AAMRI eNews 8th edition 2015

AAMRI eNews 8th edition 2015

20th November, 2015


8th edition 2015

In this issue

  1. AAMRI news – AAMRI Convention, incoming AAMRI President-elect, What’s the fuss?
  2. Government update – MRI Review, new Chief Scientist, new commercialisation program
  3. NHMRC & ARC updates – Record low NHMRC success rate, NHMRC grant review, highest ranked grants
  4. Sector news – New CVD Alliance, SAGE pilot, medical research workforce survey
  5. Reports & resources
  6. Funding & award opportunities
  7. Events & conferences

1. AAMRI news

AAMRI 2015 National Convention wrap-up
The 2015 AAMRI National Convention, Annual Dinner and President’s Breakfast, held on 11-12 November, were a great success thanks to all who attended and the many guest speakers.
For the first time we filmed sessions so those of you who could not attend can get a sense of what was discussed over the two days. We have posted videos and PowerPoint presentations from all the Convention speakers, including from the Gender Equity sessionspeeches from the Annual Dinner including from the Health Minister, The Hon Sussan Ley, the President’s Breakfast speeches from Opposition Leader the Hon Bill Shorten and Greens Leader Senator Richard Di Natale, and other presentations from the Convention meetings.

Prof Tony Cunningham appointed AAMRI President-elect
Congratulations to Westmead Institute for Medical Research Executive Director, Professor Tony Cunningham, on his appointment as AAMRI President-elect at the AAMRI AGM in Canberra last week. Tony will take over the reins as AAMRI President from Professor Doug Hilton in November 2016.

2015 CSL Florey Medal winner Prof Perry Bartlett
Once again the CSL Florey Medal winner was announced at AAMRI’s Annual Dinner. The winner of this year’s award was Professor Perry Bartlett, founding Director of UQ’s Queensland Brain Institute. He received the Medal for his breakthrough discoveries, including finding that the adult brain could change and that neurons could regenerate.

What’s the fuss? campaign
The What’s the fuss? campaign in support of medical research and the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) was launched at Parliament House on 19 October. The campaign aims to give the community a better understanding of the important role health & medical research plays in all our lives. We need the community to see the MRFF as a ‘must have’ for Australia’s future if we are to ensure the Government’s fund reaches its $20 billion target by 2020.
Hopefully you will have seen the 30 second campaign ad with Carrie Bickmore, Ita Buttrose and other community leaders, researchers & patients on TV or via social media.
We encourage all of you to tweet, post and share the ad and the many other short patient and researcher videos with your colleagues, staff, community supporters and friends via social media (Twitter hashtag is #WTFuss). You can find videos and interviews on a whole range of diseases and research areas at whatsthefuss.org.au or the Campaign YouTube Channel. If you can’t find campaign videos relevant to you or your organisation, or if you’d like to share your own researcher or patient advocate stories, we’d love to hear from you! Please contact Rebecca Thorpe with suggestions at communications@aamri.org.au.

Submission to Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research
AAMRI provided feedback as part of a targeted consultation on the draft revised Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research. Our submission noted that, overall, the draft revised Code is a tremendous improvement on the current version, but that some inconsistencies and issues remain. The next phase of the Code revision process will be a public consultation.

Submission to Review of Research Policy and Funding Arrangements for Higher Education
This review, led by Dr Ian Watt AO, aims to develop a simpler, more transparent Government Research Block Grant system that, in addition to encouraging research quality and excellence, supports greater industry and end-user engagement in research. AAMRI’s submission urges the Government to consider research organisations beyond the Higher Education sector and to address all Government funding schemes for indirect research costs (not just the Research Block Grant system) if it wishes to deliver on its goals of streamlining research funding and boosting research translation.

2.  Government update 

Release of iMRI Review report
The Health Minister released the final report of the Review to Strengthen Independent Medical Research Institutes (iMRIs) at the AAMRI 2015 Annual Dinner. The report focusses on four domains – business efficiency, corporate sustainability, collaborative research relationships and translational impact.
The Review Panel recommended that a routine reporting mechanism and national database be established to collect standardised information from all Australian iMRIs. They also recommended the establishment of an iMRI Advisory Panel, which would draw on this database and consultations with individual iMRIs to provide expert advice to government funding bodies on iMRIs with respect to the four domains listed above, and to make recommendations to strengthen the sector. The database would also be available to iMRIs to assist with benchmarking. The Government has not responded to the report at this stage.

