My name is Professor Ian Fraser and I’m here in my capacity as chair of the Australian Medical Research Advisory Board, advisory to the Minister Greg Hunt on the use of the Medical Research Future Fund. And it’s my great pleasure to introduce to you Minister Greg Hunt and he’s going to address us about medical research.
Thank you very much to the great Ian Fraser who is chair of the Medical Research Future Fund but obviously his work in cervical cancer, Gardasil, and as one of Australia’s extraordinary medical research and translational leaders.
It represents a continuum from Howard Florey to Sir Macfarlane Burnet to Gustav Nossal, Elizabeth Blackburn, Fiona Wood, Fiona Stanley, and his own work. Professor Caroline Mountford here at the TRI. I was asking Caroline about which particular institution she had her chair with, and it turns out there were three.
And so there are not many people in Australia, in the world who have professorial status granted from three institutions. John Skerrit, again, professorial status. The Government is blessed to have him as the head of the TGA.
And our magnificent leaders from the University of Queensland, QUT, the Primary Health Networks and the hospital networks.
We just met with some of the surgeons from the emergency department, and they save lives every single day.
But the people who also save lives are those who are working in medical research. And whether it’s cervical cancer, whether it is what we’ve seen with the Nanopatch and the translational work which will allow new vaccines to be delivered to more people, more cheaply, which will help here in Australia but will actually go around the world.
So as in developing countries, we can have sterile and safe vaccines delivered, whether it’s for influenza, whether it’s for other forms of chronic, communicable diseases.
These are the great breakthroughs that save and improve and transform lives. So on behalf of the rest of Australia, I want to acknowledge our medical researchers, our medical professionals, our doctors and our surgeons, and those who are commercialising this research.
It’s great for Australian jobs, its even better for Australian patients. In that context, I was really honored during the course of the Budget to focus on one of our four pillars for the Long-Term National Health Plan, and that’s medical research.
As part of that, we were able to announce $1.4 billion for medical research under the Medical Research Future Fund. The long promised fund is now a reality.
This year, Ian and his team have been able to focus on a series of different areas, on medical research translation, which is Caroline and John and others, what we’re focusing on today.
We’re also focusing, though, on ensuring that there is early stage research to try to cure conditions, whether it’s cystic fibrosis, whether it’s brain cancer, whether it is many of the rare forms of cancer or heart disease, these will be right at the core of the Medical Research Future Fund’s work. Blue sky translated to green fields, things which will transform people’s lives.
We are on track to double medical research funding in Australia, but it’s not the money, it’s allowing your work to be transformed.
So today, I’m really delighted to be able to announce three new developments in the medical research space. I mean here we are, Caroline, at the TRI, and see the three different projects which are only a snapshot of your work is to see the best of the future being created right here.
The three things that I want to announce are, firstly, that as part of the Medical Research Future Fund there will be a new $5 million biotech horizons fund.
This will initially focus on precision medicine, and precision medicine is what we saw with the rheumatoid arthritis project, of being able to deliver to individuals tailored medicine that will help them through profiling their genomic sequence by understanding how each individual’s DNA is different, give them a way to turn on the immune system through immunotherapy to transform the way their body responds to different threats.
That is one of the great global horizons which is being delivered right here. So that’s part of the biotech horizons program.
The second thing is the anatomic 3D printing, the ability to find and replace those parts of the body which are faulty, which can take away a young life at an early age.
And whether it’s a synthetic valve, whether it’s a replacement of a joint, or whether it’s the long-sought goal of being able to assist with organ replacement, this is about giving people a better, longer life of higher quality. There couldn’t be a higher purpose.
There could not be a higher purpose, so that fund will be open but focusing on precision medicine and 3D anatomic printing.
I’m also delighted to be able to announce that we’ll be contributing $225,000 to the work of the Brisbane Diamantina Health partnership bringing together the University of Queensland, QUT, our hospitals, our research centres and our primary health networks.
