New 2021-2026 Medical Research Future Fund Strategy & Draft Priorities

New 2021-2026 Medical Research Future Fund Strategy & Draft Priorities

8th November, 2021

Updated on 9/11/21 to reference the release of the MRFF Priorities

The Australian Medical Research Advisory Board (AMRAB) has released a new 5-year strategy for the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF). The MRFF legislation requires a strategy to be developed every five years, and the document – known as the Australian Medical Research and Innovation Strategy 2021-26 – sets out the vision, aim and strategic direction for the MRFF. In addition to the new Strategy, related draft priorities have also been released. Together, these two documents should shape around $650 million of investment in medical research investment each year.

Of note, the Strategy has specifically acknowledged the MRFF has an important role to play in developing workforce capability through investments in priority areas, as well as addressing gender equity.

Australian Medical Research and Innovation Strategy 2021-26

The Strategy has identified seven strategic areas which MRFF research funding will address:

  1. New or emerging areas of health need with high potential for generating innovative approaches, tools, or technologies to transform health care and practices.
  2. Existing areas of unmet health need, to address underinvestment and support capacity development with a focus on achieving equity in health outcomes, particularly for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other priority populations.
  3. Improvement in the efficiency and effectiveness of the health system, by promoting adoption of evidence-based practices, enabling equitable health outcomes, and focussing on the needs of patients, their families, and carers.
  4. Social, environmental, and cultural factors that impact health and wellbeing, including strengths-based approaches that leverage patient/consumer and community knowledge and experience to deliver improvements in population health and wellbeing.
  5. Enhancements to the translation of research outputs to deliver impact through health and economic outcomes, including through commercialisation of research outcomes and implementation of policy changes nationally and globally.
  6. Promotion of capacity and capability in the health and medical research workforce, through investments in priority areas, by fostering collaboration between research groups and across disciplines and addressing gender equity.
  7. Encouragement of adaptive approaches to emerging challenges, supporting rapid response and effective collaboration both nationally and internationally with other public and private sources of health and medical research funding.

For further details see the full version of the Australian Medical Research and Innovation Strategy 2021-26.

Draft Australian Medical Research and Innovation Priorities

In addition to the release of the new strategy, AMRAB has also released the draft Australian Medical Research and Innovation Priorities. The Priorities have been set to ‘align with and facilitate the achievement of the 2021-26 Strategy’s vision, aim and strategic objectives’. The draft priorities will come into effect either when the Investment Funds Legislation Amendment Bill 2021 is passed by Parliament, or if the legislation is not passed, by 5 November 2022.

  1. Consumer-Driven Research. Research that is driven by meaningful consumer involvement and partnerships, to incorporate priorities, needs, values and experiences to deliver fit-for-purpose outcomes that can be adopted by consumers, carers, healthcare professionals and other end-users.
  2. Research Infrastructure and Capability. Address gaps in the generation of knowledge and in early biomedical and medical technology product development by supporting access to expertise, capability and infrastructure (i.e. research facilities, equipment, systems, services), including in partnership with industry, that seeks to drive new research discoveries and accelerate innovation.
  3. Translation and Commercialisation. Provide a focus on research translation, implementation and commercialisation by facilitating collaborations between the research sector, industry and community. This includes accelerating and advancing innovation to bring about progress in health outcomes by leveraging opportunities from novel or emerging tools and technologies (e.g. personalised medicine, synthetic biology, advanced communications and manufacturing technologies) that can transform health and medical research, health interventions and care.
  4. Comparative Effectiveness Research. Systematic evaluation and demonstration of the comparative value of therapeutics, devices and health interventions to inform the decisions by policy makers, clinicians and consumers regarding healthcare, and to minimise unnecessary, ineffective and harmful health interventions.
  5. Preventive and Public Health Research. Invest in preventive health to maximise the social and economic benefits of better health. The investments in preventive health research made through the MRFF are expected to contribute to policy objectives of the National Preventive Health Strategy 2021-2030 and other national initiatives.
  6. Primary Care Research. Support primary care research with an emphasis on multi-disciplinary collaboration, adaptive research methodologies, innovative models of care, and clinician capability. This can include developing the evidence base about the efficacy and value of different primary care models and health systems, including to improve primary care intersection with both secondary care and tertiary care for a more integrated and efficient health care sector.
  7. Health and Medical Researcher Capacity and Capability. Support and enhance Australian health and medical research capacity, especially clinician researchers, with a focus on multidisciplinary engagement and improving the translation and integration of evidence-based research into primary through to tertiary care and commercial outcomes. This includes fostering gender equity and opportunities for early to mid-career researchers in the research workforce.
  8. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health. Improve the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to close the gap in health mortality and morbidity through Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led priority setting to drive health-related research.
  9. Priority Populations. Ensure equitable health outcomes for all people living in Australia by targeting funding towards biomedical discovery and health service innovation to address specific and unique health challenges for priority populations.
  10. Antimicrobial Resistance. Reduce the health impact of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). This includes supporting research into stewardship practices, diagnostic and treatment tools, preventive measures, and new or novel antimicrobials, host-directed therapeutics and vaccines that span the divide between human health and animal health.
  11. Global Health and Health Security. Build capacity for preparedness, prevention, response, eradication and/or management of identified and emerging or potential global health threats, including pandemics and zoonotic disease threats. This includes building and strengthening international collaborations and capabilities, particularly within the Indo-Pacific region.
  12. Health Impacts from Environmental Factors. Address the emerging and long-term health impacts of environmental factors, such as bushfires and climate change. The indirect impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has also resulted in delayed health screening, treatment and care for other illnesses.
  13. Data, Digital Health and Artificial Intelligence. Improve data utilisation for more integrated and effective health and healthcare systems. Support for informatics (e.g. data registries, biobanks, data linkage platforms and secure data storage), artificial intelligence, machine learning and predictive analytics research, advanced clinical decision-making tools, wearables, and other emerging innovative digital technologies is the key to realising the benefits of healthcare digitalisation.

For further details see the full  version of the Draft Australian Medical Research and Innovation Priorities.