AAMRI submission to the Senate inquiry into the Australian Government’s response to COVID-19

AAMRI submission to the Senate inquiry into the Australian Government’s response to COVID-19

13th August, 2020

Our submission is divided into five main areas:

1. Research has driven Australia’s successful response to COVID-19 pandemic

Summary: Australia’s past investment in high quality medical research and its underpinning infrastructure has allowed governments to draw on the expertise and research needed to respond to this global pandemic.

Recommendation 1: Continue to make use of Australia’s high-quality medical research expertise in responding to the health threats of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as other emerging health threats.

2. COVID-19 will be an ongoing threat that requires an ongoing research response

Summary: Without an effective vaccine or treatment COVID-19 will continue to present an ongoing health and economic threat that will need to be managed, including through continued investment in, and use of, medical research.

Recommendation 2: The Australian Government should invest $200 million in a Pandemic Preparedness Research Program. This Program would fund:

a. COVID-19 related research into all aspects of the pandemic and recovery, including discovery and translational research.

b. Research to prepare Australia for the next epidemic/pandemic

c. Initiatives that build research capacity for pandemic preparedness and response, including research infrastructure.

3. The economic downturn is causing financial stress for the medical research sector

Summary: The economic downturn is causing financial stress for the medical research sector and is causing the medical research funding system to come under immense strain. This is expected to worsen during 2021 and 2022.

Recommendation 3: The Australian Government should urgently reform the medical research funding system to provide ongoing financial stability for the medical research sector, and fully fund the cost of undertaking Australian Government funded medical research.

4. Medical research has been interrupted and delayed

Summary: The COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant disruption to vitally important medical research across most disciplines and diseases.

Recommendation 4: The Australian Government should provide an additional $120 million over the next three years to medical research projects impacted by COVID-19.

5. Australia’s future medical research workforce capability is at risk

Summary: Falling non-government revenue within the sector is leading to reduced opportunities for early- and mid-career researchers, and women researchers, with Australia at risk of losing a generation of talent.

Recommendation 5: The Australian Government should fund an additional 100 early- and mid-career Investigator Grants (maximum of 15 years post-PhD) each year for the next three years, with at least half of these Fellowships awarded to women researchers. This should comprise 50 Emerging Leadership Level 2 and 50 Leadership Level 1 grants.

Some of this funding can be drawn from each of the existing Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) mission areas and funding streams and allocated to Investigator Grants in those areas. Some of this funding should come through new additional investment in the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

Read our full submission below.