Medical Research Future Fund Webinar – 12 April 2022

In this video, Dr Masha Somi is joined by Ms Sue MacLeman to provide an update on the Medical Research Future Fund and MTPConnect.

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MASHA SOMI: Thank you for joining the April, 2022 Medical Research Future Fund webinar.

I'm Masha Somi.

I'm the CEO of the Health and Medical Research Office.

I'm really pleased today to be joined by Sue MacLeman who's the Chair of the MTPConnect Board.

Today our focus is on the commercialisation programs that are supported through the Medical Research Future Fund.

Before we commence the webinar, I'd like to begin by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the lands we're all joining from today.

I join from Ngunnawal country.

I would also like to pay my deepest respects to elders past, present and emerging and extend that respect to our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander colleagues here today.

Please note that the Australian Government entered caretaker on Monday the 11th of April 2022.

And as a result, my presentation today will focus only on factual information and matters of administration.

So, I'll begin by giving an overview of the most recent MRFF financial and granting information and then provide an overview of the second MRFF 10-year Investment Plan.

I'll then hand over to Sue for her update which is focused on the MTP sector and MRFF programs operated by MTPConnect.

I'll then provide an update on some other commercialisation investments that have been made through the MRFF and also on the Biomedical Translation Fund.

And finally, I'll give an overview of the key findings from our recently released MRFF gender data report.

So, to date just over 740 grants valued at $2 billion have been awarded through the MRFF.

The chart on the left shows the year in which the $2 billion worth of grants were awarded.

So, what that shows is that in 2016/17, the Department entered into $22 million worth of grants.

That figure peaked in 2020/21 when we entered into $581 million worth of grants.

And the 21/22 figure of $330 million is a partial year figure as we still have a number of months to go this financial year.

The figure on the right shows that in the first three years of the MRFF, we disbursed less than was available.

However, over the last few years we have been fully expended.

And the figures for 2022/23 and beyond show our commitments, our financial commitments in dark blue and the funds allocated to the second 10-year Investment Plan in stripes.

The key takeaways from this chart is that we are moving to a pattern of full expenditure each year.

And that we've been able to slowly pull forward our grant process eseach year to the point that we're making financial commitments into future financial years which has allowed us to have longer opening times and additional time for our assessment processes.

Many of you will have seen the second MRFF 10-year Investment Plan which was announced in late March in the context of the 2022/23 Budget.

It allocates $6.3 billion over 10 years and this is an increase from the $5.1 billion that was allocated through the first 10-year plan.

This just reflects that the MRFF has achieved full capitalisation and that the annual disbursements are now expected to be $650 million per annum.

You'll probably have seen that all existing commitments that were made in that first plan have been carried forward.

And you'll see also the four themes and the 20 initiatives have been retained.

So, what's new?

There's an additional $3.1 billion in funding and in particular, a new initiative to support early to mid-career researchers.

In addition, some initiatives have been expanded and extended and other initiatives have been extended in time.

And I'll go through the changes to each initiative in detail shortly.

So, in addition to the table that shows the investments across initiatives over the 10 years of the new plan, the second plan articulates the alignment of the plan with the Australian Medical Research and Innovation Strategy and also maps the 21 initiatives to the current and draft Australian Medical Research and Innovation Priorities.

There are pages that feature each theme including previous and upcoming funding.

And this slide shows the Research Translation theme as the webinar today is focused on the Medical Research Commercialisation initiative, which sits within the Research Translation theme.

There are also pages featuring each initiative.

And the pages highlight the initiative’s objectives, any changes resulting from the implementation of the second 10-year plan, funding allocation for the initiative both historic and upcoming, and granting information as at January 2022.

And finally, each initiative page shows the links or how the initiative links to the 2020-22 Priorities that are currently in force.

I'll quickly go through each theme and show the changes by initiative.

You'll see a pattern in the left column as it shows the new 10-year funding allocation.

Any change in the annual allocation and so any expansion in the allocation is reflected in that second bullet, and then any impact of the extension of time.