Release of Review of Medicines and Medical Devices Regulation final report
The second and final report from the Independent Review of Medicines and Medical Devices Regulation was released on 20 November. The final report makes 26 recommendations that address the regulatory frameworks for complementary medicines, and the advertising of therapeutic goods. It builds on the first report, which made 32 recommendations on regulatory frameworks for medicines, medical devices and unapproved therapeutic products.

Innovation front & centre of new PM’s agenda
The Hon Malcolm Turnbull, who was sworn in as Australia’s new Prime Minister on 15 September, has put innovation at the centre of his government’s economic agenda, as highlighted in his acceptance speech and in his speech at the Prime Minister’s Science Prizes dinner.
The Government is expected to release its highly anticipated National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA) in early December. There has been much speculation about what the statement will include, but a centrepiece is likely to be tax and corporate law changes to encourage investment during the risky, early stages of new ventures. Other themes will include research commercialisation, boosting talent and skills (including attracting talent back from overseas), and the government as an exemplar.

Federal Cabinet re-shuffle
The Prime Minister announced his new Cabinet on 20 September. The Hon Sussan Ley remains the Minister for Health and Minister for Sport, and adds Minister for Aged Care to her portfolio. The Hon Christopher Pyne is the new Minister for Industry, Innovation & Science, while Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham is now Minister for Education & Training. In the Outer Ministry, Senator the Hon Fiona Nash, who was previously the Assistant Minister for Health, is now the Minister for Rural Health. The Hon Ken Wyatt is the new Assistant Minister for Health, The Hon Karen Andrews is the Assistant Minister for Science and the Hon Wyatt Roy is the Assistant Minister for Innovation.

Dr Alan Finkel AO appointed Chief Scientist
Dr Alan Finkel AO has been appointed Australia’s next Chief Scientist and will commence in the role in January 2016. He succeeds Professor Ian Chubb AC, who has been in the role since May 2011. Dr Finkel is a prominent engineer, respected neuroscientist, successful entrepreneur and philanthropist with a personal commitment to innovation and commercialisation. He is currently the Chancellor of Monash University and President of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering.

Bill Ferris AC appointed new Chair of Innovation Australia
Former Garvan Institute Chair, Mr Bill Ferris AC, has been appointed Chair of Innovation Australia for the next three years. Mr Ferris founded Australia’s first venture capital firm and was Chair of Austrade for 12 years.

Australian Tropical Medicine Commercialisation Program launched
The Commonwealth Government’s $7.1 million Australian Tropical Medicine Commercialisation Program (announced in the 2015 Federal Budget) was launched on 8 November. The grant program will help build connections between Australian research organisations and the global health sector, including international pharmaceutical companies and philanthropic organisations. Companies incorporated in Australia and publicly funded research organisations are eligible to apply. The first funding round will open on 25 November and close 19 February 2016.

Funding of $15.8 million to support innovative Australian companies
The Assistant Minister for Innovation, Wyatt Roy, announced commercialisation grants for a further 30 Australian companies under the Entrepreneurs’ Program throughout October and November.

Consultation on intellectual property (IP) arrangements
The Productivity Commission has released an issues paper as part of its public inquiry into IP arrangements. Initial submissions in response to the issues paper are due by 30 November. There will be an opportunity for further submissions upon release of the Productivity Commission’s draft report in Mar/Apr 2016.

eHealth records back on the agenda
Health Minister Sussan Ley has announced a committee to oversee the rebooted personalised My Health Record system for patients and doctors as part of a $485 million package to deliver Australians an electronic medical record system. Ms Ley announced the appointment of Ms Robyn Kruk AM as the independent chair of the eHealth Implementation Taskforce Steering Committee responsible for the establishment of the Australian Commission for eHealth.

QLD: $40 million Business Development Fund
The $40 million Advance Queensland Business Development Fund announced in the Palaszczuk Government’s first budget was officially opened on 20 October. The fund aims to attract co-investment from private investors to help commercialise innovative ideas.

QLD: $25 million Advance Queensland Innovation Partnerships Program
The Queensland Premier also launched the $25 million Advance Queensland Innovation Partnerships Program on 19 November. Queensland universities and research organisations can apply for grants of up to $1.5 million to undertake research and development projects in collaboration with an industry or not-for-profit partner.

QLD: $25 million for Qld genomics alliance
The Queensland Government has committed $25 million for a new Queensland genomics alliance. A research consortium coordinated by The University of Queensland and including QIMR Berghofer, CSIRO, QUT and Queensland Health will receive $5 million per annum over five years.

