AAMRI eNews 1st edition 2017

AAMRI eNews 1st edition 2017

13th February, 2017

In this issue

  1. AAMRI news – AAMRI Convention date change, AAMRI President in The Australian, and more
  2. Government update – New Health Minister publicly supporting medical research, and more
  3. NHMRC & ARC updates – New clinical trials resource, and more
  4. Sector news – Australia Day Award winners, and more
  5. Reports & resources
  6. Funding & award opportunities
  7. Events & conferences

1. AAMRI news

Investing in medical research will help Australia have a world-leading healthy system
AAMRI President Tony Cunningham had an op-ed published in The Australian last week. The piece makes the case for increased government investment in health and medical research in order to save the health system money in the longer term.

2017 AAMRI Convention – date change!
Federal Parliament’s sitting dates have changed, which means our planned date for the 2017 AAMRI Annual Dinner, part of our Convention, was no longer on a sitting day. As the dinner is a great opportunity to engage with MPs and Senators about the work of MRIs we have had to move to another sitting date. The limited availability of the Great Hall at Parliament House has meant we will now have the Convention a little later than usual, on 6 and 7 December. We look forward to seeing you there!

AAMRI’s Pre-Budget submission
Our Pre-Budget submission argues that new Health Minister Greg Hunt’s vision for Australia to have the best health system by working with Australia’s medical researchers can only be realised through smart investment in health and medical research. We state that Minister Hunt’s vision is achievable, but will require a steadfast commitment to deliver the Government’s flagship $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund, and careful attention to plug the current holes in health and medical research funding.

AAMRI submission to the Draft 2016 National Research Infrastructure Roadmap
AAMRI responded in support of the key recommendations highlighted in the draft Roadmap. This includes the nine focus areas that address current and future infrastructure needs, and the development of an investment plan that includes sustainable funding mechanisms for national research infrastructure facilities.

2.  Government update 

New Health Minister and Innovation Minister on health and medical research
As we noted last month, both the new Health Minister Greg Hunt, and the new Innovation Minister Arthur Sinodinos, have both in the past expressed their support for health and medical research. Since taking on the health portfolio last month, Minister Hunt has continued to speak of medical research as an important part of the health system, going so far as to call it the Fourth Pillar of the health system. He has also spoken on the importance of the upcoming investment in health and medical research through the Medical Research Future Fund, and of his personal interest in mental illness.

$125 million in NHMRC Program Grants announced
Health Minister Greg Hunt visited AAMRI member Peter Mac to announce the outcomes of the latest NHMRC Program Grants round. AAMRI members did well in the grants with Peter Mac, The George, The Florey, QIMR Berghofer and the Burnet Institute all receiving significant grants.

Input sought on CRC themes and priorities for next two years
The Federal Government is seeking input from the industry, science and research communities on priority research themes for upcoming selection rounds of the Cooperative Research Centres (CRC) Programme. Public consultation, closing on 15 February, will identify possible themes and priorities for CRC and CRC‑Project selection rounds over the next two years.

Performance Review of the Australian Innovation, Science and Research System 2016
Innovation and Science Australia’s (ISA) Performance Review of the Australian Innovation, Science and Research System was released yesterday. The ISR System Review is the first step in ISA’s work to develop a strategic plan to 2030. The review found that Australia is above average at knowledge creation but needs to improve on knowledge transfer and application.

Review of Australia’s health system performance information and reporting frameworks
The purpose of the review is to identify how the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council can modernise, strengthen and rationalise Australia’s health system performance information and reporting frameworks. The preliminary findings and recommendations for the review are open for public consultation until 17 February.

NSW: New Premier and Health & Medical Research Minister
New NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has appointed Bradley Hazzard as both Health Minister and Minister for Medical Research.


Seeking involvement of industry experts in NHMRC peer review
The NHMRC invites individuals with industry experience related to health and medical research commercialisation to participate in peer review of the Development Grants scheme.

Launch of the National Scientific Committees: A new Clinical Trials resource
Two new National Scientific Committees will provide expert advice to researchers and Human Research Ethics Committees (HRECs) on complex genetic studies and clinical trials involving medical devices. Established by the NHMRC as a pilot project, the committees will safeguard participant wellbeing and improve the start-up times for medical research. During the pilot project, all HRECs will have access to expertise in areas of research where such capability may have been traditionally difficult to source.

NHMRC Joint Call for Research with A*STAR, Singapore
The NHMRC/ A*STAR Joint Call for Research on Molecular Mechanisms of Metabolic Diseases is now open. Minimum data requirements are due in RGMS on 1 March.

ARC: Discovery Indigenous 2018
The Discovery Indigenous scheme provides funding to Administering Organisations to support research programmes led by an Indigenous Australian researcher and build research capacity of higher degree research and early career researchers. Proposals should be submitted to the ARC by 29 March.

