A new Strategy for the MRFF

Research Australia’s submission in response to the consultation on the new MRFF Strategy 2021-26 and related Priorities has proposed several critical changes:

    • It has emphasised the need for the Strategy to provide more guidance about how the MRFF should be invested.
    • Greater engagement with health systems in the states and territories is essential, as is a focus on preventive health.
    • The Strategy needs to address how evidence arising from the research and innovation funded by the MRFF is embedded into the health system.
    • The new MRFF strategy should identify and address gaps in skills and capability that prevent the implementation of evidence into practice into our health system.
    • Infrastructure funding priorities for the MRFF should be developed in consultation with Department of Education Skills and Employment and state and territory governments, to ensure research infrastructure is funded where needed and complements other programs and initiatives.
    • The Strategy should propose a mechanism for better differentiating the funding programs of the NHMRC and the MRFF. The Strategy should also propose the development of a national HMR strategy to better coordinate funding for HMR from all sources, in much the same way the first strategy proposed a whole of government approach to addressing funding for the full cost of research.
    • COVID-19 has highlighted the particular difficulties facing early- and mid-career researchers. The Strategy could commit the MRFF to considering how the design of the MRFF’s funding programs could better support EMCRs.
    • The effects of COVID-19 in our region provide the opportunity for the strategy to consider how Australia can use its research capability to support our neighbours’ response to and recovery from COVID-19, as an exemplar for broader engagement on regional health issues.

Read Research Australia’s submission here.

The new MRFF Strategy, for the period from 2021-2026 was subsequently published on 2 November. It is available here.   More information about the MRFF Strategies and Priorities is available on our website here.

Research Australia monitoring important new MRFF legislation

The Government introduced the Investment Funds Legislation Amendment Bill 2021 into Parliament on 25 August. If passed, it will, among other things, fix the amount of funding disbursed from the MRFF for five years at $650 million per annum. At the end of the five-year period, the investment performance of the MRFF will be assessed to determine if sufficient earnings have accumulated over the period to raise the annual rate of disbursement. This five-year review period will become a permanent feature of the MRFF.

The MRFF 10-year Investment Plan introduced by the Government in the 2019 Budget has allocated roughly $550 million per annum over the period to 2027-28. The proposed legislative change will allow these commitments to be met, while providing approximately $100 million per annum for new commitments and programs.

This change is about reducing the volatility in MRFF disbursements that arises because of the link to annual investment returns. This volatility caused the Government to tip in $175 million to MRFF disbursements in December last year to keep the MRFF 10-year Plan on track.

Research Australia will be closely monitoring performance of the MRFF and continuing to advocate for fund growth to mirror the growth of the health and medical research sector. While fixing the disbursements, as is proposed by the legislation, provides certainty as to how much we can expect to see disbursed from the MRFF every year, we are seeking clarity as to whether this amount will be indexed. At a bare minimum, the MRFF should keep pace with inflation. Research Australia members remain concerned that other key funding streams like the ARC and NHMRC are not indexed to CPI, meaning they don’t keep pace with inflation and, in real terms, are funds in decline.

The Senate Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee is undertaking an Inquiry into the Bill and is due to report back to the Senate by 14 October.

For further information or to contribute to Research Australia’s submission, please contact Lucy Clynes, General Manager at lucy.clynes@researchaustralia.org

Clearing the pathway for global clinical trials 

Australia’s world-class research community and strong health system, along with low COVID-19 infection rates, should be a beacon, positioning Australia as the preferred global destination for clinical trials.

We have been working with our members from across the pipeline including Novo Nordisk, GSK, PRAXIS Australia and many others to shine a light on the opportunities (and address the challenges) to attract global clinical trials to Australia.

It is fitting that today on International Clinical Trials Day, Research Australia is pleased to publish our report;

Clearing the pathway for global clinical trials

Improving the environment for clinical trials enables Australian patients to benefit from the latest medicines and technologies developed both in Australia and overseas. It also helps Australian health and medical research to flourish in a competitive and lucrative world market.

This report outlines how we can unlock Australia’s potential through 7 key areas:

  1. A world-first, national approach to decentralised clinical trials
  2. Developing a ‘one-stop-shop’ for clinical trial approvals
  3. How to cost and budget for clinical trials
  4. Demonstrating Australia’s high-quality clinical trials capacity to the world
  5. Incorporating health data into Australia’s clinical trial system
  6. The world’s most highly skilled clinical trials workforce 
  7. Working with consumers to build better clinical trials

To read and/or download the report please click here.

University Research Commercialisation

The Australian Government is undertaking a scoping study to understand how to best implement a University Research Commercialisation Scheme to better translate and commercialise university research outputs. It has appointed an Expert Panel and issued a Discussion Paper.

Research Australia’s response to the Discussion Paper addresses the role of ‘Missions’, the use of stage-gating and the role of co-funding by Governments, universities and industry. It highlights the critical need to better align existing funding programs and fill the gaps to provide a more seamless approach to research funding from basic research through to commercialisation.

Research Australia’s submission is available here.

