Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Medical Research Grant Success Slides to 14.9%

The announcement of a further fall in the already record low success rate of National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) grant approvals demonstrates the urgent need for the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) announced in the Federal Budget last May, according to an action group formed by medical researchers.

NHMRC Project Grants are the primary funding scheme for health and medical research, but the 14.9% success rate of applicants this year has continued a slide from 16.9% last year and 22.8% 5 years ago.

MRFF Action Group Chairman Mr Peter Scott, who is also Chairman of the Baker IDI Heart & Diabetes Institute and Vice Chairman of UBS Investment Banking, said that the limited funding available for medical research “highlights the absolute need for the MRFF to go ahead at its full proposed capitalisation of $20 billion by 2022, which is expected to deliver $1 billion a year in additional health and medical research funding by 2022.

“That may sound like a lot of money, but it will only just bring Australia in line with the OECD average for funding of medical research. Currently Australia invests just 64% of the OECD average in health and medical research as a percentage of GDP.”

Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes President, Prof Brendan Crabb, said the demand for health and medical research is increasing as Australia’s population ages. “More than seven million Australians, including almost all people aged 65 years and over, live with a chronic illness,” Crabb said. “This is a time when research simply must be supported to find answers to these intractable and nationally debilitating problems.”

The Chair of the Group of Eight Universities Deans of Medicine Committee, Prof Bruce Robinson, said the low success rate was dis­heartening for scientists beginning a career in medical research. “The MRFF would insulate these bright, committed young Australians from fluctuations in the economy,” he said. “Ultimately, it will keep them in Australia, researching the health issues that affect us all.”