QLD: $7 million for cancer clinical trials
Queensland Health together with Cancer Council Queensland are providing a five-year funding deal worth $7 million for independent cancer clinical trials in Queensland hospitals. In 2015-16 the funding will enable more than 140 trials focused on more than 12 cancers including breast, skin, pancreatic, ovarian, prostate, lung, bowel, cervical and head and neck cancers.

NSW: Mental health innovation fund
The $4 million NSW Government Mental Health Innovation Fund, announced on 13 November, will support innovation in mental health care and psychosocial support for people with mental illness. The fund will support government and non-government collaboration in improving mental health services. Applications to the fund are now open and close on 5 February 2016.

NSW: $7 million for NSW Genomics Collaborative Grants Program 
The NSW Government is providing $7 million over four years for the NSW Genomics Collaborative Grants Program, with $3 million available in 2014-15. This program will provide NSW researchers with access to the latest whole genome sequencing technology as part of a human genomics collaborative research program.

WA: $4 million means bright future for child research
Telethon and the Western Australian Government have awarded $4 million in grants to 15 research projects for child and adolescent health under the third round of the Telethon-Perth Children’s Hospital Research Fund, announced on 9 October. The fund, established in 2012, is a collaboration between the WA Department of Health and the Channel 7 Telethon Trust, each of which provided $2 million to the 2015 round of grants.

WA: New funding supports researchers
A new $1.2 million WA State Government funding initiative aimed at helping Western Australia’s medical and health research institutes to meet necessary infrastructure costs associated with their research programs was announced on 22 September. The new fund will operate in addition to the longstanding Medical and Health Research Infrastructure Fund (MHRIF), which supports the infrastructure needs of high-performing researchers at hospitals, universities and research institutes.

VIC: China export deal struck
Victoria will export its health and medical research and experience to China and will reap the benefits of China’s expertise, following historic agreements struck between the State and key Chinese provinces. The agreements between Victoria and the Jiangsu and Sichuan Provinces, announced on 24 September, will enable new healthcare training programs for Victorian GPs and allied health professionals, joint ventures in biomedical research and assistance to Jiangsu Province to help develop its aged care, primary and community health sectors.


NHMRC grant schemes review & peer review pilot 
The NHMRC will trial a new form of peer review involving more external assessments for the next round of Development Grants, which opened on 18 November. The NHMRC has also indicated that it will undertake an overarching review of its funding schemes, which is likely to take most of next year.

Record low NHMRC grant success rate
Last week’s announcement of a further fall in the already record low success rate of NHMRC Project Grant applications demonstrates the urgent need for the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) to deliver a boost to government funding for medical research. As you will know, the Project Grant success rate of 13.7 per cent is down from 14.9 per cent in 2014. AAMRI President Doug Hilton spoke to The Australian about the issue. Final funding outcomes and summary statistics (including gender breakdowns) for recent NHMRC funding announcements are available on the NHMRC website.

Highest-ranked stars of health & medical research recognised
The Australians behind new research to combat diseases and conditions like cancer, depression and birth defects have been presented with NHMRC Research Excellence Awards. Sixteen researchers received awards for having the top-ranked grant application in their category.

ARC Gender Equality Action Plan 2015–16
The ARC has released its Gender Equality Action Plan for 2015–16, highlighting actions it will take in the coming months to improve awareness and information about gender equality in research. The ARC has also released its Gender Equality in Research Statement—a statement of support and expectations for gender equality.

$357.7 million in ARC grant funding
On 30 October, the ARC announced $357.7 million in funding for 899 ARC grants, including Discovery Projects, Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards, Discovery Indigenous Awards, and Linkage, Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities Grants.

ARC Industrial Transformation Research Program – Medical Technologies & Pharmaceuticals
Priority areas for the current round of the ARC’s Industrial Transformation Research Program (ITRP) are based on the five Industry Growth Centre streams, including the stream on Medical Technologies and Pharmaceuticals. This stream is obviously exempt from the ARC Medical Research Policy (which deems applications in health and medical research ineligible for other ARC programs). As with other ARC schemes, independent MRIs, hospitals and other organisations outside of the Higher Education sector (other than National ICT Australia and AIATSIS) are not eligible administering organisations for this scheme; however, they are eligible to be Partner Organisations – see funding rules. Applications for the current round close on 10 December.

Australian partnership with United States to advance brain research
Australian researchers will soon be joining their US counterparts in one of the world’s most ambitious research efforts to understand the human brain. NHMRC and the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) have opened a joint funding round, which will close in December, as part of the United States’ Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative. Under this collaboration, NHMRC will provide funding to support Australian researchers to participate in the BRAIN Initiative, which was announced by President Obama in 2013.

