Research Australia has used its 2021-22 pre-Budget submission to call for greater investment in medical research, innovation and for the goal of Australia becoming a net exporter of manufactured pharmaceuticals by 2035.
Research Australia is an alliance of 160 members and supporters advocating for health and medical research in Australia. Its members include a large number of biopharmaceutical companies.
In its submission, the organisation has called on the federal government to commit to increasing its annual spending on research and development to at least 0.75 per cent of gross domestic product. It is currently around 0.6 per cent.
"Without further sustained investment, Australia will be condemned to a low growth future, and remain highly dependent on just a few key exports. It is essential that we act now, while we still have relatively high levels of wealth, to invest in developing the export industries that can sustain our wealth in the future," says the submission.
It says Australia currently ranks 26th in the world for the value of pharmaceutical exports.
"Pharmaceutical manufacturing, including vaccines and serums, is a sensible area for Australia to seek to expand its capability. It is an area where security of supply is paramount; it is also an area where we have existing expertise in manufacturing and world-leading expertise in life sciences that we can leverage. It is a growing market, and one where capability is relatively well dispersed around the developed world," it says.
It advocates for a policy focus on developing and growing a comprehensive medical products manufacturing sector, including a mRNA capability.
"The development of medical products, including pharmaceuticals, therapeutics, diagnostics and medical devices is a long and expensive process, typically taking more than a decade. However the rewards for successful products, and the companies and countries that manufacture them, can be substantial," says Research Australia.
It says Australia's strength in clinical trials would be supported by an increased capability to manufacture at scale.
"Research Australia submits the Commonwealth Government should investigate how it can support the development of domestic manufacturing capability of medical products for clinical trials.
"This includes funding a feasibility study into establishing one or more manufacturing facilities for clinical trial materials to capitalise on Australia’s global competitive advantage in clinical trials. It should investigate the provision of facilities in partnership with the health and medical research and innovation sector and funding models involving consortia of government and private investors," it says.
It adds the government should also consider establishing a mechanism that leverages its procurement capability to support the growth of local capability.