HMR sector welcomes budget investment in frontier medical innovations

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.


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