May 21, 2024
Govt announces .89bn package for health and medical research
Govt announces .89bn package for health and medical research

Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler has announced that the Australian Government is investing in a so-called “once-in-a-generation transformation of health and medical research”, meaning patients will get easier and earlier access to clinical trials, research grants generate more value for the country and health priorities get more funding.

The Health Research for a Future Made in Australia package has a total investment of $1.89 billion, $1.4 billion of which has been allocated to the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) to continue its existing streams of funding while also targeting new health priorities. These priorities — including women’s health (including menopause, pregnancy loss and infertility), novel treatments for chronic pain, and treatment for alcohol and other drugs — will receive $53.6 million over four years from 2024–25.

The MRFF funding will also help to reduce health system inequality, through the creation of two new 10-Year Missions. The Low Survival Cancers Mission will focus on improving outcomes for people with a cancer where the five-year survival rate is less than 50%; this includes common cancers like pancreatic, lung and liver cancers. The Reducing Health Inequities Mission will meanwhile improve access to quality health services for people from priority populations, including First Nations or diverse communities who have a disability or who identify as LGBTQIA+.

The government is also announcing $62 million in research grants to 26 clinical trials across the country, as part of the MRFF’s Clinical Trials Activity initiative. These clinical trials include research into treatment for people with PTSD following the 2022 floods in northern New South Wales, new treatments for rare cancers and osteoarthritis, and research into CAR T-cell therapy, among other projects.

Moving away from the MRFF, 229 outstanding emerging and established researchers will share in over $411 million in grants for researcher-led investigation into some of Australia’s most pressing health challenges, through the National Health and Medical Research Council’s Investigator Grant scheme. The 2024 Investigator Grant funding round will once again apply gender equity targets to address systemic disadvantage, marking just the second time in the history of the scheme that women researchers will receive more funding overall, including at the most senior levels.

Furthermore, Butler said the government will develop a National Health and Medical Research Strategy to build on our national strengths and fill any gaps that are not already covered, while attracting researchers and investors. The National Strategy will cover the entire sector and include all levels of government, industry, philanthropy, academia and consumers. The need for such a strategy has been one of the consistent messages the government has heard from the health and medical research sector, Butler noted.

Finally, $18.8 million will be allocated to help to progress a National One Stop Shop for clinical trials and health research. Currently, the regulatory framework governing clinical trials is fragmented and differs from state to state, increasing the regulatory burden for research organisations, hampering interstate collaboration and leading to postcode lottery for patients. A National One Stop Shop will harmonise and nationalise the administration and regulation of health and medical research, including through establishing an easy-to-use website which will help patients, researchers and industry to find, conduct and participate in clinical trials and research.

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