Date published: 
28 November 2019
Media type: 
Speech
Audience: 
General public

GREG HUNT:

Thanks very much to Bernie, to Jonathan Carapetis, to the amazing array of people in this room tonight.

And I look around and I see Anne Kelso, head of the National Health and Medical Research Council, the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy. People from all the different institutes and involved in medical research.

I have colleagues from so many different parts and I want to acknowledge Chris Bowen, and everybody who is engaged in the great human task of medical research.

With Sharon this morning, in celebration and commemoration of World HIV/AIDS Day, we were able to look at the work of the Dodie and the Kirby and the other extraordinary institutes, in helping Australia transform to a situation where no person who contracts HIV need die of this condition.

What was a catastrophic threat has become a chronic condition and that has only come about because of the work of the medical research institutes here in Australia, and as part of global collaboration, in conjunction with Public Health Advocacy What matters? T hat matters.

And there was a little girl up on the stage before.

She matters as well. Her name is Floss and Floss was at the Telethon Institute, and I met her with Jonathan when I had the privilege four weeks ago of opening the CliniKids Autism Centre, and it’s a centre of excellence where Jonathan and Professor Andrew Whitehouse and others are taking care of beautiful young kids who are managing a neurological condition and working with their parents on giving them the best shot at developing skills, at managing the condition, at preparing them for life.

And Floss’ mum said to me, ‘without this institute and without the work of CliniKids, we would not have the future we have for our daughter.’

And there was a sense of hope, and a sense of thanks, and a sense of purpose in what was said about the work of just one institute.

It happens to have been from Jonathan’s institute, but it's a story that can be translated across all now 54 institutes, and that's an incredible thing for which each of you should be immensely proud.

And that story of the individual patients is part of the great Australian story of medical research.

From Florey after whom tonight's medal is appropriately named (inaudible), to Sir Macfarlane Burnett, to the work of the great Ian Frazer, Fiona Wood, Fiona Stanley, Elizabeth Blackburn and the successors who are in this room tonight.

And if you think about it, the ability to make penicillin available to the global population came from the work of Florey building on the work of others.

Gardasil, which sees us on a path to being the first nation in the world to eradicate cervical cancer as a cause of death, and all of the different things such as Venetoclax, which gives us a targeted therapy to provide patients with the opportunity to receive a cure initially for different types of leukaemia, but inevitably for many other of the conditions, which could be fatal, which could be agonising and which could be tragic for families.

But real hope and real outcomes.

Whether it's Venetoclax, whether it's Gardasil, whether it's the gift to the world of mass produced penicillin, that's the tradition of medical research in Australia and you are the custodians.

Now, of course, it contributes enormously to the wealth of the country as well as the health of the country.

Think this, that we have, in Australia, through the work of the 54 medical research institutes and the universities and our firms, 70,000 people involved in the medical research profession.

19,000 of them are pure researchers.

We have an extraordinary impact on the Australian economy as a result of that. So health, but also help to generate the wealth of the nation at the same time, as Jonathan set out.

So against that background, if there are the outcomes for the patients then our job is to help to facilitate that environment.

And we do it with a structure, the Long Term National Health Plan, where medical research is one of the four pillars.

Primary care - support for our hospitals and for those involved both in public and private health provision.

Mental health - which for the first time has been raised to being one of the four great pillars of our Long Term National Health Plan.

And medical research, which underpins the capacity to advance all of these areas.

It's a great noble cause, but in order to support that, firstly of course we have to work with the National Health and Medical Research Council, known to all of you. $3.5 billion over the next four years and only recently, with Anne, we were at the University of Queensland and able to announce over $440 million of grants, much of which went to the medical research institutes.

At the same time, a $500 million Biomedical Translation Fund, which is in many ways taking, commercialising and bringing to the public the benefits of the work of the research institutes.

And then of course, we have the Medical Research Future Fund, to which Jonathan spoke.

And Jonathan, you’re right - $17.5 billion is now the capitalized amount, which is in the bank account, which is generating revenue and which has been delivered already in terms of grants to medical research institutes, and to universities and to researchers around the country.

That will reach the $20 billion capitalized figure in nine months’ time. And that will be a fund in perpetuity with the bipartisan support that we- that we now have.

And that means it will provide a foundation of stone which is unimpeachable for long term medical research.

And off the back of that, over the course of the last year working with AAMRI, working with our medical researchers, working with our universities and working with the industry, we were able to lay out together a 10-year medical research MRFF investment plan.

