UK United Kingdom

Medical research needs $30b funding boost: McKeon

The cost of healthcare is escalating at an unsustainable rate and an additional $2-3 billion a year for the next ten years…

Researchers have welcomed Simon McKeon’s review into health and medical research. verticalpharmacy/Flickr

The cost of healthcare is escalating at an unsustainable rate and an additional $2-3 billion a year for the next ten years should be invested in research to address the problem, according to a government-commissioned review of health and medical research.

The review panel, chaired by 2011 Australian of the year and CSIRO chairman Simon McKeon, has made 21 recommendations, including redirecting at least 3% of the Federal Government’s public sector health budget to research.

The panel argues funding should be focused on research into diseases that most affect Australians as well as into indigenous health, rural and remote health, and the developing field of personalised medicine.

It has also recommended re-engineering the granting process administered by the National Health and Medical Research Council to deliver more five-year grants, attracting new investment in research by better commercialising Australian research discoveries, and promoting philanthropic investment in Australian health and medical research.

The panel also recommended the establishment of “Integrated Health Research Centres”, bringing together hospital networks, universities and medical research institutes, to fast-track the discoveries that will bring the greatest benefits to patients.

Doug Hilton, director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, and the leader of the Discoveries Need Dollars campaign to protect medical research funding, welcomed the recommendations, and said they would bring about substantial economic benefits from lowered healthcare costs and improved productivity.

“I urge the government and opposition to commit to fully adopting the review’s recommendations.”

Darren Saunders, cancer biologist at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, said pegging funding to the health budget would provide much more stability in the long-term outlook.

But he said as researchers were awaiting news from the government on whether research grants could be put on hold, questions remained about the cost of implementing the recommendations.

“It’s clear the review panel have got the message that there are things to be fixed. The big question is how it will be implemented - that’s going to be the real challenge.”

Ted Maddess, director of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Vision Science, wrote one of the 300 submissions to the review.

Professor Maddess said the call for more funding was good news, with the recommendations on five-year grants and the development of research centres likely to deliver more efficiency.

“More sustained funding is probably more important than just more funding, although there’s no doubt we’re not funded at the appropriate level.”

He added that virtual institutes modelled on the Canadian system would be a step in the right direction.

“The current system is inefficient you just get going on a project and then you have to reapply for funding.”

Dr Saunders agreed a move to five-year grants, along with other measures to train, support and retain the research workforce would be helpful.

Sign in to Favourite

Join the conversation

4 Comments sorted by

  1. R. Ambrose Raven


    "The cost of healthcare is escalating at an unsustainable rate" Is it - or is it simply that vertical fiscal imbalance means that the States can't fund it while the Commonwealth doesn't want to?

    But what of the subsidy of that portion of the population with superannuation by $30 billion in FY12? By 2015-16 this sum is projected by Treasury to rise to more than $45 billion. Not only will it then be far the biggest item of government expenditure, it will be almost as much as the $51 billion provided…

    Read more
  2. Dale Bloom


    The “$2-3 billion a year for the next ten years” does seem exceptionally excessive (and highly suspect) when it is already clear what people should be doing to maintain their health, especially reducing heart disease risk factors.

    Already recorded in a book by the CSIRO.

    “The book includes information on heart disease risk factors such as: weight, cholesterol, blood pressure and exercise, a structured 12-week exercise plan, eating plan and recipes.”

  3. Richard Helmer

    REsearch Engineer

    our health care system in some areas is highly innovative and leads the world. ...seems to me we should look at capitalising on this...particualrly as health is slowly but surely adopting technologies from the information communication technology revolution ... lets see if we can export our approaches

  4. Robert Peers

    General Practitioner

    I don't get it. Simon McKeon (and his fellow Review panelists, most of whom have commercial ties) are urging more medical research--not health research. The NHMRC was founded about 1936--the same year that Sir Harry Himsworth completed his brilliant epidemiological and laboratory studies on dietary fat and diabetes (which includes heart and stroke risk). Many educated folks stick to a healthy--especially low-fat diet, and stay healthy--which saves the National Disease System squillions of dollars. But McKeon and NHMRC assure us that even more can be saved, by LEAVING PEOPLE SICK, SO OUR BEST AND BRIGHTEST MEDICAL RESEARCHERS CAN DEVELOP ASTRONOMICALLY EXPENSIVE NEW DRUGS!!! I just don't get it. If EVERYBODY ate a healthy diet, would our Medical Industry collapse???????