Welcome increase in NHMRC grant rates with MRFF funding around the corner

Welcome increase in NHMRC grant rates with MRFF funding around the corner

5th December, 2016

The announcement of an improvement in the recent low success rates of National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Project Grant applications has brought some hope to the health and medical research sector, Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes (AAMRI) President Professor Tony Cunningham says.

Professor Cunningham says the NHMRC success rate of 15.2 per cent, up from 13.7 per cent in 2015, still meant a significant amount of vital, high quality medical research was not being done in Australia due to a lack of funding.

But with the NHMRC Structural Review of its grant program well underway and the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) expected to soon deliver its first investments in health and medical research, there is at last hope on the horizon for Australia’s best and brightest medical researchers, Professor Cunningham says.

“The current situation is exactly why the NHMRC Structural Review is so important for the health and medical research sector, and why the Federal Government’s MRFF is vital to Australians’ future health,” he said.

“There are going to be some disappointed and talented medical researchers hearing these NHMRC results. But there is finally room for hope within the sector as the MRFF is expected to start funding new research soon. The NHMRC Strategic Review will also soon be completed, which will provide an opportunity to move away from endless grant writing and low success rates, and towards providing longer-term support for our best researchers.

“The MRFF will help provide that pressure release, by delivering an additional $1 billion each year for medical research, effectively doubling government funding for medical research. To deliver this $1 billion per year, the MRFF account needs to build to $20 billion by 2021. The Government has already invested nearly $4.5 billion into the fund and so we are well on the way to seeing that become a reality.”

Professor Cunningham said he looked forward to a happier 2017 for health and medical researchers, and the many discoveries their work can deliver.

“Half of all Australians now live with a chronic illness such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes or mental health issues, and we have an ageing population. This is a time when research simply must be supported to find answers to these intractable and nationally debilitating problems,” Professor Cunningham said.

“If we want to save our health system money, we need to invest in health and medical research to help discover the causes of these illnesses and prevent very expensive conditions from occurring in the first place. By finding new ways to diagnose, treat and prevent disease we can improve health outcomes and deliver a more efficient health system. Only research can make these discoveries possible.”

In good news, researchers at many of Australia’s independent medical research institutes shone in the NHMRC’s grant approvals, demonstrating the quality of the research underway at these institutes.

“We congratulate the many AAMRI members who were successful in their grant applications, and look forward to the combined NHMRC and MRFF investing record levels in health and medical research in the coming years,” Professor Cunningham said.

“As the AAMRI Members Report 2016 released last week shows, Medical Research Institutes make a tremendous contribution to Australia’s health and wealth and they do this with less than half their funding coming from government.”

Media Contact: Rebecca Thorpe, 0401 419 590, rebecca.thorpe@aamri.org.au.