And this is about as Caroline was telling me focusing on new breakthroughs and already you’ve been working on leukaemia and conditions that are so important to treat which threaten our young and can take away any life. Those outcomes if you’re able to deliver them even if it’s one life, if it’s just one life it’s been an investment that’s well worthwhile.
The third thing that I want to acknowledge and mention is the program that John Skerritt is leading through the TGA.
We are today launching a small and medium enterprise assistance program, or SME Assist, to help them through the regulatory process to simplify the process of creating new medical companies in Australia and receiving the approvals for those new medical companies.
So the TGA, Therapeutic Goods Administration, will help to guide companies through. So the faster we get the research, the better economic outcomes, but the faster we get the research translated the better health outcomes.
So with that I am just really privileged to be here amongst you and delighted to announce that the Medical Research Future Fund, Biotech Horizons program is open and that the Brisbane Diamantina Health partnership will be supported by the Commonwealth.
Minister, thank you very much for those words and particularly for the generous support for the Brisbane Diamantina Health Partners. We recognise that this is just the beginning for these advanced health research translational centres and we’re delighted to join the list of four already existing ones and become one of the three that are now newly created.
I think that the future for health and medical research in TRI is very favourable. We have a great environment here. But more importantly we have great scientists with a great vision for what they want to do in the future and we’re very grateful for you coming along this morning to acknowledge that. Thank you very much.
Minister, thank you very much for the announcements you’ve made today. Brisbane Diamantina Health Partners as a group have worked very very hard to come forward and to receive the NHMRC accreditation.
We have now teams across Brisbane, across Brisbane as well as the TRI there’s the QIMR Berghofer, the hospitals, the universities, on many many fronts we are now working collaboratively with targeted research and we are specifically aiming to address the clinical questions that the many many health practitioners around this state are telling us that are important to improve their patients healthcare.
But another aspect that TRI is working hard at is to try and educate the young Australians on how they can best interface with industry.
Because it doesn’t matter how great the innovation is if we leave it sitting on the lab bench it doesn’t help anybody.
We know that Australia is right at the top of the innovation totem poll when it comes to innovation but we’re right down the bottom when it actually comes to delivering and that is one of the major objectives that the Translational Research Institute is actually to bridge that gap so we’re in a better position and this means we have to educate the young Australians.
So thank you again for coming today and we look forward to working with you and your government taking this forward. Thank you.
Brisbane is already one of the world’s leading medical research hubs, after today it’s on a path to being a global leader without anybody being ahead of it.
With Ian Fraser, Caroline Mountford, and so many others, Brisbane can be the centre of jobs and health. The important thing here is that the Australian Government is supporting new biotech ventures with $5.2 million, and that’s about allowing our scientists to move from the lab to the lounge room with the Nanopatch.
With cervical cancer outcomes, things that change people’s lives, give people longer lives and better outcomes, as well as creating jobs in manufacturing, for our medical researchers, and for all of those involved in medical health.
We’ve seen a translational patch for flu vaccines, things that really matter. So we’re doubling medical research.
Today’s an important part of recognizing Brisbane’s role and Queensland’s role in that, and I am delighted that we’ve been able to visit here at the TRI to see medical research at its absolute best.
The Queensland Government would have us believe that the Federal Government has stripped millions out of Queensland Health. Is that the case?
The Queensland Government has been caught in a straight lie, covering up for their own failures in hospitals. Commonwealth funding is up 72 per cent for Queensland.
We’re going from $2.6 billion in Labor’s last year to $4.8 billion in the last year of our forward estimates. Every year funding goes up over this Budget cycle, from $3.8, to $4.1, to $4.3, to $4.6, to $4.8 billion. Funding goes up each and every year.
At the same time, the Queensland Government is making public patients wait longer by prioritising private patients.
It’s unethical, it’s immoral, it’s improper, it’s a breach of the duty of care.
They’ve been caught out using their patients, and they’ve been caught out lying. It’s an embarrassment, and the Budget shows they’re doing the wrong thing but we’ve done the right thing.