Medical research funding saved from the budget knife

Medical research funding saved from the budget knife

8th May, 2012

Research institutes praise ongoing government commitment

Australia’s peak body for medical research institutes has thanked the government for its ongoing commitment to medical research, praising the allocation of $760.5 million for the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Medical Research Endowment Account in a budget the government has acknowledged would be ‘tough’ for many.

Professor Julie Campbell, President of the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes (AAMRI) said the funding of NHMRC grants showed the government had its priorities in the right place.

“Australia has a growing problem with conditions like diabetes and dementia, and we hear a lot from government about the rising cost of healthcare in our country – so it makes good sense for the government to continue funding the research programs that could help stop these kinds of diseases in their tracks,” she said.

The 2012-2013 NHMRC budget allocation of $760.5 million is comparable in real terms to the $746 million allocation in 2011-2012.

“Government-funded medical research in this country has resulted in discoveries that have been of international importance.  The cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil, the heart pacemaker, IVF technology and the anti-influenza drug Relenza are just a few examples of Australian scientific breakthroughs that have put us at the forefront of global health and medical research.

“Now is not the time for Australia to turn its back on our record of achievement.  The world is at the beginning of a new era of treatments, diagnostics and prevention strategies that couldn’t have been imagined 30 years ago.  Australia has been at the forefront and we need to make sure we remain so for the future health and prosperity of all Australians,” she said.

Professor Campbell said it was appropriate that NHMRC funding was maintained in the budget, in light of the current McKeon Review into the health and medical research sector.

AAMRI’s submission to the McKeon Review urges the government to reform the health and medical research sector to increase the emphasis on the key health issues facing Australia and build research capacity in areas such as health economics and preventive health to reduce healthcare costs.

Professor Campbell said the Australian government currently invests less in medical research than the US and the OECD, with Australian federal funding representing 0.09% of GDP, which is 18% less than the OECD (0.11% of GDP) and less than a third of the US (0.31% of GDP).