4.  Sector news

Cardiovascular disease alliance formed
An alliance of high-profile researchers and peak bodies around the country have formed the Australian Cardiovascular Alliance (ACvA), which aims to be Australia’s peak leadership body for the advancement of research into heart, stroke and vascular disease, advocating as a united voice for critical attention in this space. The Baker IDI Heart & Diabetes Institute will host a launch of the alliance in Melbourne on 24 November.

Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) pilot underway
Thirty-two universities, medical research institutes and publicly-funded research organisations will participate in the SAGE pilot of Athena SWAN. The pilot requires participants to collect, analyse and present data on gender equity policies and practices in STEM departments, as well as identify gaps and opportunities for improvement. Participants will work towards an Athena SWAN Award at the Institutional Bronze level.

What does Australia’s Health and Medical research community look like?
The Australian Society of Medical Research is conducting a Health and Medical Research Workforce Survey. The survey takes approximately 15 min to complete and will provide data to inform their policy recommendations to the Federal Government. They are asking people currently working in health and medical research to complete the survey and also those who have left or are leaving health and medical research for any reason. They are also interested in responses from people working overseas or recently returned, as there are specific questions related to relocation/overseas work.

Professor Alison Venn appointed as new Director at Menzies
Professor Alison Venn, an internationally-renowned population health expert with broad experience in chronic disease, has been announced as the new Director of the Menzies Institute for Medical Research at the University of Tasmania. Professor Venn will commence as Director in 2016, replacing Professor Tom Marwick, who will head the Baker IDI Heart & Diabetes Institute from 2016.

New name for Westmead Institute
Westmead Millennium Institute for Medical Research will now be known as Westmead Institute for Medical Research, complete with a new brand and website. The new flowing brightly-coloured logo represents hope, discovery and the Institute’s focus on people.

MRI submissions to Victorian strategies for medical research and medtech & pharmaceuticals sectors
Victorian MRIs – collectively the Victorian ‘chapter’ of AAMRI – submitted responses to the Victorian Government’s consultations on a Victorian Strategy for Health and Medical Research, and the Victorian Medical Technology & Pharmaceuticals Strategy. The submissions can be found on AAMRI’s website: Health & Medical Research Strategy submission; Medtech & Pharma Strategy submission.

5.  Reports and resources

Professional Scientists Remuneration Survey Summary Report
Professional Scientists Australia (a division of Professionals Australia), in conjunction with Science & Technology Australia, has produced a survey report containing detailed analysis and commentary on scientists’ remuneration. The survey found an average increase of 2.5% across branches of science, as well as increasing priority being given to job security, an overall decline in staff morale in the workplace and increasing worker fatigue as Scientists continue to be asked to do more with less.

Australian Intellectual Property (IP) Toolkit
The Australian IP Toolkit for Collaboration was launched by the Hon Karen Andrews MP, Assistant Minister for Science, on 10 September. The toolkit is a resource for researchers and businesses intending to enter into collaborations. It includes guidelines on how to develop partnerships between business & researchers and to manage IP in collaborations; a checklist of IP issues that should be considered before entering into collaborations; and templates for confidentiality agreements, term sheets and for drafting contracts for collaborations.

Boosting High-impact Entrepreneurship in Australia
The Office of the Chief Scientist released the report Boosting High-impact Entrepreneurship in Australia on 30 October. The report finds that while Australia has one of the highest rates of business creation in the world, it has been slow to embrace entrepreneurship as a driver of economic growth, and few businesses grow beyond the local level.

Business resources devoted to R&D
A new Australian Bureau of Statistics report shows that during 2013-14, expenditure on research and development (R&D) by Australian businesses was $18.8 billion. Business human resources devoted to R&D in 2013-14 totalled 78,839 person years of effort (PYE), an increase of 21% from 2011-12.

Australian National Diabetes Strategy
The Australian National Diabetes Strategy 2016-2020, released by the Commonwealth Department of Health, is a high-level document that contains a number of goals and potential areas for action to achieve each goal.

Improving Dementia Support for All Australians
The Australian Government has committed to building improved and nationally consistent dementia support services for all Australians following the independent report by KPMG, Improving Dementia Support for All Australians, which described a system with a “lack of consistency and coordination”.

Implementation Plan for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013-2023
A new Implementation Plan to help close the gap by improving the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples has been launched by the Commonwealth Government. The Implementation Plan is a ten-year road map: a strategy to better health for Indigenous children, Indigenous youth and Indigenous adults. In the interests of continuity, the Coalition decided to adopt and build on the 10 year National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan (2013-2023), delivered when Labor was in power. That document was a high level, strategic document; the Implementation Plan now details actions and achievable goals.