To begin with the Clinical Trials Activity initiative has been both expanded in value and extended, and so $75 million per annum will be made available from 2022/23 through this initiative up from about $62 million.

A significant policy change is that the initiative now supports research on diseases beyond rare cancers, rare diseases and unmet medical needs.

And some of you may have seen the grant opportunity that opened in December included a new stream titled Effective Health Interventions.

And this is to capture the change in policy authority.

The Emerging Priorities and Consumer-Driven Research, and Global Health initiatives have both been extended, however, not expanded.

And these are the Missions.

So, all Missions have had their current funding allocations maintained.

However, any future extensions will be subject to an evaluation.

The funding to allow any future extensions have been quarantined and that's reflected in the red line at the top of the table.

What this means is around $150 million is available each year to either extend existing Missions or establish new ones.

Moving on to the Researchers theme.

The Clinician Researchers initiative and the Frontiers initiative have both been extended, however, not expanded.

The Researcher Exchange and Development within Industry initiative will not be extended beyond its existing current term.

And the new initiative in this theme but also the biggest change across the entire

MRFF is a new initiative designed to support early to mid-career researchers.

The initiative, it's providing $384 million over 10 years and primarily uses two existing MRFF funding models, the incubator grant and the accelerator grant.

In addition, it trials a tripartite co-funding model for supporting the translation of promising discoveries.

An important point with the initiative is that consistent with other parts of the MRFF, the initiative is still focused on addressing unmet needs and supporting the commercialisation of research outcomes.

The design of the new initiative came from consultation we held with EMCRs.

Through that process, EMCRs told us about the barriers they face remaining in health and medical research and potential strategies for addressing them.

The key messages I took away from that process is that

EMCRs are keen to use their hard-earned skills.

They're passionate about health and they want an opportunity to put their new ideas into practice.

As a result, the new initiative focuses on supporting EMCRs to use their new ideas and approaches to address significant health issues and to translate their promising research outcomes into practice.

So, moving on to research translation.

The National Critical Research Infrastructure initiative has been extended, however, at a lower level in the future years.

The Medical Research Commercialisation initiative has been expanded and extended and there's now $45 million dollars per annum available through the initiative up from $35 million.

And I'll talk about the new approach that we're trialling in that initiative a little bit later.

And that's the incubator model that was launched in December 2021.

The Preventive and Public Health Research initiative has been significantly expanded as well as being extended.

And you'll see that there's some streams that had been established within that initiative including the Consumer-Led Research stream.

Particularly important is the Health Technology Assessment stream.

And that provides $100 million to Commonwealth Government Health Technology Assessment Committees to assist them with their work.

And I'll just note that funding for the Targeted Translation

Research Accelerator has been continued into the new plan.

And that's to enable it to meet the $125 million that's been announced for that activity.

There's also been a significant expansion of the Primary Care Research initiative and annual funding has doubled from $5 million to $10 million per annum as well as extended for the term of the second MRFF 10-year plan.

The Rapid Applied Research Translation and the Research Data Infrastructure initiatives have been extended, however not expanded.

So, now we'll look a little more closely at the Medical Research Commercialisation initiative.

And it provides $450 million through 10 years for medical research commercialisation activities.

To date, there have been four grant opportunities and they have resulted in seven grant agreements valued at almost $150 million.

And of this $111 million has already been expended.

So, MTPConnect holds a number of these grants.

So, I'll hand over to Sue for her presentation.

SUE MACLEMAN: Thanks, Masha.

And really nice to be here and providing update on all the amazing work that our team are doing with the Department of Health through the MRFF program.

So, MTPConnect for those that are not aware is the growth centre for Australia's medical technology, biotechnology and pharmaceutical sector.

We were formed in November 2015 as part of an Australian

Government Industry Growth Centre initiative.

We are an independent, not-for-profit organisation, distinct from government, that is championing a sector-led approach to accelerating and boosting the growth of the medical products ecosystem in Australia.

We exist to advise and advocate, to promote greater collaboration, alignment and engagement, to drive innovation, productivity and competition, to fund innovative projects and to grow the workforce skills.