And that’s built across the four themes that were developed in collaboration of patients and the support for the Rare Cancers Rare Diseases Clinical Trial, with a $600 million investment over those 10 years, including $55 million which was released only last week for competitive grants, for clinical trials in areas such as reproductive cancers and neurological cancers- neurological conditions.

So these things matter. They are profound, and they are important, and they are real.

And it could be something such as the work that Professor Nick Gaetano, who is currently leading clinical trials for children and adolescents with medulloblastoma, as a result of, and through the Rare Cancers Rare Diseases Clinical Trials program.

Look, I see Alex Caroly from the Prime Minister's Office. He left me for greener pastures and Alex played such a critical role in developing that program.

And the promise that it offers both to the participants but also for the capacity to take these trials and to bring new medicines to the public is something of the most extraordinary opportunity, and every day, to see the trials that are occurring and are going on is to see science meets humanity in one small unimpeachable area.

To then move from what we're doing on that front, we see that we have the work of translation, and that's supporting critical infrastructure with the $600 million Critical Research Infrastructure Fund, 100 million of which will go towards the work of clinical trials in regional areas.

So to enable, to empower people around Australia, to share that benefit which has been too much concentrated in our cities.

And Jonathan talked about Indigenous Australia and this will be one of our great foci, to change and transform health in Indigenous Australia, and the clinical trials, the work of telehealth, all coming together through the research programs, the ending of avoidable Indigenous blindness, the ending of avoidable Indigenous deafness, the eradication of rheumatic heart disease.

These are funded programs as we speak.

Then we have the work of supporting the researchers. And here the $600 million, over 10 years, Frontier Science Program, which has been designed by and driven by AAMRI and the Medical Research Institute community, and which is already delivering outcomes.

And then $200 million to address what both Andrew and Jonathan was talking about in- with regards to the need to support clinical fellowships to keep our best and brightest engaged in research whilst also being able to practice, to have that shared perspective.

And these clinical research fellowships will help give us that competitive edge to attract and to retain, and that's something that's immensely important.

And then of course there are the missions, and these great missions have been developed in conjunction with so many of you, and what they represent is a focus on chronic diseases.

The Million Minds Mental Health Mission, and I see Helen Christensen here and I was at Black Dog only a week ago with you, and your role in helping to develop and to determine that, to make that difference to a million people over the course of the next 10 years.

The Indigenous Health Futures Program with the goals that I've just set out, and then the cardiovascular mission, all 10 year missions.

Similarly, the neurological focus – traumatic brain injury, dementia, brain cancer – these are missions which bring real hope to people.

And dementia is, in a way, both one of our greatest challenges but perhaps the greatest addressable burden of disease that we have in this country.

It is a breakthrough which will occur, and you're the people that are going to help deliver it and that's, when you look around the room, something to feel proud of – that you are amongst a group of people who will help lead the world in dementia research and dementia outcomes, which will transform the condition of life here in Australia and for people right across the planet.

And then of course the two great foundational research platforms of more than $650 million together for the 10-year genomics and stem cells missions. These are about delivering precision medicine.

And already through the Medical Research Future Fund, we've delivered $100 million through over 30 programs to the medical research institutes.

But I'm delighted to announce tonight that over the course of the next eight weeks we will release over $300 million through contestable grant rounds across the missions, across the clinical research fellowships, across the Rare Cancers Rare Diseases program and across the translation program.

So that's $300 million which we want to see with the institutes, with the researchers, with the universities delivering tangible outcomes for patients.

And in particular I'm delighted to announce that in the next 24 hours we will open two new rounds for contestable grants – $8 million for suicide prevention trial programs looking at the best science meets the best practice around the country, that will open and it will be calling for proposals between now and February.

And $20 million for the condition which affects and takes the lives of over 1000 Australian women every year, ovarian cancer, and it has been one of the areas where perhaps more should have been done in the past.

But we are at that moment, where in the way that leukaemia has been able to be transformed through science, and moment, and investment, and medical research coming together and the outcomes we have in terms of life expectancy.

This is the moment where the science, and the funding, and the talent come together to transform the outcomes for ovarian cancer with a $20 million program to look at cause, diagnosis, treatment and ultimately a potential cure.

We’ll hopefully lay down markers that lead to the outcomes that will save lives and protects lives over the future.

So tonight we honour you.

Whether it's from Florey to the Netherplains and all the different programs in between and the developments and the people and achievements, you’re the ones that have done that.

It's a noble profession. It can be hard some days. But to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield, that's what you have done and that's what you bring.

And for that we honour you, and we thank you.

Ministers: