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Research Australia welcomes the MRFF Strategy and Priorities

Policy Alert: Research Australia welcomes the MRFF Strategy and Priorities

Research Australia welcomes tonight’s announcement of the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) Strategy and Priorities. These are an important step towards the additional $1 billion per annum in funding for health and medical research and innovation.

Research Australia has participated in the development of the MRFF since its announcement by the Government in 2014 and have engaged extensively with our membership in the process of providing feedback and input to the Government and the Advisory Board. This effort has been rewarded, with a Strategy and priorities that set a comprehensive plan for the MRFF, with the potential to bridge the gaps between research, health services, industry and consumers.

Research Australia congratulates the Advisory Board on their success and thanks them for their hard work and vision. We also congratulate Health Minister Sussan Ley for her stewardship of the MRFF to this point and look forward to the MRFF’s further development.

Early Information

Early information around the Strategy and Priorities follows.

The Strategy

The Strategy’s vision is ‘A health system fully informed by quality health and medical research’ and its Aim is ‘Through strategic investment, to transform health and medical research and innovation to improve lives, build the economy and contribute to health system sustainability.’ The objectives underlying this Aim emphasise the importance of creating health and economic benefits, embedding research evidence in healthcare, and driving collaboration and innovation across research and healthcare.

The Strategy itself is new, but provides continuity with existing strategies and programs. It describes the MRFF Strategy as building on the vision outlined in the Strategic Review of Health and Medical Research (the Mckeon Review) undertaken in 2012, and seeks to both work with and complement the programs of the NHMRC, the National Innovation and Science Agenda and Innovation and Science Australia.

The Strategy is not seeking to achieve everything- it identifies its role as reinforcing the existing research pipeline and filling in some of the gaps in areas like health services research and the ‘valleys of death’ at the pre-clinical and the post proof-of-concept commercialisation stages.

The Priorities

The Strategy identifies six Strategic Platforms, which in turn provide a framework for the Priorities identified for the first two years.

The six Platforms and their related two year Priorities are summarised below.

1. Strategic and international Horizons

This Platform seeks to position Australia as a leader and collaborator in several key areas of international significance. Priorities in this Platform are:

  • Antimicrobial Resistance, with a focus on developing point-of-care solutions.
  • International collaboration, with the MRFF to have a pool of funding available to rapidly support Australian participation in collaborative work in priority areas.
  • Funding to support the assessment of the impact of disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence and wearables on health services delivery and training.

2. Data and Infrastructure

This Platform seeks to make better use of existing data and infrastructure. Priorities are:

  • Start-up investment for clinical quality registries, and support for a national framework to improve interoperability.
  • Fund research with other agencies to identify how we can better utilise the MyHealth Record and linked health and social data for research.
  •  Establish a consumer- driven health and research agenda to guide future MRFF priorities and develop the means to measure and report on the economic returns from the MRFF’s investments.
  • Enhance and co-ordinate research on the surveillance of and response to current and emerging infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance.

3. Health Services and Systems

Bolstering health services and systems research is identified by the Strategy as a particular need, and the Priorities are:

  • Work with the States and Territories to investigate the feasibility of a national institute focused on facilitating evidence based and cost-effective health care and public and preventive health.
  • Use the MBS Review to investigate and develop the evidence base for interventions that currently have limited supporting evidence.
  • Support research in behavioural economics in public and preventive health, with an emphasis on mental health, healthy eating and physical activity.
  • Invest in post-clinical effectiveness studies of drugs and other health interventions and pre-clinical work on the re-purposing of existing drugs.

4. Capacity and Collaboration

Skills development of researchers and healthcare professionals, and more collaboration across research disciplines and between sectors is identified as critical. The Priorities are:

  • A national scheme to assist researchers to identify and access existing high cost infrastructure.
  • Industry Exchange Fellowships (PhD and postdoctoral) to stimulate entrepreneurialism and translation capabilities.
  • Expand the scope and scale of existing the existing NHMRC Practitioner Fellowships Scheme.

5. Trials and Translation

Particular attention has given by the Strategy to the role of clinical trials. Priorities under this Platform are:

  • Provide infrastructure support for new and existing national clinical trial networks
  • Extend clinical trials of proven therapies with limited commercial potential to at-risk groups.
  • Work with the NHMRC-accredited Advance Health Research and Translation Centres to support the translation of research in key areas including clinical variation, co-morbidity and health inequity.

6. Commercialisation

Overcoming barriers to research commercialisation will initially be addressed by:

  • Creating incubator hubs for diagnostics, devices and molecular therapeutics.
  • The Biomedical Translation Fund to invest in early translation of commercially valuable research.

Research Australia will continue to work with the sector to ensure the best possible outcomes from this funding game changer. We will provide more information and analysis of the Strategy and Priorities, and related funding announcements as more information becomes available.