This slide is a little difficult to read but there is further detail in our Sector Competitiveness Plan.

But our sector punches above its weight globally.

It's contributed $5.5 billion in gross value added to the Australian economy in 2021.

Been growing at 2% per year since 2016.

It supports 73,000 jobs across industry and research in 2021.

And that's been growing at an even stronger 4% a year since 2016, higher than the overall jobs growth in Australia of 1.2% a year.

The total number of companies in the MTP sector grew by 112 over the last six years from 1,230 in 2016 to 1,342 in 2021.

This represents a steady growth rate of 2% per annum.

In line with the increase of the overall number of MTPConnect companies.

The number of MTPConnect companies listed on the Australian Stock Exchange grew by 15 in 2021, representing the largest annual increase over the last six years.

The market capitalisation of MTP companies listed on the ASX grew by a total of $144 billion since 2016, representing a 22% per annum growth rate over the 2016 to 2021 years.

Medical products had been identified by the Australian

Government as a manufacturing priority.

We've emerged as a go-to destination for clinical trials and this has remained robust even during COVID lockdowns with $1.4 million contributing to the Australian economy in 2019.

The clinical trials sector employs more than 8,000 Australians. 95,000 Australians participated in clinical trials in 2019.

And we had 1,880 trials started in 2019.

From modest beginnings, we now have more than $180 million in sector support funds under management across six strategic funding programs, supporting 145 projects.

Since inception, we have contributed to nearly $1 billion flowing into the sector.

We deliver these programs for the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources.

And the Department of Health's Medical Research Future Fund which is what we're here to talk about today.

For the following slides, I will talk you through each of the MRFF programs.

What they do, their impact and successes to date.

So, the first one is The BioMedTech Horizons Program.

This is a $45 million MRFF initiative focused on supporting proof of concept of commercial development of biomedical and medical technologies.

There have been four funding rounds which have funded 46 projects and investment from the program of $40 million in funding has been distributed direct to projects.

And this has leveraged a further $49 million in cash and in kind.

And you can see some of the project areas here including precision medicine, 3D printing, cardiovascular health, digitally-enabled devices, wearable devices, neonatal and paediatric devices, and devices aimed at supporting blind people and restoring vision.

The first BMTH funding round concluded activities in October 2021.

Of the 11 projects identified and funded as part of this initiative, nine successfully completed their program of work resulting in clear advancement of their device towards achieving their research and commercialisation objectives.

This included 27 new technologies either invented or progressed.

42 new patents, trademark applications and licences.

Three new products launched.

58 new jobs, direct jobs, created in project companies.

And $23.5 million in total sector investment into new companies in cash and in kind.

One example is WearOptimo.

And in 2018, WearOptimo was awarded funding in round one to help create a micro-wearable platform.

And again for round two in 2019, to develop a cardiac micro-wearable sensor.

In March 2021, they secured a $30 million partnership to manufacture micro-wearable sensors at their advanced technology facility in Brisbane for worldwide distribution.

And that was in partnership with the Queensland Government,

ANU and the Australian National Fabrication Facility.

In March 22, they announced a multimillion dollar investment agreement with Aspen Medical.

And that cemented a strategic partnership to accelerate the development of its micro-wearable sensors that protect and alert an individual to dehydration risk which has applicability in the mining, military and resource sectors.

We now move to the Biomedical Translation Bridge Program, the BTB.

This program is a $22.3 million initiative that provides up to $1 million in matched funding to nurture the translation of new therapies, technologies and medical devices.

It's delivered through mentoring and commercialisation advice by the BTB partners and partner programs, and aims to de-risk and develop ventures so that they can attract further funding to nurture and mentor the next generation of research innovators in Australia to develop ventures to become attractive to the biomedical translation fund, and assist in the development of ventures that aim to ultimately result in preventive intervention, cures and treatments for disease that address health problems of national significance.

One wonderful example that we saw during COVID was the patientisolation hood, an Australian-developed technology which was protecting healthcare workers from COVID-19 and reducing viral levels in the immediate surroundings.

This provides better patient respiratory treatment and reduces the need for invasive ventilation.

