Improving approval processes for new drugs and medical technologies

Research Austrlaia has responded to the Parliamentary Inquiry into the Approval Processes for New Drugs and Medical Technologies.

Opportunities exist to change our approval processes to benefit patients and better support research and development in Australia. Faster and more effective approval processes mean new medicines and technologies reach patients faster. Improving the environment for clinical trials enables Australian patients to benefit from the latest medicines and technologies developed overseas while also helping Australian health and medical research to flourish in a competitive and lucrative world market. Research Australia’s submission identifies some of these opportunities with the twin objectives of improving Australians’ health and prosperity.

Research Austrlaia’s submission is available here.

The Committee is expected to hold public hearings in early 2021.

Budget Update 2020

Summary

The global economic impact of COVID-19 has been the overwhelming influence on the Budget handed down tonight. This is a big spending Budget, the biggest Australia has seen, focused on providing immediate stimulus to the economy but also laying the foundations for a future Australia, shaped by the lessons of the last nine months.

Most relevant to health and medical research are the following key announcements:

    • Last year’s forecast budget spending on health 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.
    • An extra $1 billion this financial year through the Research Support Program for our university researchers will be critical to maintaining Australia’s national health and medical research capability. More than half of all Australian health and medical research in Australia is undertaken in the higher education sector. It is clear that Australia can no longer rely so heavily on international student fees to subsidise research. In the long term, we need to look at effective partnerships between higher education, government, industry and philanthropy. The commitment in this Budget to supporting university research jobs is a welcome interim step towards establishing a more sustainable higher education sector.
    • The Government will restore an additional $2 billion over 4 years through the Research and Development Tax Incentive to help innovative businesses that invest in research and development. It is doing this by reversing some of the changes to the R&DTI legislation that are currently before the Senate.
    • The budgets for the NHMRC and MRFF remain virtually unchanged. At the same time, researchers are dealing with extra costs to their funded project due to the delays and disruptions caused by COVID-19. 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. Research Australia remains concerned that NHMRC funding has not increased over the forward estimates to keep pace with inflation, with the net effect that NHMRC funding continues to decline in real terms.

Broader Context:

One of the key lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic is that we have become overly reliant on global supply chains for vital materials. This is driving a new focus on manufacturing and there are new roadmaps being developed which will, hopefully, join the dots between research, product development and manufacturing more successfully than has been done in the past. $1.3 billion over five years from 2020-21 will establish the Modern Manufacturing Initiative to: support manufacturing projects focused on building long-term business collaboration at scale; translating research into commercial outcomes and bringing new products to market; and integrating local firms to deliver products and services into global value chains. New roadmaps to guide the Modern Manufacturing Strategy are due in time for the 2021 Budget, in six months’ time, including for medical products.

Manufacturing accounts for around 6% of Australia’s economic output but is responsible for a quarter of all industry spending on R&D. However, Australia’s business spending on R&D is low by world standards. If Australia is to achieve the objectives of the Modern Manufacturing Strategy this will have to change, and we have to better connect business with Australia’s powerhouses of research, our universities and medical research institutes.

The Government has made several attempts to reform the R&D Tax Incentive in recent years, and tonight’s Budget is no exception. The R&DTI is critical to increasing business expenditure on R&D in Australia, and thus to the Modern Manufacturing Strategy. The Government is reversing several of the measures which are currently sitting before the Senate. For small business, the $4 million cap goes, and the rate is fixed at 18.5% above the company tax rate. For large companies the number of tiers in the intensity threshold will be reduced to two, with the RDTI paid at a rate 8.5% and 18.5% above the company’s tax rate for tiers one and two respectively. This is expected to increase the amount of R&DTI paid to industry by $2 billion over the forward estimates, compared to the amounts that would have been paid if the legislation had been amended in accordance with the Government’s previous plan.

 

Continue reading “Budget Update 2020”

Doherty Institute first to share successfully grown Wuhan Coronavirus

Scientists from the University of Melbourne and The Royal Melbourne Hospital’s Doherty Institute are the first to share successfully grown Wuhan Coronavirus in a laboratory setting. As a member of Research Australia, we commend the University of Melbourne and the Doherty Institute for their important breakthrough that will play a key role in speeding up diagnosis and aid in the development of a vaccine.

Click here to view the Doherty Institute’s media release.

Data Sharing- developing new legislation

Research Australia has responded to the Australian Government’s latest Discussion Paper on the development of Data Sharing legislation. The legislation aims to improve the sharing of data by Australian Government departments and agencies.

Research Austrlaia’s submission has urged further consideration be given to how public benefit and commercial use are to be defined and how tests for these might be applied. It has also supported the approach to the accreditation of research institutions and individuals, and  cautioned against ethics approval by an HREC becoming a default requirement for all data sharing applications.