4.  Sector news

Australia Day Award winners
Medical researchers once again featured prominently on Australia Day, including the Australian of the Year, Emeritus Professor Alan Mackay-Sim, a biomedical researcher. Congratulations to the six AAMRI member institutes who have recipients working for them.

Australian of the Year Alan Mackay-Sim: it’s time to take politics out of research
Newly-appointed Australian of the Year, Emeritus Professor Alan Mackay-Sim, has made a plea for politics to be taken out of research and for consistent funding.

Professor Grant McArthur appointed new Executive Director of the VCCC
Following an international search, eminent Australian clinician scientist Professor Grant McArthur has been appointed to lead the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre as Executive Director. Professor McArthur brings a wealth of experience and a personal and professional determination to see Victoria’s world-class cancer research accelerated into better outcomes for patients.

Cancer treatment infections challenged under new antibiotic test in $2.5m project
Peter Mac will lead a new Centre for Research Excellence for Infection to better predict which cancer patients are at risk of infection, track emerging multi-resistant infections earlier, and improve treatments to save lives.

Improving rehabilitation with research funding
Western Australia’s brightest neurotrauma researchers will be able to apply for $600,000 in funding to undertake innovative research aimed at improving rehabilitation for people with catastrophic injuries. The Insurance Commission of Western Australia will provide the funding over three years, from July 1, 2017 to the Neurotrauma Research Program at the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research.

Cancer drug approved by Therapeutic Goods Administration
A drug that melts away cancer in some patients with advanced forms of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia has been approved by Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration.

Developed by AAMRI member Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in conjunction with Peter Mac and the Royal Melbourne Hospital, Venetoclax — which will be marketed as Venclexta — has been approved for some stage-four patients of the disease.

New robotic drug discovery platform for ACT
A new robotic system to fast-track the development of new drugs to fight cancer and other diseases has arrived at AAMRI member, the John Curtin School of Medical Research. The High Throughput Robotic Target and Drug Discovery Platform features specialised robotics and precision instruments that will enable researchers to test thousands of possible drug compounds against hundreds of disease cells, to find the best possible treatment for patients.

CRC Projects Directory and selection round outcomes
Congratulations to AAMRI member NeuRA on being awarded a CRC-P along with other partners on for research into targeted therapy for sleep apnoea. Applications for the next round close on 22 March.

5.  Reports and resources

10-year plan for Australia’s medtech, biotech and pharmaceutical sector
MTPConnect – the Medical Technologies and Pharmaceuticals Industry Growth Centre – has launched its final Sector Competitiveness Plan, a 10-year strategic plan to maximise the innovation, productivity and competitiveness of Australia’s medical technology, biotechnology and pharmaceutical (MTP) sector.

How to write a research grant application for the NHMRC
Professional Scientists Australia have partnered with Dr Saraid Billiards, Head of Strategy and Engagement of SAGE and former Director of Project Grants with the NHMRC, to make a video with helpful information for completing a grant application.

More cancer cases diagnosed, but overall rates falling and survival rates improving
The latest cancer report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) shows that while cancer is a major cause of ill health in Australia, and more cases are being diagnosed, death rates have continued to fall since the 1980s, and incidence rates have also decreased in recent years. The report, Cancer in Australia 2017, estimates that more than 134,000 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in Australia in 2017 – an average of 367 diagnoses each day and 2.8 times as high as in 1982.

AIHW deaths data
The AIHW has updated its Deaths webpage with new data.

Report on Government Services 2017: Health
The Productivity Commission’s Health volume E includes performance reporting for primary and community health, ambulance services, public hospitals and mental health management. It also includes a sector overview for Health.

Envisaging a more gender equitable workplace
Professor Tom Welton, Dean of the Faculty of Natural Sciences at Imperial College London, recently visited Australia on a SAGE-sponsored tour. Tom was Head of the Chemistry Department from August 2007 to December 2014, during which time the Department achieved an Athena Swan Gold Award. Jennifer de Vries has written a handy summary of his visit.

New resource for research in healthcare social media
Symplur has launched a new project in collaboration with Stanford Medicine X to further research in healthcare social media, creating a public hub for all things healthcare social media research.

Women in STEMM Australia 2016 summary
In the past year, Women in STEMM Australia has collaborated with a suite of partners and collaborators to increase the profile of women in science, technology, engineering,
mathematics and medicine across a broad range of disciplines and professional sectors.

6.  Funding & award opportunities

Citizen Science Grants
Citizen Science Grants is an element of the Inspiring Australia – Science Engagement Programme. It provides grants on a competitive basis to support community participation in scientific research projects that have a national impact. Applications close on 17 February.

Get ON it
Applications are open for ON, Australia’s sci-tech accelerator. ON Prime is a part-time pre-accelerator that brings together Australia’s brightest researchers with leading entrepreneurs, business and commercialisation specialists and inspiring mentors. Applications close 24 February.