The University of Melbourne's patient isolation hood, now named McMonty by Medihood, has seen clinical trials conducted in a number of the ICUs in Melbourne.

The hoods have now been successfully deployed in rural areas in Australia, particularly those without specialised facilities and also been deployed into our region.

A collaboration between the University of Melbourne, Western Health and local manufacturer Evan Evans saw the product in market within 12 months, which is very short, and to date 1,000 devices and additional consumables have been sold.

We now move to the Clinical Translation and Commercialisation - Medtech, CTCM.

And this program is offered under the Early Stage Translation and Commercialisation Support Grant of the MRFF.

This is a $19.75 million program whose objectives are really to identify and nurture high quality medical device projects that have commercial potential and support their translation through early clinical trials.

The program opened in December 2021 and is focused on SMEs and aims to boost commercialisation of homegrown medical products.

The first CTCM funding round closed on the 11th of March and we received 69 applications which are currently being assessed.

The next program is our REDI Program.

So, REDI is our skills and workforce development program.

It is being delivered across three pillars -  expansion of proven programs that already exist, skills gaps analysis and funding for new target training programs which address identified gaps, and then industry placements, internships and fellowships.

Multiple reports produced as part of our comprehensive root and branch review of current and future skills gaps are captured in these reports.

The first interim report was published in 2020 and identified priority skills gaps that needed addressing across the sector in the near term.

The second more comprehensive root and branch review was published in March 2021 and identifies 20 skills gaps that require priority action.

The report focuses on biosecurity, infectious disease resilience and advanced manufacturing.

Collectively, these reports provide a skills development blueprint to ensure

Australia's medical products industry and workforce is industry ready, fit for post-pandemic prosperity, and appropriately positioned to capitalise on current and future global opportunities.

And we saw a need for business skills, commercial expertise, regulatory and quality skills, clinical trial skills, pharmacology, biopharmaceuticals and biologic skills.

And also pharmacokinetics and pharmaceutical dynamic skills.

The REDI Fellowship Program provides companies in the medtech, biotech and pharmaceutical sector with up to $250,000 per annum to bring researchers, clinicians and MTP professionals in-house for up to 12 months to work on priority medical research projects.

This program has been incredibly successful.

It's intended to accelerate relationships, drive projects towards commercial outcomes and provide high level commercial and entrepreneurial experience.

To date, we have awarded 14 fellowships with major

Australian and international companies.

And successful applicants from the November 2021 round are now being finalised after which all funds in the current budget will be committed and the program will be paused.

The next program is the TTRA diabetes and cardiovascular disease research collaborator accelerator.

This is a $47 million MRFF-funded program.  It has established two research centres for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

And it provides direct research project funding support across Australia.

The accelerator promotes clinical and commercial translation of novel therapeutics and devices in the diabetes and cardiovascular disease area.

And the accelerator is taking a national and inclusive approach to working with clinicians, researchers, health administrators,

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health groups and consumers. TTRA is a $47 million dollar program which is deployed across three pillars.

The first was to establish the two research centres, which I just mentioned, one for diabetes and one for cardiovascular disease.

Applications for these were called for at the beginning of 2021 and funding awarded to the Australian Centre Accelerating Diabetes Innovation and the Australian Stroke and Health Research

Accelerator, which were announced in January 22 by the Minister of Health and Aged Care.

They will be funded for four years through the TTRA and there is an expectation that they'll be sustainable thereafter.

The second pillar is to award research project funding through a competitive process.

And in January 2021, we called for the first round of applications which focused on common pathways, interactions and complexities for people experiencing comorbidities of diabetes and cardiovascular disease with the overlay of mental health, chronic kidney disease or other cardiac or vascular complications.

The seven first round awardees are sharing $5.2 million to address the three different priority areas.

Round two applications are currently being reviewed.

We have also initiated the needs assessment process for round three involving a newly established Indigenous advisory group which will help inform the priority areas.

Underpinning both the centres and the research projects, we will foster translation of research and promote collaboration with industry through pillar three.

