Health Research in Australia

Health Research in Australia

The purpose of health and medical research is to deliver better health outcomes for all.

Medical researchers are investigating a wide range of areas affecting human health outcomes, including public health, genomics, bionics and biomaterials, cancer, cardiovascular disease, mental health, indigenous health, stem cells and tissue engineering.

Health and medical research leads to positive health outcomes.

  • More than 32,000 medical researchers carry out their world-leading research in medical research institutes, hospitals and universities in Australia. This research forms the foundation of life science, biotechnology, medical technology and pharmaceutical industries as well as informing the best clinical policy and practice.
  • Medical research describes a wide range of research activities including laboratory research, public health, epidemiological studies, health services research, clinical research on patient samples as well as clinical trials.
  • Medical research in Australia has led to life-changing discoveries including the artificial heart valve (Victor Chang), in vitro fertilisation or IVF (Carl Wood), understanding a major risk factor for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) (Terry Dwyer), understanding the role of antibodies in the immune system (Gustav Nossal), and the discovery that the bacteria, Helicobacter pylori, leads to gastritis and peptic ulcers (Barry Marshall & Robin Warren).

As well as positive health outcomes, investment in research can lead to economic outcomes and savings in the health system.

  • Investment in the NHMRC between 2000-2015 equated to a net benefit of $23.4 billion over a period of 15 years (ASMR, 2016)
  • Each $1 invested in medical research leads to $3.90 return in health benefits (KPMG, 2018).

Clinical trials are part of health and medical research in Australia and play an essential role in improving healthcare.

  • Clinical trials are used to investigate the effectiveness of new drugs, new treatments, behavioural therapies, new uses for existing drugs and new prevention strategies. When the outcomes of clinical trials are put into practice, they form the basis of evidence-based medicine, which can lead to considerable additional health and economic gains (Australian Clinical Trials Alliance, 2017).
  • While commercially-orientated clinical trials are usually funded by industry, non-commercial clinical trials for the public good are funded by government, philanthropic donors and research institutions (medical research institutes, universities or hospitals).
  • Clinical trials can generate a return of $5.80 for every $1 invested (for investigator initiated trials conducted by clinical trials networks) (Australian Clinical Trials Alliance, 2017).
  • 1,880 ongoing clinical trials in 2019, which contributed about $1.4 billion to the Australian economy and supported  8,000 jobs (MTP Connect, 2021).

Medical research underpins the biotechnology, medical technology and pharmaceutical industries.

  • Australia has over 50 pharmaceutical companies, 400 biotechnology companies and 500 medical technology companies, where over 100 are listed on the Australian Stock Exchange (MTP Connect, 2016).
  • Australia’s Medical Technology and Pharmaceutical sector is the 8th most valuable exporter for the nation, worth $8.2 billion in 2019 (MTPConnect, 2020).