AAMRI eNews 6th edition 2015

AAMRI eNews 6th edition 2015

7th July, 2015

In this issue

  1. AAMRI news – Vale Alastair Lucas AO, AAMRI submission to NHMRC Fellowship Review, MRFF update
  2. Government update – Have your say on the future of Australian science, CRC consultations, state budgets, and more
  3. NHMRC & ARC updates – New NHMRC committees, new ARC website, Australian Laureate Fellows announced, and more
  4. Sector news – Athena SWAN gender equity pilot in Australia, survey on clinical academic career pathways, potential $10 billion boost for the NIH, and more
  5. Reports & resources
  6. Funding & award opportunities
  7. Upcoming conferences & events

1. AAMRI news

Vale Alastair Lucas
It was with great sadness that AAMRI learned of the passing of Alastair Lucas yesterday. Alastair was exceptionally generous in his time and energy for our sector. He served as Chair of AAMRI’s Advisory Committee, and was renowned for his service as Chair of the Burnet Institute for 12 years. His contributions have had an indelible impact not only on Australian health care, but also on global health through the programs in which he was involved in many developing countries. Most recently, Alastair was instrumental in establishing the MRFF Action Group. We hope the MRFF will become a reality soon and will remain a lasting legacy to a truly exceptional person.

Our deepest condolences go to his partner Louise, family, friends and colleagues. If you wish to honour Alastair’s memory, donations can be made to the Burnet Institute.

NHMRC Fellowship submission
AAMRI’s response to the NHMRC Fellowship Review is to advocate unequivocally for the retention and enhancement of the NHMRC Fellowship schemes as part of a whole-of-system review of NHMRC programs.

In our submission, we outline a proposal for an enhanced fellowship scheme, drawing on the approaches of the Wellcome Trust, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research where, in addition to the fellow’s salary, fellowships provide support for a fellow’s core research team and their experimental expenses. We also make recommendations to better support female researchers and divergent career pathways, and urge that NHMRC Fellowships support the country’s best researchers irrespective of their career stage.

Our full submission can be found on the AAMRI website.

MRFF update
As we noted in our recent MRFF update, the legislation for the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) has passed the House of Representatives and has been referred to a Senate Committee, which is due to report back on 10 August. AAMRI, in conjunction with Research Australia and the broader MRFF Action Group, is in the process of finalising a submission to the committee.

2.  Government update 

Have your say on the future of science in Australia
The Australian Government has called for ideas and feedback from industry, the research and education sectors, and the wider community on a long-term strategy for boosting Australia’s capability in STEM. They have released a consultation paper to stimulate discussion. The paper responds to the key issues raised by the Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Chubb, in his recent report. Submissions close 31 July.

Parliamentary Alliance for Research and Innovation formed
A Parliamentary Alliance for Research and Innovation has been established to raise national awareness of the socioeconomic impacts of research and innovation for Australia. Senators Zhenya Wang and Linda Reynolds are co-chairs of the alliance.

Consultation on CRC Programme Guidelines
In May, the Federal Government released Growth through Innovation and Collaboration: A Review of the Cooperative Research Centres Programme. The report recommends a more targeted focus of the programme and contains 18 recommendations, which have all been accepted by the Australian Government. The Department of Industry and Science is holding stakeholder consultations in most capital cities during August to inform revisions to the CRC Programme Guidelines.

Consultation: Limiting FBT concessions on salary sacrificed entertainment benefits
The Federal Treasury has released exposure draft legislation on the 2015-16 budget measure to limit fringe benefits tax concessions on salary packaged entertainment benefits. The budget measure, which introduces a separate grossed-up cap of $5,000 for salary packaged meal entertainment and entertainment facilities leasing expenses (including for employees of medical research institutes), will apply from 1 April 2016. Salary packaged entertainment benefits will also become reportable fringe benefits. Submissions on the draft legislation are due by 21 August 2015.

Search for Australia’s next Chief Scientist
The Australian Government has begun the process to select Australia’s next Chief Scientist to succeed Professor Ian Chubb AC, whose tenure concludes at the end of this year. Applications close 17 July 2015.

Accelerating Commercialisation grants announced
The Australian Government announced its first round of grants under the Entrepreneurs’ Infrastructure Programme’s Accelerating Commercialisation initiative. The first round included $10.6 million in funding, which will be matched by investment from business.

Independent review of medicine & medical device approvals released
The first report from the Federal Government-commissioned independent review of Medicines and Medical Devices Regulation has been released and highlights the importance of cutting red tape and improving timely access to medicines and medical devices.

White Paper on Developing Northern Australia
The Australian Government has released the first ever White Paper on Developing Northern Australia, which includes $75 million to establish a Cooperative Research Centre on Developing Northern Australia, $15.3 million towards tropical health innovation (previously announced), and an international investment forum in late 2015 to bring together international investors to help support the new investment prospectus Northern Australia Emerging Opportunities in an Advanced Economy.