We've partnered with preeminent organisations focused on research translation, commercialisation and implementation to support the applicants and awardees of the pillar two research projects as well as the research centres.

The research centres and the research projects awardees will have opportunities to engage with one another, providing further opportunity for new collaborations to spawn as well as assessing training programs, accessing training programs and workshops to aid in the translation of their research through annual partnering summits.

So, as mentioned, a new approach to boosting the translation and commercialisation of Australian research is in place to help people with cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Collectively, the two new research centres will initially progress 31 research projects addressing diabetic kidney disease, peripheral neuropathy, diabetic foot syndrome and short-term complications of hypoglycemia, hyperglycemia, hyperosmolar syndrome and ketoacidosis, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathy and heart failure and transient ischemic attack and stroke.

So, we're very excited about these research centres.

They've been awarded $10 million over the four years and have attracted substantial co-contributions from academic and industry partners totalling $34.3 million.

So, thank you for listening today.

Our contact details are there.

And I'm very happy to follow up on any of the programs if anyone has any questions.

MASHA SOMI: Thank you very much, Sue.

That was a great presentation.

So, I'll quickly come back to the Early Stage Translation and Commercialisation Support Round Opportunity.

It's one of the four grant opportunities that I mentioned earlier and Sue touched on the elements that MTPConnect are delivering during her discussion.

So, the grant opportunity provided almost  $80 million over three years from 2020-21, with a focus on supporting small to medium-sized enterprises.

The outcome of that grant opportunity was four grants being awarded.

The Brandon BioCatalyst received almost $40 million to support projects in preclinical stages or those focused on drug discovery. MTPConnect received almost $20 million dollars to support the development of medical devices.

And ANDHealth received almost $20 million to support digital health technologies.

So far ANDHealth has undertaken a competitive process which has resulted in five projects receiving support and they are listed on the slide.

Brandon BioCatalyst is working through its first competitive EOI process, as is MTPConnect.

So, you're able to find more information about these programs on the websites of these organisations.

We've also launched a new grant opportunity under this initiative which closes in August 2022.

Through the grant opportunity, $50 million is being made available for an organisation to partner with Australian small and medium-sized enterprises to progress promising projects.

So, a couple of key differences between this new grant opportunity and the existing supports that have been provided through the initiative.

The first is that up to $5 million will be made available for the promising projects.

And that's an increase from the $1 or the $1.5 million cap that had been provided for in the earlier grants.

And the second difference is that the successful organisation will be able to make multiple investments into each project.

And the concept is that there will be support to take promising projects along the commercialisation pathway rather than providing a single support.

So, to complement the activities within the MRFF, we also have the $500 million Biomedical Translation Fund.

The key difference though with the Biomedical Translation Fund is that it's a co-investment model rather than a grant program.

So, there's a contribution split between the government and the venture capital investors of 50% each and the intention is to share the returns that result from the investments that are made through the Biomedical Translation Fund.

There are three licenced fund managers operating the Biomedical

Translation Fund and they're listed on the slide.

And to date, they've invested almost $288 million in 25 companies.

So, the focus of the Medical Research Commercialisation initiative is to de-risk projects to the point that private venture capital is ready to invest in them.

And what we've seen, and this is the point, is that the BTF has the opportunity to become involved in some of these projects.

And we've now seen a project that was able to receive support through the Medical Research Commercialisation initiative and then transition to support through an investment through the Biomedical Translation Fund.

And I'll mention that project in a minute.

These are three BTF projects that have or are in the process of transitioning into clinical practice.

And you'll see they're quite different projects and they demonstrate the diversity of investments that have been made through the BTF.

The project which I just mentioned that was supported initially through the Medical Research Commercialisation initiative before receiving an investment support through the Biomedical Translation

Fund is the BiVACOR total artificial heart device.

So, I'll give some quick program updates and commencing with the MRFF Gender

Data Report which was published a couple of weeks ago on the MRFF website.

So, the analysis that's in the report covered 60 MRFF competitive grant opportunities managed through both the NHMRC and also Business Grants Hub,  and included information on almost 15,000 Chief Investigators.

