Billion-dollar boost for medical research

Women in research lab. | Newsreel
An extra $1.89 billion has been committed to medical research in Australia. | Photo: Gorden Koff (iStock)

Almost $2 billion will be invested in medical research under a new Federal Government initiative.

The bulk of the funding, $1.4 billion, will be allocated through the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) which has been tasked with delivering on two new 10-year missions focused on low-survival cancer and reducing health inequities.

There will also be a greater focus on research into women’s health, chronic pain and alcohol and drug treatment.

The $1.89 billion package will also invest $411 million to support 226 researchers through the National Health and Medical Research Council and provide $62 million to support 26 clinical trials across the country.

Federal Health Minister Mark Butler the funding would help patients get easier and earlier access to potentially lifesaving trials through a ‘National One Stop Shop’, which would streamline the process to conduct a clinical trial via a single national platform and set of regulations.

“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,” Minister Butler said.

He said the National One Stop Shop would harmonise and nationalise the administration and regulation of health and medical research.

“(This includes) establishing an easy-to-use website which will help patients, researchers and industry find, conduct and participate in clinical trials and research.

“Removing the red tape will increase the number of national clinical trials and make it more likely for patients across Australia to get early access to promising treatments developed in the research hubs in Sydney and Melbourne.”

Minister Butler said the $1.4 billion for new research via the MRFF would include a new focus on reducing health system inequality, with the creation of two new 10-Year Missions for research, and new targeted priorities.

He said an immediate investment of $53.6 million, over four years from 2024-25, would target women’s health including menopause, pregnancy loss and infertility, novel treatments for chronic pain, and treatment for alcohol and other drugs.

“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 percent. This includes common cancers like pancreatic, lung and liver cancers,” Minister Butler said.

He said the Reducing Health Inequities Mission would improve access to quality health services by priority populations – services that were appropriate, safe and welcoming for people from priority populations, including First Nations or diverse communities, who have a disability or who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community.