Views sought on coordination of research funds


Consultation has opened on improving the alignment between Commonwealth funds, the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) and Medical Research Endowment Account (MREA), and as the national voice of industry, AusBiotech is seeking its members’ views.

The Australian Government recently announced that a national consultation has opened, seeking views on improving alignment and coordination between the MRFF and MREA (managed by the NHMRC), to provide the greatest benefit for publicly-funded health and medical research.

The consultation paper notes how with closer coordination of MRFF and MREA support, for example during COVID where there was a greater focus on a national approach to the most important research questions, increased efficiency and effectiveness of the two funds’ investments could be achieved.

The NHMRC has predominantly funded a broad range of investigator-initiated research, especially through fellowships and project grants, with more limited priority-driven research; the MRFF balances this by supporting priority-driven research with a focus on research translation, whether directly through improvements in health and healthcare or, where appropriate, through commercial development.

Last week, AusBiotech attended the first invitation-only Ministerial roundtable with The Hon. Mark Butler MP, Minister for Health and Aged Care, to discuss the proposed changes and improvements as strategic alignment, management and deployment of the two Commonwealth funds is sought. The first phase of consultation will focus on governance and administration, while the second phase will focus on the funds’ investment strategies.

In its submission, AusBiotech will highlight the important distinction between each programme’s purpose, and between translation and commercialisation, in any new/amended model that is adopted.

AusBiotech CEO Lorraine Chiroiu said, “While there are opportunities for improvements, the MRFF is still young relative to the NHMRC, with full disbursements only in operation for three years.

“As we seek to address the gaps and preserve the benefits delivered to date, this is also an opportunity to highlight the opportunity to build metrics and diversity into the Funds, specifically the amount of MRFF funds applied to commercialisation. In measuring the Australian biotechnology industry’s global and local standing, a key metric noted by industry in AusBiotech’s Biotechnology Blueprint was that whilst the MRFF is cognisant of the importance of translation, tracking the amount invested once research is transferred could provide fresh insight.”

As AusBiotech develops its submission, members are invited to share their thoughts on the opportunities and risks on the proposed models for improving governance and administration of the two funds; please send feedback to Karen Parr, Director, Communications and Policy, by Friday 7 July.