And the reason we undertook this analysis is that we wanted to understand if there are variations by gender in outcomes from MRFF grant opportunities.

Overall, we found that while more men applied for MRFF grants, the funded rates were relatively equal across genders.

And this pattern applies to both the Chief

Investigator data and the CIA data.

We did find, however, that there are variations by broad research area in looking at the top chart, and that chart focuses on all Chief Investigators.

What you can see is that more males applied for basic science and clinical medicine and science grants.

And more women applied for health services and public health grants.

The funded rates were however, relatively equal with the exception of basic science where men had a higher funded rate than women.

In looking specifically at the CIA data which is the bar chart at the bottom, what you can see is that women CIAs had higher funded rates in health services and public health research, and men had higher funded rates in clinical medicine and science.

This graph shows application numbers and funded rates by MRFF initiative.

And you can see that the pattern across the initiatives is mixed, in terms of whether more men are applying than women or vice versa.

Or men were having higher funded rates compared with women or vice versa.

And this graph shows the number of CIAs and funded rates also by initiative.

And again, the pattern is still mixed.

However, the gaps are more pronounced with this more limited data.

So, I think the data on the previous slide and this slide reflects the type of research that's undertaken within these initiatives.

For example, the pattern in the Clinical Trials Activity initiative mirrors those that you can see in the clinical medicine and science broad research area.

And also the patterns in the Research Data Infrastructure initiative mirror those found in the health services research area.

And that makes sense because that's the nature of the research that's undertaken in both initiatives.

These graphs show how application numbers and funded rates vary by gender and by grant size.

And overall, women have higher funded rates for grants valued at $2 million and above, however lower funded rates for the very small grants, which is less than $500,000.

On the other hand women CIAs have lower funded rates at all grant sizes with the exception of the medium-sized grants or the $1 to $2 million dollar grant sizes.

So this is a quick snapshot of findings from the report and I encourage you to look at the report on our website, what we found, so you can find more detail. I guess what we found is overall

the patterns are quite mixed in terms of application and funded rates.

And what we'll be doing within the Health and Medical Research Office is continuing to undertake analyses each year as our sample size grows, and as we're able to get some patterns of trends over time.

As you can imagine, we've only got a number of years of data available to us.

As the data grows and we get more trend information, we'll be able to undertake more complicated analyses and our intention is to make the outcomes of those analyses public.

At the same time that we've published the Gender Data Report, we've published a resource that tells the stories of three highly accomplished women Chief Investigators.

And they are Professor Christobel Saunders AO, who's a breast cancer surgeon.

Professor Catherine Chamberlain, who's a midwife and epidemiologist.

And Professor Felicity Baker, a music therapist.

And the resource that you can find on our website talks about the projects that these women are leading in the MRFF.

Here’s a list and a summary of the grant opportunities that opened in December 2021.

And almost all of these are still currently open for applications.

And here’s the list and there’s a few more grant opportunities that have opened in the last couple of weeks.

And these can all be found on the MRFF website.

I just wanted to give a quick overview of the accelerator grants as I ran out of time in the November 2021 webinar.

The intention of the accelerator grants is to bring together large, multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary teams to tackle significant health issues.

The idea is to generate significant change in a challenging area of health, either in terms of health outcomes or health practice.

And for each grant up to $5 million is able to be available for up to five years.

So, we've used the accelerator grant model in a number of our Mission grant opportunities, and also recently in a grant opportunity focused on improving the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers and babies.

These are the ways that you can keep connected with the MRFF.

And just a reminder that the webinar will be recorded and put on the Health website along with the slides so that you're able to access it as can others.

And we'll just move on to questions now. SPEAKER: Thank you, Masha.

The first question is about the REDI program.

Is the REDI program now closed or can additional

funds be provided to support additional rounds?

SUE MACLEMAN: So, I'm happy to take that one.

So, this has been an incredibly successful program.

And while there is no additional monies available from the MRFF,

we are in negotiation with other departments

in the Australian Government to see whether

or not we can offer some additional fellowships,

and we expect to provide

an update to the sector in the coming weeks about those programs.

