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Research program funding in NSW plunged into uncertainty

Health Industry Hub | April 16, 2024 |

Medical: There is growing unease surrounding the uncertain fate of the NSW Medical Research Support Program (MRSP). With its current funding set to expire on June 30, researchers express frustration over the lack of clarity regarding its potential renewal.

The program annually allocates approximately $45 million to support medical research institutions across the state, including the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, Black Dog Institute, Centenary Institute, and the Woolcock Institute.

During a recent Senate estimates hearing, inquiries regarding potential cuts to the program heightened concerns. NSW Health Minister Ryan Park deferred the question, adding to uncertainty. Medical Research Minister David Harris’s inability to assure the renewal of funding further exacerbated concerns.

According to Professor Jason Kovacic, co-chair of the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes, the MRSP plays a pivotal role for medical researchers in the state. It addresses the crucial gap between existing funding and the escalating costs faced by the sector.

While the MRSP constitutes a significant funding source for medical research in NSW, the field relies heavily on a mix of public and private sector funding. Nevertheless, the program is pivotal in enabling NSW Health to attract and retain leading researchers, facilitating the delivery of cutting-edge research. Notably, recent achievements include Australian contributions to innovations such as a fully functional artificial heart and the world’s first drug to prevent cell damage resulting from heart attacks.

Federal grants cover salaries and direct research expenses, while the MRSP supports indirect research costs like legal compliance, reporting, biobanking facilities, and operational staff. However, these indirect expenses are not shielded from the broader economic cost pressures, including the rise in the cost of regulatory requirements.

Despite a recommendation from a NSW Health committee to renew the MRSP for an additional four-year term, uncertainty looms over the funding’s future.

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