Investor Visa reforms promote VC investment and philanthropy
The Australian Government’s reformed Significant Investor Visa (SIV) and new Premium Investor Visa (PIV) took effect from 1 July 2015. These visas provide permanent residency for individuals making significant investments in the Australian economy to promote innovation and the commercialisation of Australian ideas, research and development. SIV applicants are now required to invest at least $5 million in complying investments over four years, including at least $500,000 in Australian venture capital or private equity funds investing in start-ups and small private companies. PIV applicants must invest at least $15 million, with philanthropic donations included as eligible investments.

Employee Share Scheme changes take effect
Changes to the Employee Share Scheme (ESS) taxation regime (potentially relevant to biotech start-up companies) will take effect from 1 July 2015. The changes, which reverse some of the changes made in 2009, allow the taxation regimen to be deferred for longer periods and introduce a significant new concession for start-ups.

Health sector members gather for industry forum
Representatives from the medical technologies, pharmaceutical, biotechnology, chemicals and plastics and food manufacturing sectors gathered in Canberra on 25 June for the Australian Government’s health industry stakeholder forum. Minister for Industry and Science, the Hon Ian Macfarlane, and the Minister for Health, the Hon Sussan Ley, jointly chaired the forum, which included discussions around industry growth, improving the environment for clinical trials, tax initiatives and regulation reform.

Health for Development Strategy 2015-2020
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade released its Health for Development Strategy 2015-2020 to guide health investments by Australian Government aid programs. Included in its five investment priorities is investment to promote health innovation.

Expert reference group meets on mental health sector reform
The first meeting of the expert reference group tasked by the Australian Government to guide the implementation of recommendations from the National Mental Health Commission’s landmark review was held on 18 June. The reference group includes experts from across the mental health sector including primary care, suicide prevention, research, consumer representation, psychiatry, psychology and youth mental health.

NSW Budget
The recent NSW Budget included $159 million over four years for health and medical research, much of which was outlined in promises in the lead-up to the recent state election, including:

  • $40 million over four years ($10 million in 2015-16) for a new Health Services Research Support Program to support health and medical research by NSW Health services
  • $25 million to expand and improve paediatric research facilities
  • An extra $20 million over four years ($5 million in 2015-16) for the Medical Research Support Program to support independent medical research institutes
  • $10 million for NeuRA to complete refurbishment of the Margarete Ainsworth building at Randwick and enhance the work of NeuRA and the Schizophrenia Research Institute
  • $21 million over four years to support additional research into medical cannabis
  • $10 million to the University of Sydney Westmead precinct redevelopment to create an innovation hub connecting research, education and health services
  • An additional $4.8 million for the Medical Devices Fund and commercialisation initiatives.

SA Budget
The South Australian Budget included $15 million over two years for a fund to attract new industries to SA, including health and advanced manufacturing, and an additional $5 million over the next four years for SAHMRI.


New NHMRC Principal Committees established
The NHMRC has established two new Principal Committees: the Health Translation Advisory Committee (HTAC) and the Health Innovation Advisory Committee (HIAC). HTAC will advise the CEO and Council of the NHMRC on opportunities to improve health outcomes in areas such as clinical care, public/population/environmental health, communicable diseases, and prevention of illness through effective translation of research into health care and clinical practice. HIAC will advise on issues related to the development, commercialisation and uptake of innovative technologies and practices arising from health and medical research.

Members of the committees will be announced by the Health Minister soon.

New ARC website and search engine
The ARC has released a new website and a Grants Search function, which provides easy access to information about ARC grants and who they have been awarded to. The ARC is encouraging sector feedback on the website and Grants Search function.

Australian Laureate Fellows announced
Fifteen Australian Laureate Fellows will receive a total of $42 million from the ARC over the next five years to commence research programs exploring fields including: translating ‘big data’ to meet challenges in industry; environment and health; and exploring a new ‘Pharming’ industry that uses plants to deliver medicine.

ARC Linkage Project grants announced
The Minister for Education and Training announced $86.9 million in funding for 252 ARC Linkage Project grants to promote industry-university linkages.

Outcomes from NHMRC Women in Health Sciences Workshop
A summary of outcomes from the WiHS Workshop held on 25 May is now available online. Those wishing to provide comments on the four objectives should send them to WiHS@nhmrc.gov.au by 20 July.

4.  Sector news

Call for applications: SAGE Pilot of Athena SWAN in Australia

The Australian Academy of Science is coordinating a two-year Australian pilot of the UK’s Athena SWAN Charter to improve gender equity in science and research in Australia. The Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) Pilot is being overseen by the SAGE Steering Committee,  co-chaired by Professors Nalini Josh and Brian Schmidt.

