflation rate of 1.9%.
|Discovery (2018 Budget)
|Discovery (2017 Budget)
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 slightly higher than forecast in last year’s budget, and shows increases of around 3% each year, around 1% higher than the current rate of inflation.
|Linkage (2018 Budget)
|Linkage (2017 Budget)||265.319||265.843||275.444||281.366||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 to develop bio inks for 3D printing, a better inhaler for medicines, better understanding antibiotic use, and improved brain imaging.
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 forecasts for the next financial year and the following two years reflect increases of around 6% per annum, flattening out to a little more than 2% between 2020/21 and 2021/22.
Research Support Program
The question of funding for the indirect costs of research funded by the MRFF continues to remain unclear. Research Australia will be investigating further whether the increase in the Research Support Program is a decision to increase the ratio at which funding is awarded, or simply accounting for an expected increase in direct research revenues, such as MRFF funding to universities.
The whole issue of indirect research costs remains an important unresolved issue for the whole health and medical research sector. 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, MRFF funding to universities needs to be treated the same as NHMRC and ARC competitive grant funding, and the pool of funding for the Research Support Program should be increased proportionately.
The key response to the Research Infrastructure Roadmap was a commitment by the Government to develop a Research Infrastructure Investment Plan to guide future funding. This Investment Plan has now been released as part of the Budget. A 12-year National Research Infrastructure Investment Plan will commit $1.9 billion to critical national research infrastructure, including $140 million for upgrades to the two most powerful computing facilities in the Southern Hemisphere.
R&D Tax Incentive
The Research and Development Tax Incentive is available to all companies that incur expenditure that meets the definition of eligible research and development. For larger companies that are making a profit, it provides a non-refundable tax incentive, at a rate of 38.5% of the eligible R&D expenditure (otherwise claimable as a business expense at the corporate tax rate of 30%). This reduces their tax bill.
Smaller companies, with revenue of less than $20 million are eligible for a refundable tax incentive. This tax incentive applies at the rate of 43.5% of the eligible expenditure, and is payable even if the company has not made a taxable profit. It is a direct (‘refundable’) payment to the company from the ATO.
Introduced in 2012, the R&D Tax Incentive has been a victim of its own success, with expenditure on the measure consistently exceeding Government forecasts. Relatively minor changes have been made to the R&D Tax Incentive in recent years, including introducing caps and reducing the rate by 1.5% to the current 38.5% and 43.5% but other measures were blocked by the Senate. In 2015 the Government initiated a review of the R&D Tax Incentive. Proposals by the review to better target the R&D Tax Incentive have been strongly opposed by industry. More recently the ISA’s report Australia 2030: Prosperity through Innovation (the 2030 Plan) has proposed a couple of further amendments to the Review’s recommended measures, including doubling the cap on the refundable R&D tax Incentive to $4million, and modifying the proposed intensity threshold to be applied to the non- refundable tax incentive.
In tonight’s Budget, the Treasurer has confirmed a range of measures to improve the integrity of the R&D Tax Incentive Program, including introducing a $4 million annual cap on the refundable component of the R&D Tax Incentive. Crucially, for the health and medical research and innovation sector, clinical trials will be exempted from this cap. This is a great outcome for the sector, which has argued that the high costs of taking a new therapeutic to market mean that small companies in this field would be unfairly disadvantaged by the cap.
Funding forecasts for the CRC Program are largely in line with last year’s budget. The program is forecast to receive $892 million over the period from 2017/18 to 2021/22.
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.
The Turnbull Government has just released its response to the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Data Availability and Use. A full copy of the Government’s response is accessible here.
The Australian Government will invest $65 million over the forward estimates to reform the Australian data system and introduce a range of measures to implement the Productivity Commission’s recommendations. There are three key features underpinning these reforms:
A new Consumer Data Right will give citizens greater transparency and control over their own data.
A National Data Commissioner will implement and oversee a simpler, more efficient data sharing and release framework. The National Data Commissioner will be the trusted overseer of the public data system.
New legislative and governance arrangements will enable better use of data across the economy while ensuring appropriate safeguards are in place to protect sensitive information
Overall, Research Australia welcomes reform in this space, particularly when we’re seeing health and medical research positioned as a key player in the national conversation on data. Former Australian of the Year and respected medical researcher Prof Fiona Stanley is cited by the Government as a key proponent of data reforms.
Research Australia’s own submission to the Productivity Commission’s 2016 Inquiry into Data Availability and Use has been considered in the Government’s response and you’ll see Research Australia quoted:
“Some 91 per cent of Australians would be willing to share their de-identified medical data if it went towards research purposes.” Research Australia, 2016
Research Australia will be discussing with relevant Ministers how the Government proposes including the States and Territories in its reform agenda.
Research Australia is currently reviewing the Government’s response and will provide more detailed commentary in the following days.
Research Australia is pleased to announce that nominations are now open for the 2019 Health and Medical Research Awards. The Awards are the pinnacle of health and medical research achievement in Australia, and we are now encouraging members to nominate individuals and organisations who have made an outstanding contribution to delivering a better quality of life and stronger economy for all Australians.
Nominating for a Health and Medical Research Award is easy, and as a Research Australia there is also no cost attached to a nomination. Never has it been so important to highlight the crucial role health and medical research play in all our lives, so nominate those who have made a difference and ensure they get the recognition they deserve.
Nominations are now open for the following categories:
- The Peter Wills Medal
- Great Australian Philanthropy Award
- Health Services Research Award
- Data Innovation Award
- Advocacy Award
- Griffith University Discovery Award
- Frontiers Research Award – NEW
Nominations close: 5 July 2019
Awards Dinner: Thursday 14 November, Metropolis Southbank MELBOURNE
Partner with us
The Health and Medical Research Awards Dinner is the premier health and medical research event in Australia, with in excess of 200 of the most influential decision makers within the sector in attendance. If you are interested having your name associated with an award category or other sponsorship options please contact Sally Shepherd firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or a proposal.
If you have any questions about the Awards process please don’t hesitate to contact us via email@example.com or call the Research Australia team on 02 9295 8546.