SPEAKER: Question, is for Masha about data collection,

whether there will be ways to improve

the data collected at time of application?

The idea will be that the gender is self-identified

by applicants, on the Chief Investigators

at the time of application, to increase

the robustness of the analysis for future.

MASHA SOMI: Thank you.

And that's a really important point and a great point.

So, there is a self-report process through applications made through NHMRC.

And we've made some progress with our application forms through Business Grants Hub.

And in our most recent two or three grant opportunities

we've asked all applicants to complete standardised information covering all the Chief Investigators that are involved in the project.

And that includes self-identified gender data.

So, that new process will be in place for all grant opportunities  managed through Business Grants Hub moving forward.

SPEAKER: I think people are still typing their questions in.

So, we'll have another 10 to 15 minutes.

People feel free to enter your questions.

So, the next question is for Masha.

So, is there a calendar available as to when the MRFF Global Initiative will be open or closed?

Applications involving international partners necessarily take more time to develop and consult.

So, as much time as possible would be appreciated.

MASHA SOMI: Thank you. Another great point.

And so we do have the MRFF calendar that's available on the website.

We are looking and planning for all future initiatives to be able to open grant opportunities to provide applicants with sufficient time to build the collaborations and develop really robust applications.

So, we are looking at the Global Health initiative at the moment.

It's been a while since we've run a grant opportunity.

And we'll provide information as soon as we're

able about the next funding opportunity.

Any further questions?

Any last opportunities for questions?

Looks like there are no questions coming through.

So, double checking if anybody would like to send any through.

OK. Well, it sounds like we might be able to wrap up the webinar early.

SPEAKER: So, the next question is, is the MRFF shifting away from targeted grants?

MASHA SOMI: What do you mean, what does targeted mean towards?

SPEAKER: Sorry, I think the question will be around the competitiveness of the MRFF.

MASHA SOMI: OK. Thank you. Sorry.

So, the question is around the MRFF shifting towards competitive grant approaches.

And I think what people will see or will have seen over the last couple of years is a really significant move towards open competitive grant opportunities that are managed through our grant hubs.

So, that's been a clear trend that we've had for the last two or three years.

SPEAKER: The next question is also for Masha.

You mentioned that there is $150 million available each year to establish new Research Missions, how are the topics of these decided?

MASHA SOMI: So, I think my comment was that there's $150 million available to either extend existing Missions or establish new Missions.

So, I think the note is clear that the extension of Missions is subject to evaluation and consideration of the priority in that area.

Ultimately, the decisions around additional

Missions will be for governments to take.

And just to note that that is a little while away when that additional funding will become available -  I'm just trying to find my table -  I think it's in about 2024-25 or 26-27.

So, a number of years away before those decisions need to be taken.

So, it's 2027-28 when those funds commence to become available.

SPEAKER: Next question.

Will there be opportunities for non-SME organisations to apply for research funds?

MASHA SOMI: Is that research funds within the MRFF more broadly or within the Medical Research Commercialisation initiative?

SPEAKER: I think more broadly.

MASHA SOMI: More broadly.

So, there are legal requirements around who is able to hold an MRFF grant, and these are set out in our legislation.

The requirements that are probably most relevant for SMEs is around to be a corporation, and so if an SME is a corporation they're already able to apply for funding through the MRFF.

We've had some changes through our arrangements with the National

Health and Medical Research Council and introduced a new concept of an Eligible Organisation which has significantly expanded the types of organisations that can apply for MRFF funding through NHMRC.

And that information is available on our website and also on the NHMRC website.

And I'd really encourage you to have a look or encourage everyone to have a look.

The arrangements that were quite broad around applications, were already in play for Business Grants Hub.

And really the effort that we took last year was to bring the two grant hubs into alignment with the MRFF.

SPEAKER: The next question is about the two hubs.

So, there's a comment that the NHMRC seems to be more slick, is there any consideration of making the application more aligned between the two administrators?

MASHA SOMI: Definitely. I mean, the two hubs are different.

They do service slightly different groups and NHMRC is a specialised hub for health and medical research and Business Grants Hub is a much broader grant hub and has come over time to undertake health and medical research grant opportunities on behalf of the department.