Vic: New Fellowships to boost health and medical research
The Victorian Government has announced its inaugural Victorian Health and Medical Research Fellowships, with three four-year fellowships on offer, each worth a total of $800,000. The Fellowships will support a university, health service or medical research institute to employ a highly skilled researcher that is working across the areas of bioinformatics, genomics and health services research.

Qld: Turning research into reality
The $1 million Advance Queensland Founders’ Fellowships will provide 10 local researchers and clinicians with the opportunity to commercialise their work. The Founders’ Fellowship program is designed to increase the business and entrepreneurial skills of Queensland researchers and clinicians, as well as expand the pool of entrepreneurial talent in the state.

$500K MedTech Innovator Competition
MedTech Innovator is the medical technology industry’s nonprofit global competition and accelerator for innovative medical device, digital health and diagnostic companies. In 2017, MedTech Innovator and its partners will give out over $500K in cash prizes, scholarships, and in-kind awards. Applications close 28 February.

Science to Art Award 2017
The NHMRC Science to Art Award will recognise outstanding examples of the art that has arisen from research funded by NHMRC. The winner of this biennial Award will receive a framed print of their image and acknowledgement by the NHMRC. Entries close 3 March.

NSW Genomics Collaborative Grants Program
For the 2017 round of this program, funding will only go to those applications that utilise existing bio-specimens from the 45 and Up Study and/or are to be collected from the study cohort. with $2.46 million being made available for grants in 2017. Applications close 6 March.

Call for multinational research projects for pathway analysis across neurodegenerative diseases
The European Union Joint Programme – Neurodegenerative Disease (JPND) is aimed at tackling the challenge of neurodegenerative diseases and coordinating investment into research to find causes, develop cures, and identify appropriate ways to care for those with neurodegenerative diseases. Proposals are invited for ambitious, innovative, multinational and multidisciplinary collaborative research projects to perform network analyses to further elucidate the common underlying mechanisms involved. Pre-proposals must be submitted by 6 March.

2017 JDRF PhD Top-up Scholarships and Travel Grants
The JDRF PhD Top-up Scholarship is worth up to $6000 per year to support full-time or part-time Australian PhD students pursuing research relevant to JDRF’s mission – to accelerate life-changing breakthroughs to cure, prevent and treat Type 1 Diabetes and its complications.
JDRF also provides grants of up to $2,000 for domestic travel, and up to $4,000 for international travel to early stage scientists, and allied health/nursing professionals. The awards are designed to provide funding for travel to research institutions or scientific meetings, for the purpose of furthering the recipient’s expertise in type 1 diabetes research or management.
Applications close for both on 15 March.

NBCF-Movember Foundation Prostate and Breast Cancer Research Collaboration Initiative
The National Breast Cancer Foundation and the Movember Foundation are joining forces for the first time, funding research to help transform the lives of men and women around the world diagnosed with prostate and breast cancer. The new scheme will offer a maximum of two translational research grants of $2.5 million to Australian medical researchers whose research projects are targeting breast, prostate and ovarian cancer. Applications close 31 March.

2017 NFMRI Annual Grant Round
Expressions of interest for the 2017 annual grant round for the National Foundation for Medical Research and Innovation (NFMRI) are now open. The general call for EOI is only open for Portfolio 2 and Portfolio 3 applications this year. The common focus of portfolio 2 and 3 grants is enabling researchers to access research capability and capacity beyond their labs and institution to advance their biomedical discoveries and innovations. Applications close 6 April.

Bringing Australian and international SMEs and researchers together
The Australian Government is offering grant funding to help Australian small and medium enterprises and researchers work with international partners to develop innovative products and services. The second round of priming grants of $7,000 will enable Australian SMEs and researchers to meet and collaborate with international partners to progress their ideas.

7.  Events & conferences

AusIndustry Accelerating Commercialisation Information Workshop, 8 March, Melbourne, free
Accelerating Commercialisation is an element of the Australian Government’s Entrepreneurs’ Programme and offers inventors, start-ups, early-stage and mature SMEs access to a network of experts, connections with the research sector, exposure to investors and potential partners and matched grant funding of up to $1 million. Join this interactive and practical session to learn about the grants and services offered by Accelerating Commercialisation.

CRC Association’s annual conference, Canberra, 23-25 May
Collaborating is a key factor to innovation success. Collaborate | Innovate is the ultimate mix of inspiring and informative speakers, networking, practical sessions and you can expect to make new contacts for future collaboration at the Business-Research Match-up.

AusMedtech 2017, Melbourne, 23-25 May
AusMedtech 2017 will be co-presented with the International Conference on Mechanics in Medicine and Biology (ICMMB) for the first time this year. The joint conference will bring together key stakeholders of the Australian and international medical devices and diagnostics sector to explore topics such as biomaterials, medical devices, assistive technologies for an ageing population, tissue engineering, 3D printing and the mechanics of future medicine.