Research Australia’s submission is available here.

The next stage will be the release of draft legislation for consultation, expected in early 2020.

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

Improving My Health Records Privacy

The commencement of the Opt Out period for the My Health Records (MHR) in July led to heightened concerns about privacy, and in particular the ability of law enforcement agencies and other third parties to obtain access to an individual’s MHR without  a court order. The Government has introduced a Bill to amend the legislation and address this issue. Research Australia has made a submission to the Senate Inquiry considering the Bill. Research Australia supports the Bill and the need to ensure public confidence in the MHR.

Read Research Australia’s submission.  The Senate Committee’s Report was released on 12 October.

Research to Improve Rural and Remote Health

The Senate Community Affairs Reference Committee is inquiring into the ‘accessibility and quality of mental health services in rural and remote Australia’. Research Australia’s submission to the Committee’s initial call for submissions has emphasised the important role that research can play in both understanding and overcoming the issues rural and remote Australians face in getting access to mental health services. Research Australia has encouraged the Committee to engage with Australia’s heath and medical researchers in the course of its Inquiry.

Research Australia’s submission to the Inquiry.

Research Australia challenges Electoral Reform Bill

Research Australia has made a submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry into the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform) Bill 2017, arguing that the regulatory burden the Bill will impose on research organisations that engage in public comment on Government decisions, programs and legislation is unwarranted.

In particular, Research Australia has focused on the definition of ‘political expenditure’ in the Bill, which could include activities such as responding to Government reviews and inquiries, and the fact that the Bill will capture research grants from overseas funding bodies as ‘gifts’ that need to be monitored in relation to political expenditure.

Research Australia’s submission on the Electoral Funding and Disclosure Bill

The Inquiry received many submissions from charities and other organisations about the  Bill. On 9 April 2018 the Committee released its report, recommending that several parts of the Bill be reconsidered and amended by the Government. The report is available from the Committee’s website here. The Government has yet to respond. Research Australia will continue to monitor developments.

Prestigious Japan Prize won by Australian medical researcher

Australian Laureate Professor Jacques Miller has been jointly awarded the prestigious Japan Prize for research undertaken in the 1960s that established the basic concepts underlying modern immunology and led to the development of immunotherapies which have saved countless lives around the world.

Professor Miller undertook this research while working at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI) in Melbourne, in collaboration with American researcher Professor Max D Cooper. The Japan Prize Foundation said the work of the two winners laid “the conceptual groundwork for our understanding of nearly all fields touched by immunology.”

‘Research Australia congratulates Professors Miller and Cooper on this very significant award, recognising the extraordinary contribution they have made to science and human health’ said Research Australia CEO Nadia Levin. ‘This award is further evidence of the long history of world class health and medical research undertaken in Australia, and the contribution it makes to better human health around the world.  It is also a reminder of the need for patience. New discoveries in basic research can take decades to make an impact in the community, but when they do the benefits can be immense’.

Professor Miller is also widely regarded as the last person to discover the function of a human organ, the Thymus, and is a previous recipient of the Copley Medal of the Royal Society of London and the Prime Minister’s Science Prize (2003). Although he formally retired from WEHI in 1996 he continues to be actively involved in immunology research at the Institute.

Professor Miller becomes just the second Australian researcher to win the prize since it was first awarded in 1985, joining Professor Frank Fenner who won the award in 1988 for overseeing the eradication of smallpox.

The Japan Prize is awarded annually to scientists and engineers from around the world who have made significant contributions to the advancement of science and technology, thereby furthering the cause of peace and prosperity of mankind. More information is available at http://www.japanprize.jp/en/index.html

 

Research Australia welcomes additional rare cancers and rare diseases research

The Government has today announced an $69 million boost in funding for research in to rare cancers and rare diseases, including $26 million allocated to 19 projects as a part of the Medical Research Future Fund’s “Rare Cancers, Rare Diseases and Unmet Needs Clinical Trials Program”. This program has been expanded from $13 million when announced last year to $26 million in recognition of the quality of the applications received.

A $10 million targeted call for research into rare diseases and cancers is expected soon, and an additional $33 million will be made available in the next financial year to further expand research in this area.

Research Australia welcomes the additional funding, and recognises the importance of funding for these areas which impact many Australian families.

Last year Research Australia made a submission to the Senate Select Committee Inquiry into Funding for Research into Cancers with Low Survival Rates, which you can read in full here.

You can keep a track of all of the Medical Research Future Fund funding announcements here, or click here to read the Minister for Health’s full statement on today’s funding boost.