VicAAMRI: Science at the heart of Victoria’s road to recovery

VicAAMRI: Science at the heart of Victoria’s road to recovery

13th October, 2020

The Victorian Chapter of the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes (VicAAMRI) is urging the Victorian Government to use medical research investment as a key centrepiece of its plans to kick-start the state’s economic recovery in the upcoming budget.

Victorians have achieved a rare feat with the successful suppression of the second wave of COVID-19, going from over 700 cases a day to an average of just ten and likely saving hundreds of lives. The strategies that made this, and indeed wider Australia’s response to the first wave, possible were developed with expert advice and tools from Victoria’s leading medical research institutes. These institutes are positioned to lead the state’s economic recovery through job creation, commercialisation, and securing a healthier and less disrupted workforce through Victoria’s globally leading ability to combat health crises.

“Australia is one of a handful of countries to have suppressed this virus to potentially manageable levels. This would not have been possible without scientists working side-by-side with government to develop effective responses,” said Professor Brendan Crabb AC, Chair of VicAAMRI and Director and CEO of the Burnet Institute.

Across Victoria’s medical research institutes, thousands of dedicated scientists have turned their minds to fighting this virus. Our scientists have led development and validation of new COVID-19 tests and treatments, contributed to vaccine research, optimised public health strategies to contain outbreaks, and developed modelling to ensure our children can return safely to school.

“It is hard to imagine how we could have responded effectively to this pandemic, and continue to evolve our response, without the rapid, almost real-time, translation of medical research into our healthcare and public health systems,” said Professor Crabb.

Victoria’s success places us in a privileged position among other comparable economies internationally. Global biotech companies are already relocating clinical trials to Victoria, to rescue research that has been interrupted by the high prevalence of COVID-19 overseas.

The medical research sector is not only helping to save jobs all around Victoria through its expert health advice, it is well placed to grow into a global powerhouse delivering new, high quality jobs and attracting significant international investment. By expanding research support funding to research-intensive hospitals, Victoria can also build a strong, end-to-end health innovation supply chain.

“The Federal Government is set to nearly double its investment in medical research through the $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund. We must act now to make Victoria as competitive as possible so that we can secure this new investment.

“We are calling on the Victorian Government to use the Budget to make new investments in medical research institutes through the Operational Infrastructure Support (OIS) Program and by building commercialisation capacity. This will create new high-skilled jobs and support the current medical research workforce, deliver the high quality infrastructure that underpins medical research, allow Victorian institutes to seize on new investment and job creation opportunities through the Medical Research Future Fund and international biotech companies, and continue the cutting edge research that is essential to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.”


Quotes from VicAAMRI Members:

 “Science has been the guiding force during this pandemic. Investing in Victoria’s pioneering research, commercialisation and translation capabilities is not only good for our health but also our economy with demonstrated return on investment as we look to Victoria’s road out.”

– Professor Tom Marwick, Director of the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute

“The Bionics Institute has developed a flexible business model in line with our translational research to create commercial pathways for our new technologies. An increase in Operational Infrastructure Support (OIS) funding would support our ongoing development of infrastructure which underpins our translational vision.”

– Mr Robert Klupacs, Chief Executive Officer, Bionics Institute

Centre for Eye Research Australia“New investment will accelerate CERA’s gene and cell therapy research, positioning Victoria as a global hub developing these sight-saving technologies for health and wealth gain. It will enable us to take our research from the lab through to clinical trials for local patients with vision loss and blindness, and enable us to commercialise new treatments for the benefit of Australian patients, rather than importing them from overseas.

– Professor Keith Martin, Director, Centre for Eye Research Australia

Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health“New investment by the Victorian Government would enable the Florey Institute to continue our important work towards treatments for diseases and disorders of the brain, while also stimulating the growth of new enterprises for the economic benefit of Victoria.”

– Professor Steven Petrou, Director, The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health

“Hudson Institute of Medical Research has been successful in attracting substantial venture capital investment for commercialisation of its discovery research, creating jobs and potentially new therapies and better health outcomes for Victorians. New investment in the OIS and commercialisation capabilities would enable Hudson to accelerate projects already in our commercial pipeline, as well as expand workforce training and development.”

– Professor Elizabeth Hartland, Director and CEO, Hudson Institute of Medical Research

“Research at the Institute for Breathing and Sleep is primarily focused on clinical trials and implementation science. To undertake clinical research in a COVIDSafe way, we have accelerated our move to participant-centred research models – bringing our research directly to the patient. Additional OIS funding and commercialisation support from the Victorian Government will help enable us to continue to run clinical trials and to keep delivering the best new therapies, despite restrictions on hospital visitors.”

– Professor David Berlowitz, Board Director, Institute for Breathing and Sleep

“During the current pandemic, we have rapidly re-tasked existing research capacity, like our stem cell disease modelling and drug screening facility, to begin the search for breakthrough COVID-19 treatments. The Victorian Government’s OIS funding is crucial to running, staffing and maintaining these cutting-edge platforms, ensuring Victoria’s resilience into the future.”

– Professor Kathryn North AC, Director, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute

National Ageing Research Institute

“Older people living in the community and aged care are severely impacted by COVID-19. New investment in the OIS program will enable NARI to generate research that delivers support for the mental, physical and social needs of older Victorians in the medium and longer term, in a COVID safe way.”

– Professor Briony Dow, Director, National Ageing Research Institute

“We are focused on translating our scientific discoveries for improved outcomes for people impacted by cancer. But this research, and in turn translation, relies on access to ongoing operational infrastructure support so that we can continue to support our researchers. The Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute strongly supports VicAAMRI’s call for broader operational infrastructure funding to ensure Victoria maintains its privileged position of being the nation’s leading state for medical research.”

– Professor Matthias Ernst, Director, Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute

“In the time of COVID the value of medical research to Victoria and Australia has never been more compelling. This is true for both the pandemic itself and the shadow pandemic of mental illness that is now emerging. There are many other beneficial impacts of increasing infrastructure investments, expanding the capacity of our medical research industry in terms of commercialisation and employment growth as we enter the recovery phase from COVID19.”

– Professor Patrick McGorry AO, Executive Director, Orygen

“We are delighted that the Victorian Government recognises the importance in discovery science, clinical trials and health services research to drive research-driven healthcare for the Victorian public. Investment in the medical research sector including research-intensive hospitals such as Peter Mac is essential to ensure economic, health and societal vibrancy in Victoria.”

– Professor Ricky Johnstone, Executive Director Cancer Research, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre

St Vincent's Institute of Medical Research“New investment in the Operational Infrastructure Support Program will allow SVI to increase our commercialisation capacity. We see this as key to reducing the gap between discovery and application – between the laboratory and the bedside – allowing medical research to positively impact those in need.”

– Professor Tom Kay, Director, St Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research

“Victoria’s Health and Medical Research Institutes are places where remarkable people do remarkable things. With judicious investment, this State Budget provides an opportunity to send a clear message to students in high school, in university, and those already working towards their PhDs: Victoria is the place to be if you want to excel in medical research. In the years to come we will provide the best environment for you to make a real difference in research, in improving health and in kick-starting the economy through entrepreneurship.”

– Professor Doug Hilton AO, Director, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research

About VicAAMRI

VicAAMRI represents 14 of Victoria’s world-class independent medical research institutes. Our members work to deliver better health outcomes through cutting-edge research across a wide range of health and disease areas. VicAAMRI aims to strengthen Victoria’s medical research sector by raising the profile of health and medical research and the role of medical research institutes in building a healthy and prosperous Victoria.


Learn more about medical research institute’s response to COVID-19: