An evaluation of the Medical Research Future Fund's Clinical Trials Activity initiative has found that funded trials have enhanced research translation by involving industry, consumers, and professional organisations in trials, increased research into unmet needs, particularly in rare cancers, and helped more Australians access clinical trials.
The evaluation looked at the investments in clinical trials made through the MRFF, approaches for clinical trials overseas and in Australia, and ways to improve funding and granting arrangements for clinical trials more broadly through the initiative and the MRFF.
The Clinical Trials Activity Initiative, established in 2016, will provide $750 million over ten years between 2022-23 and 2031-32 to increase clinical trial activity in Australia.
Its initial focus addressed rare cancers and diseases, unmet needs, and on bringing investigator-led international clinical trials to Australia. This has now expanded to enable funding of research projects focused on any disease or condition meeting the grant’s objectives.
- Increased focus of research on areas of unmet need. The clinical conditions studied were broad and similar, with the most notable exception being the number of cancer trials, particularly of rarer cancers, which was more common for MRFF-funded trials. However, this difference aligns with the priorities and calls of MRFF based on unmet needs.
- Workforce development in clinician-researchers to undertake translational research. The majority of MRFF-funded trials were led by academics and clinicians, with fewer led by consumers, policymakers, or non-government organisations. A critical issue is the need to support clinician-researchers who have the skills to understand the important clinical questions and an understanding of trial design. However, stakeholders suggested the degree of involvement of professional organisations, non-government organisations, industry, and consumers is encouraging. This involvement is likely to improve the translation of findings into practice.
- Site recruitment and individual patient recruitment were identified as the most common problems for barriers to successful completion for most trials.
Due to the lengthy timeframes it takes to complete clinical trials and the impact of the pandemic, few trials have yet been reported and translated into practice. This will need to be monitored in the years to come.
Clinical trials reform in Australia is a national priority, with the National One Stop Shop offering an opportunity to enhance the clinical trials and health and medical research operating environment, and making it easier for patients, researchers and sponsors to participate in and conduct trials and research.
AusBiotech is supportive of the proposed platform. It said it encourages funding in the upcoming Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook to support the retention ot Australia’s global competitive advantage and ensure greater patient access to clinical trials.