Up to 20 universities, medical research institutes and publicly-funded research agencies will be selected to participate in the SAGE Pilot. Based on the UK’s Athena Swan accreditation framework, the pilot will require participants to collect, analyse and present data on gender equity policies and practices, as well as identify gaps and opportunities for improvement. Participants will work towards an Athena SWAN Award at the Institutional Bronze level, which is a mandatory requirement for future Silver and Gold awards at the institutional and departmental levels.

Applications for STEM institutions to participate in the SAGE Pilot close on 20 July.

Survey: Clinical Academic Career Pathways – Medical Research Institutes
The Royal College of Australasian College of Surgeons is undertaking a survey to identify recognised clinical academic training pathways. The college is requesting medical research institutes, medical colleges, university medical schools and teaching hospitals to take part in the survey. The information retrieved will be used to propose models of training pathways for clinical academics for further consideration.

The online survey should be completed by a single representative of the organisation and takes 15-20 minutes to complete.

NIH sees reversal of fortune with proposed funding boost
After a dozen years in which the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget has remained flat — representing a 23 percent loss in purchasing power — it  looks like it might receive a significant funding boost. A House sub-committee has voted unanimously in support of the non-partisan 21st Century Cures Act, which aims to accelerate the discovery, development and delivery of life-saving and life-improving therapies through a range of policy initiatives and funding increases.

The Bill would provide the NIH with an additional $10 billion over five years, as well as additional funding for the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). New funding in the Bill is limited to a five year time frame, and all spending measures are offset by other government savings reforms. The Bill, which has been under development since April 2014, will now go before the full legislature, with the committee aiming for it to be enacted into law by the end of 2015.

New collaboration boosts Queensland’s medical research
QUT’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation and QIMR Berghofer have entered into a partnership that will promote greater collaboration between these two major medical research institutes. Under the agreement, QUT will have access to specialist health and medical research laboratories and facilities in the QIMR Berghofer complex, with QIMR Berghofer eventually housing up to 80 QUT researchers.

Award to mental health researcher for online tool development
Dr Philip Batterham has been awarded the 2015 Commonwealth Health Minister’s Award for Excellence in Health and Medical Research for his work in the development of a mental health online support tool. Dr Batterham is an NHMRC Fellow at the National Institute for Mental Health Research at the Australian National University.

Consultation Paper on the Pricing Framework for Australian Public Hospital Services
The Independent Hospital Pricing Authority (IHPA) has released its consultation paper on the Pricing Framework for Australian Public Hospital Services 2016-17 to the public for comment until 27 July.

New Directory to promote Australian medtech companies in China
AusBiotech has launched the AusBiotech Directory of Australian Medtech Companies to support small to medium-sized Australian medical devices and diagnostics companies that are seeking to engage with and in China.

Science Next Collaborative
Key Australian scientists have joined the Science Next Collaborative, a think tank to help speed up the process of commercialising promising research through new business links. Founded by Sigma-Aldrich, the Science Next Collaborative is bringing together leading Australian scientists to facilitate an exchange of knowledge, ideas, educational tools and best practice pathways. The initiative is aiming to especially assist early-to-mid-career researchers to help bridge the gap from basic and promising research discovery to translational research and its commercialisation.

5.  Reports and resources

Article: Science funding should go to to people not projects
This article in The Conversation, by Dean of Science and Professor of Molecular Biology at UNSW Merlyn Crossley, caused quite the discussion on Twitter last week on how to improve science funding.

Global Burden of Disease Study 2013
Published recently in The Lancet, this study provides up-to-date evidence about levels and trends in disease and injury incidence, prevalence, and years lived with disability, and is designed to be an essential input into global, regional, and national health policies.

Australians forced to wait 15 months for new drugs vs US & Europe: Report
Australian patients are being forced to wait up to 15 months longer to access the latest breakthrough medicines than in the US or Europe because drug companies are delaying bringing them to Australia, a new report has revealed.

AIHW Report: Alcohol and other drug treatment services in Australia 2013-14
Approximately 119,000 clients received more than 180,700 treatment episodes from 795 publicly funded alcohol and other drug treatment agencies in 2013-14. Alcohol was the most common drug leading clients aged 30 and over to seek treatment, while cannabis was most common for clients aged 10-29.

AIHW: Perinatal data
Maternal and perinatal data displays provide an overview of mothers and babies, maternal demographics and the antenatal period for 2010, 2011 and 2012, using data from the National Perinatal Data Collection. Some trend data from 2002 are also presented, where data permits.

Nature: US export rules threaten research
The US government is considering policy changes that could dramatically affect how US researchers handle equipment and information that have national-security implications. Among other impacts, scientists would need to reconsider what they can discuss with graduate students from other countries, or when traveling abroad on work trips.