We are aware of some of the concerns around the application processes, particularly the application forms, with Business Grants Hub and are currently in negotiations and discussions with them around how to refine their application forms and processes to make them more streamlined and a little bit more tailored to the needs of health and medical researchers.

SPEAKER: Have you analysed how MRFF funds have been allocated between the States and Territories, so that more or less aligned with population size?

MASHA SOMI: We have had a high level look at that.

And certainly something we're looking to delve a little bit more into and also publish.

I'm sorry, I don't have the details with me at the moment.

But that is something that we are looking to make publicly available over time.

SPEAKER: Are there likely to be more grant opportunities opening this year in addition to those ones that are currently open?

MASHA SOMI: It's hard to tell.

I guess the important note is that we are currently in caretaker and any decisions around allocations of funding going forward will be subject to a decision by the incoming government once that's formed.

And so those are matters that will be resolved once we have a new government.

SPEAKER: Will there be an evaluation of the efficacy of the new funding models, for example, accelerator or incubator, co-funding etc?

MASHA SOMI: Yes.

So, we have a MRFF Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Strategy.

And that sets a framework for evaluating and assessing the performance of all MRFF-funded activities.

We do need to look at the impact of some of the new grant models over time.

The key issue from my perspective is it's still quite early days in that we've only been running those new models for probably 18 months or so.

So, we would have a very few number of grants that have commenced and certainly none that would have been completed within the timeframe so far.

But it is on our mind to make sure that we are assessing the impact of the change to the new grant models over time.

SPEAKER: If a researcher has already translated their research into a small business already but for it to flourish needs some additional investment, what would be the best avenue, initiative, for funding, be?

MASHA SOMI: It's really, really difficult to respond to that question without an understanding of the specific project.

There are a range of initiatives within the MRFF and also today I talked about the Biomedical Translation Fund.

There are also a range of new initiatives that sit outside of the health portfolio, for example, in the Department of Industry,

Science, Energy and Resources.

So, if you're able to send through a little bit more information through our mrff@health.gov.au, we can have a look at the specific question and the specific project and be able to provide some advice that's tailored to specific circumstances.

SPEAKER: Have you undertaken any analysis on how much funding is going towards different medical conditions?

MASHA SOMI: We haven't as yet looked at that in detail.

Obviously, we have the key, some understanding about the key conditions, for example,

cancer because that's of interest and we're regularly contributing to reports and advice and information around those conditions.

Again, this is an area for further investigation as we build our data set and build the information on the grants that were funded.

SPEAKER: The next question is about the MRFF Eligible Organisations.

So, why there are no hospitals or health services in the EOs?

MASHA SOMI: So, there has been a definition within the MRFF Act around the organisations that are able to apply.

We undertook a review - last year I think it was - and then worked with the Department of Finance as part of a process to amend the MRFF Act.

Part of the changes was to make it clear that hospitals should be able to apply and some other organisations as well.

That legislation passed the House of Representatives in November 2021, however didn't pass through the Senate before government was prorogued.

What that means is, once there's a government in place those deliberations can commence again and we'll have a look at whether there's an appetite or an interest in proceeding with those legislative amendments.

So, there's no more questions in the chat.

Would anybody like to send some last-minute questions in?

No questions at this stage.

Sue, is there anything else you'd like to say before we close?

SUE MACLEMAN: No, I'm just excited about the MRFF programs that we're deploying and the impact they're having.

And I think we're seeing that right across the MRFF.

And I think it'd be good to get some of those data sets and reflections as we think about how we design new programs moving forward.

MASHA SOMI: Thank you.

So, I think our time is up.

Thank you everyone for attending today and I look forward to seeing you at the next webinar.

Video type:
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Description:

This video is a recording of the MRFF webinar held on 12 April 2022. The webinar was hosted by Dr Masha Somi, Chief Executive Officer, Health and Medical Research Office. Our guest speaker was Ms Sue MacLeman, Chair of the MTPConnect Board.

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Read the webinar presentation.

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