OECD Reviews of Health Care Quality: Australia 2015
A new OECD report has found Australia’s health system functions remarkably well, despite operating under a complex set of institutions that make coordinating patient care difficult. Complications arising from a split in federal and state government funding and responsibilities are central to these challenges.

University research a major driver of productivity and prosperity: report
University research has delivered economic benefits to Australia worth a third of the growth in average living standards over the past 30 years, according to a new Deloitte Access Economics report, The Importance of Universities to Australia’s Prosperity, commissioned by Universities Australia. The productivity gains – worth an estimated $10 billion each year over the past three decades – illustrate the role of university research in transforming and modernising Australia’s economy.

Picture of breast cancer in young Australian women
A new AIHW report presents information and statistics about breast cancer in young Australian women aged 20-39 years. The report, Breast cancer in young women: Key facts about breast cancer in women in their 20s and 30s, projects that in 2015, 795 young women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and 65 will die from it.

Life expectancy hits historic highs
Life expectancy and death numbers hit historic highs in 2014, according to the latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). Australian males and females born today have the highest estimated life expectancy ever recorded in Australia; both men and women can expect to live beyond 80.

Prevalence of type 1 diabetes among children aged 0–14 in Australia 2013
Prevalence of type 1 diabetes among children aged 0–14 in Australia 2013 presents the first national picture of children aged 0–14 living with type 1 diabetes in Australia. The AIHW report, based on data from the National (insulin-treated) Diabetes Register, highlights that in 2013, 6,091 children aged 0–14 had type 1 diabetes in Australia.

Australia’s 50,000 premature deaths
Of all deaths in Australia in 2012, almost 50,000 – or 34% – can be considered premature, according to new data released by the AIHW. ‘Premature’ deaths are those occurring in people aged under 75 years. The web report, Premature Mortality in Australia 1997–2012, shows that not only were these deaths premature, in half of cases, they were also considered potentially avoidable—that is, preventable or treatable through specific health care measures.

6.  Funding & award opportunities

Advance Queesland Johnson & Johnson Innovation Quick Fire Challenge (QLD)
This initiative is looking for innovations across pharmaceuticals, medical devices and consumer healthcare from anywhere in the world. The entrants must be committed to conducting the project or research in Queensland. There are three awards of $100,000 each plus access to mentorship and coaching from Johnson & Johnson staff. Applications close 30 November.

Rotary Health PhD scholarships
Rotary Health is offering scholarships for PhDs in a diverse range of areas relating to health and medical research, including epigenetics, melanoma, kidney disease, multiple sclerosis, and the medical applications of grapheme. Applications close 11 December.

Investigator Initiated Sponsored Research (IISR)
Takeda and its alliance partners are committed to improving patient care through support of scientific advances in medicine and increasing understanding of important diseases. As part of this commitment, the IISR program supports innovative clinical and basic science studies that address important medical and scientific questions related to their compounds and therapeutic areas of interest. IISR is defined as unsolicited, independent research where the investigator or the institution (academic, private, or governmental) serves as the Sponsor and Takeda provides support in the form of study drug and/or funding.

Also see new initiatives listed in the Government Update section of this enewsletter.

7.  Events & conferences

Launch of the Australian Cardiovascular Alliance, 24 November (11.30 am – 12.00 pm), Melbourne
This launch will be Chaired by Prof Bob Graham, Director of the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, and will include speeches from Prof Tom Marwick, Prof Jaye Chin-Dusting (Founding Chair of the alliance), and patient advocate Shaun Wimmer.

veski residency with Dr Siobhán Jordan, 23-30 November, Melbourne
From 23-30 November, 2015 veski resident Dr Siobhán Jordan will share her insights into stimulating economic growth by connecting business and academia.

Anne Kelso on the future of medical research, 26 November, Sydney
In this lecture, Professor Kelso looks at the future of Australian health and medical research, stresses, challenges and opportunities.

CRCs: the current state of play, 27 Nov (Adelaide) and 1 Dec (Brisbane)
Dr Tony Peacock, CEO of the CRC Association, will be holding a series of free seminars on the current state of play with regard to the CRC program. His PowerPoint presentation can also be downloaded.

Business of Innovation 2016, 7-9 March, Brisbane
Registrations are now open for the Business of Innovation 2016 conference organised by the CRC Association. The conference will explore the importance of business and industry working with science to create innovation, and how to foster these relationships. The conference will also join onto the World Science Festival, also being held in Brisbane – the first time it has been held outside of New York.