Govt's $538m medical research fund provides critical boost

22 October, 2014

Funding worth more than $538 million to help researchers find cures, treatments and medical devices of the future has been announced by the federal government.

In a statement by Minister for Health Peter Dutton, the government said the funding will support 773 National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) grants, ensuring Australia remains a "world leader in medical research".

It will provide $47.3 million towards 19 Centres for Research Excellence and $7.3 million for eight NHMRC Partnerships for Better Health projects.

Nearly $420 million will fund 553 Project Grants, which include research in areas from auto-immune diseases and dementia to antibiotic resistance.

Early Career Fellowships worth $39.4 million will support 125 promising researchers at the start of their careers, while 58 early to mid-career researchers will benefit from Career Development Fellowships totalling $24 million.

Ten researchers will also share in $1.7 million directed to Translating Research Into Practice Fellowships.

The statement said: "It has been estimated that every $1 spent in this field generates more than $2 in health benefits alone.

"There are economic benefits from research, from a reduced burden on our health system, and in the form of earnings from our biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and medical technology industries.

"Our health and medical research sector is worth around $6 billion a year, and is the key driver of productivity and innovation in the healthcare sector, which employs more than a million Australians."

Chronic kidney disease research centre

                      UQ was awarded 77 medical research grants. (Image: UQ)

Australia's first Centre of Research Excellence in Chronic Kidney Disease will be established at The University of Queensland (UQ) with a $2.5 million grant from the fund.

"This centre's research program, incorporating most public health systems nationwide, appears to be the most comprehensive chronic kidney disease research program internationally," Professor Wendy Hoy, from UQ's School of Medicine said.

She said the new research centre could give researchers the opportunity to fill in knowledge gaps about kidney disease, a "huge and growing issue" in Australia.

"There is no targeted data collection and analysis; optimal care pathways are still being defined; and predictors of kidney disease progression and links with cardiovascular triggers are poorly understood," Professor Hoy said.

"The new research centre will generate information to fill those knowledge gaps, and result in improved kidney disease detection and care."

Research sectors receiving funding

Cancer research receives $98 million boost

$82 million for research into cardiovascular diseases

$18 million of new funds to support innovative dementia research

$54 million to support diabetes research

$12 million of innovative research to combat obesity

Research brings new hope for asthma sufferers

$26 million to support innovative injury research

$38.5 million of research to find mental health solutions

$12 million of research to bring relief to people with arthritis