Frontiers Award Nominee Professor Maher Gandhi featured in The Australian

New hope in fight with fatal blood cancer

The Australian
Mackenzie Scott, Tuesday 23 March 2021

A cancer breakthrough developed in Brisbane is expected to give new hope to patients suffering a rare and deadly form of blood cancer that affects the brain and nervous system.

The dual precision treatment designed at Brisbane’s Mater Hospital by haematologist Maher Gandhi is expected to revolutionise the care given to those diagnosed with a non-Hodgkin‘s lymphoma called Primary Central Nervous System Lymphoma.

Professor Gandhi has spent the past five years researching the disease, which affects between 10 and 20 Australians a year. It is the first large-scale study into PCNSL conducted worldwide as part of an Australian-led international consortium, which found that the genomic make-up of the lymphoma was fundamentally different from any of the 60 other types.

“I remember when I was a trainee doctor, seeing patients like this, there was always a lot of excitement because the disease is quite rare. It was alongside a lot of disappointment, too, because it was so hard to treat,” Professor Gandhi said.

“Some of the rare cancers get very neglected. It just made me very passionate to try to extend the advances we’ve had in other forms of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma to these ones.”

PCNSL, which is confined to the brain, eyes and cerebrospinal fluid,mostly affects people in their 50s and 60s who are ­immuno-compromised.

Chemotherapy and radiation are largely ineffective.

Brisbane grandfather Scott Griffiths, 46, was diagnosed with the disease in 2018 after a bout of glandular fever.

While the virus wouldn’t normally increase the risk of developing the cancer, a kidney and pancreas transplant in 2010 had left him susceptible.

Professor Gandhi prescribed a dual treatment that included a daily dose of small molecule chemotherapy drug Ibrutinib for 10 weeks alongside a vaccine of cells from a healthy person who had previously had the virus.

The goal was to try to kill the cancer slowly and re-educate the immune system how to function.

“I was really depressed when I was diagnosed,” Mr Griffiths said. “I thought I was going to die.”

“I may not be here for a long time, the tumour could come back but hopefully I can get back to work and do something for myself.”

The treatment is in its third year of clinical trials and the research is about to be published in the American Society of Haematology’s journal Blood.

Professor Gandhi is also in the running for Research Australia’s prestigious National Health and Medical Research Awards.

The full article can be viewed here.

@MackenzieJScott

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 

Data Availability and Transparency- Draft Bill and Accreditation Framework

Research Australia has been advocating for many years for improved access to public data for research. We made submissions to the Productivity Commission’s 2016 Inquiry into Data Availability and Use. Strongly supportive of the Commission’s recommendations, we have worked with the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet on the consultations which have culminated in the release of the Data Availability and Transparency Bill exposure draft and the proposed Accreditation Framework.

The Draft Bill and accompanying Accreditation Framework for researchers are broadly in line with previous consultations and discussions. Research Australia has made some recommendations designed to improve the operation of the legislation and the Framework.

Research Australia’s submission is available here.

The Data Availability and Transparency Bill was introduced into the House of Representatives on 9 December 2020. Research Australia expects the legislation to be passed by the Parliament in 2021.

Notice of Research Australia AGM 2020

Dear Members
On behalf of the Research Australia Board, you are invited to attend the virtual Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Thursday 3rd December 2020 at 9h30am-10h00am AEDT.

During this meeting we will consider the following agenda items:

ORDINARY BUSINESS

ANNUAL OVERVIEW

ANNUAL ACCOUNTS

To consider the annual report, financial statements and report of the Directors and Auditor for the year ended 30 June 2020.

RESULTS OF DIRECTOR APPOINTMENT/S

To acknowledge returning Directors and the appointment of new Director/s in accordance with the Company’s Constitution.

OTHER BUSINESS

Any other business that may be brought forward at a general meeting in accordance with the Constitution.

Please note: A Member who is entitled to vote at the meeting has a right to appoint a proxy and should use the proxy form available here.  One vote is entitled per member organisation.  Please sign and date the proxy form and email to admin@researchaustralia.org by Monday 30 November 2020.

Please register here and we look forward to connecting with you on the day.

With best regards

Nadia Levin

Managing Director 

Research Australia

Changes to R&D Tax Incentive opposed

Research Australia has used its submission to a Senate Inquiry to argue against the latest round of changes to the R&D Tax Incentive that have been proposed by the Government.

The changes contained in the Treasury Laws Amendment (Research and Development Tax Incentive) Bill 2019 are largely the same as the changes the Senate rejected early last year. Research Australia believes the changes are poorly designed and will significantly reduce R&D in the health sector. With expenditure on the R&D Tax Incentive Scheme having fallen dramatically in the last couple of years and with Government support for R&D at an historic low, Research Australia has urged the Senate Committee to reject the changes again.

Research Austrlaia’s submission is available here.

The submission of an alliance of seven groups from across the health and medical research and innovation sector, including Research Austrlaia, is available here.

The Committee’s final report has been delayed and is now to be tabled in the Senate on 24 August.

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