$22m program to fund early-stage disease research

Thursday, 21 February, 2019

$22m program to fund early-stage disease research

The Australian Government is providing more than $22 million for important early-stage research that will lead to new interventions, cures and treatments of major diseases.

Major diseases — like arthritis, asthma, back pain, cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes and mental health conditions — have a severe impact on the quality of life for Australians and their families. According to Minister for Health Greg Hunt, early-stage research is the key first step to better diagnosis, treatment and ultimately, cures.

“Through the government’s Medical Research Future Fund we will provide $22.3 million to MTPConnect to operate the new Biomedical Translation Bridge initiative,” Hunt said.

The Biomedical Translation Bridge (BTB) program will see MTPConnect — an independent, not-for-profit organisation whose objective is to accelerate the rate of growth of Australia’s medical technology, biotechnology and pharmaceutical sector — partner with BioCurate (University of Melbourne and Monash University), UniQuest (University of Queensland through its drug discovery initiative, QEDDI) and the Medical Device Partnering Program (MDPP, led by Flinders University), all pre-eminent organisations engaged in the translation and commercialisation of health and medical research.

“These organisations bring decades of industry-based experience to this major research effort,” Hunt said. “Successful research projects will receive between $200,000 and $1 million over a maximum of three years. MTPConnect will also seek additional funding for these research projects from philanthropic and third-party sources.”

The announcement has been welcomed by MTPConnect CEO Dr Dan Grant, who said, “As the national growth centre for the Medical Technologies and Pharmaceuticals sector, MTPConnect is uniquely positioned to partner with industry and deliver the Biomedical Translation Bridge program.

“By joining forces with BioCurate, UniQuest and MDPP we’ve created a powerful partnership venture that brings national reach, industry capabilities and expertise, and commercial know-how to the task of boosting translation of Australia’s healthtech research.

“MTPConnect will also partner with the Bridge and BridgeTech programs from the Queensland University of Technology to provide opportunities for skills development to applicants, further enhancing the commercialisation advice and nurturing we can provide to BTB applicants.”

The BTB program will establish an expert selection panel to assess, triage and select eligible ventures to be recommended to the Minister for Health for program funding, with the call for applications set to open later this year. This will be accompanied by workshops in each capital city and in major regional centres, such as Townsville, Gold Coast, Newcastle, Wollongong and Geelong, to build awareness and ensure a high number of quality applications are received.

A key feature of the BTB program is the provision of expert advice, education and mentoring, both to those preparing applications and to those awarded funding. By ensuring every application receives support, the BTB program will help build capabilities across the sector, not just within those organisations selected for funding.

Additional rounds will be called every six months, with frequency in later years dependent on the number of applications reapplying and the extent of residual funds.

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