6.  Funding & award opportunities

CSL Florey Medal nominations closing soon
The 2015 CSL Florey Medal will be awarded to an Australian biomedical researcher for significant achievements in biomedical science and/or human health advancement for research conducted primarily in Australia. Nominations for this $50,000 prize close on 10 July. The winner will be presented at AAMRI’s Annual Dinner at Parliament House in November.

The Next Big Thing (Vic)
The Next Big Thing series offers early-to-mid-career researchers (EMCRs), who have completed their PhD or other higher degree in the past 15 years, the opportunity to communicate their research to a diverse audience in a public forum. EMCRs will share their achievements and inspire with their passion and dedication. Applications are invited from EMCRs based within a Victorian academic and research institution undertaking cross-disciplinary research. Applications close 17 July.

NNIDR Dementia Research Grants: Priority Round 1
The NHMRC National Institute for Dementia Research (NNIDR) Grants Scheme has allocated funding to support a small number of Australian-based researchers who are participating as external collaborators on international consortia under the European Union Joint Programme – Neurodegenerative Disease. Call for proposals for European research projects on neurodegenerative diseases: risk and protective factors, longitudinal cohort approaches and advanced experimental models. Applications close 29 July.

2016 Fulbright Scholarship application round opens
If you are interested in research or study in the US, consider applying for a Fulbright Scholarship. The Australian-American Fulbright Commission offers Scholarships to Australian citizens across all career stages. Applications close 1 August.

Inaugural Inspiring Women Fellowships (Vic)
veski, supported by the Victorian Office of the Lead Scientist, is calling for applications for Inspiring Women Fellowships. The fellowships, funded by the Victorian Government, are designed to support female leaders who are planning for, experiencing, or returning from a career break. Applications close 6 August.

Future Fellowship applications open
The ARC has released the funding rules for the next round of the Future Fellowships scheme for mid-career researchers, with applications for 50 fellowships having opened on 30 June. Researchers undertaking health and medical research remain excluded from the scheme. Proposals close 11 August.

Cerebral palsy research grants
The Research Foundation of the Cerebral Palsy Alliance is offering Research Project and Career Development grants. Project applications are open to individuals, groups of researchers, committees or project-focused foundations, but the Chief Investigators must be employed through an institution e.g. hospital, university or medical research institute. Applications close 31 August.

7. Upcoming conferences & events

United States–Australia Biomedical Research Partnership Conference, free, Canberra, 13 July
This conference has been organised by the US Embassy in partnership with the University of Canberra, NHMRC, the Australian Academy of Science, the Australian Academy of Health Medical Sciences, and the National Institutes of Health, and aims to strengthen US and Australian collaboration in health and medical research.

2015 Vincent Fairfax Ethics in Leadership Oration, free event, Melbourne, 29 July
Nobel laureate Professor Elizabeth Blackburn returns to Australia to deliver the 2015 Vincent Fairfax Ethics in Leadership Oration. Professor Blackburn will offer insights into the social value of research and discuss women in science, and will draw upon her latest research into the molecular nature of telomeres and their implication in aging-related processes and diseases.

Entrepreneurs workshop, free, Sydney, 30 July
This free event aims to inform and empower early and mid-career researchers on the roadblocks in the successful translation of research. Registrants will hear from the Department of Industry and ATP Innovations on how to drive research into successful start-up companies.

Australia China Health Summit 2015, Melbourne, 11 August
Hosted by Ausbiotech, this summit will encourage attendees to share knowledge about engaging in China and gain expert views and experiences of others who have successfully created linkages and partnerships in China.

Diagnosing Dementia – What Does the Future Hold?, free, Melbourne, 13 August
The CRC for Mental Health is joining with the Florey Institute of Neuroscience & Mental Health and Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia Research Foundation to present Diagnosing Dementia – What Does the Future Hold? Hosted by Paul Barclay (Host of ABC Big Ideas), an expert panel will discuss the future of detecting and diagnosing dementia, and how this research will help find a treatment.

Smashing the Glass Ceiling, free, Brisbane, 16 August
A panel of Queensland’s leading women scientists will speak in this Q&A forum. The scientists will talk about their career pathways in science and their advice for young women and girls considering a career in science, as well as discuss the challenges for women scientists wishing to get into more senior positions. The forum will also look at the mentoring programs offered to women scientists to help smash the glass ceiling.

Philanthropy for Health & Medical Research Conference, Sydney, 19 August
This annual event organised by Research Australia brings together senior decision makers from across the health and medical research sector for Australia’s only conference dedicated to philanthropy for health and medical research.

4th Annual NHMRC Symposium on Research Translation, Sydney, 27-28 October
This year’s theme is Policy and Research: Working together to improve the health of Australians. This theme reflects a growing international interest in understanding how researchers and policy makers can better share their expertise to improve health and health services.