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Pharmacogenomics research funding to improve mental health care

A $7 million research investment in pharmacogenomics will improve the treatment and outcomes of people with mental illness.

The Hon Greg Hunt MP
Former Minister for Health and Aged Care

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The Morrison Government will invest $7 million for ground-breaking research into the use of pharmacogenomics to improve mental health treatment outcomes and help reduce suicide.

Mental illness is the leading cause of both disability and premature death in Australia, with an estimated one in five people experiencing a common mental disorder each year.

This investment, through the Medical Research Futures Fund, will support research that aims to improve or develop new pharmacogenomic tests that will change how medications are prescribed for patients with mental health challenges.

The round will encourage research that combines new and existing technologies with large scale data, machine learning, clinical information or patient biomarkers, to result in better medication selection for individuals.

Although psychological strategies are the first-line of treatment, antidepressants and other drugs form an important part of the care provided. But only about half of patients have a positive response from their first medication prescription, and the response diminishes with subsequent alternatives.

It estimated that genetics is responsible for over a third of varied response to antidepressants.

Current approaches of trialling different medications may result in prolonged episodes of depression, which impacts on quality of life and may increase the risk of suicide.

Testing of these genes may help identify the best and most effective treatment for an individual patient. However, while these pharmacogenomics tests show great promise in improving the prescription given to each patient, these tests are still imperfect.

This fund seeks to change that.

By enabling more accurate, personalised medication selection, these tests will pave the way to better recovery from conditions such as severe depression and anxiety.

The Morrison Government is committed to reducing the number of lives lost to suicide and to working towards zero suicides.

We are building a mentally and physically healthy Australia through increased funding in mental health, primary care, hospitals, medical research and preventive health. We are able do so through strong and reliable economic management.

The grant round will open 1 December 2019.

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