Australia has decreased its financing for global health R&D since 2012; increased emphasis on global health R&D for the Indo-Pacific region and for PDPs expected

In 2015, Australia invested US$20.4 million in research and development (R&D) for poverty-related and neglected diseases (PRNDs), referred to as ‘global health R&D’ in this profile. These figures are based on  G-FINDER data. This makes Australia a moderate donor to global health R&D: the seventh-largest public supporter in absolute terms and tenth-largest in relative terms (0.000016% of gross domestic product (GDP)). Reported financing by Australia for global health R&D is at its lowest level since 2007, having nearly halved between 2014 and 2015.

Australia has made R&D for the Indo-Pacific region a priority. According to its ‘Health for Development Strategy 2015-2020’, Australia plans to promote “health innovation, and new approaches and solutions that benefit our region” in three areas: 1) innovative approaches and solutions to combat diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis; 2) new ways of doing business, including potential partnerships with the private sector and the use of smart technology; 3) research and learning relevant to country and regional health program contexts and to answer key operational questions.

The Australian Government also recently announced that it will provide A$2 million in ODA over two years to Darwin’s Menzies School of Health Research to advance research into the prevention, detection and treatment of multi-drug resistant malaria and tuberculosis. The Menzies School will work with the Burnet Institute as well as partners in Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea.

In June 2016, the government committed US$90 million in ODA over five years for a regional health-security fund which will utilize Australia’s research institutions, scientific expertise, innovators and entrepreneurs to address health priorities in the Indo-Pacific region. It appears that this will include further funding for PDPs focused on malaria and tuberculosis. In 2014, Australia announced plans to build the Medical Research Futures Fund. This fund is set to provide US$18 billion by 2020 in investments for medical research and innovation. Investments will be directed towards areas of national medical importance, a small proportion of which may also cover global health challenges. In addition, Australia established the domestic Centre of Excellence in Infectious Disease Emergency Response Research in June 2016. The Centre’s stated aim is to “improve Australia’s readiness to respond to future pandemics and other infectious disease emergencies.”

Australia collectively contributes US$27 million over three years across three PDPs – the Tuberculosis Alliance, the Medicines for Malaria Venture, and the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) – to bring to market diagnostics and medicines for tuberculosis and malaria. This includes the development of a new all-oral regimen, which treats drug-sensitive and multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.

The Development Policy Division leads on health policy development within DFAT

Funds to deliver the ‘Health for Development Strategy 2015-2020’ come from country, regional, and global programs, and are delivered through the regular budget process. DFAT’s investment in global health R&D is expected to focus on the Strategy’s three funding areas outlined above.

The Development Policy Division (DPD) is the driver of health development policy, and provides operational guidance to assist with the implementation of this strategy. The DPD also works with DFAT programs and external partners to plan and adjust pipeline investments. In conjunction with the Department of Health, DFAT works with other key agencies to prepare and respond to health security threats in the region. It also engages with health research funding bodies such as the Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) on responding to global health challenges.

Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) is the country’s major funder for health and medical research in Australia. One of its main funding channels, the Northern Australia Tropical Disease Collaborative Research Program (NATDCRP), focuses on supporting high-quality research into the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of tropical diseases, building strong collaborations and capacity in the health and medical research workforce, and promoting effective translation of this research into health policy and practice. This program intends to impact health in Australia and other neighbors of the Indo-Pacific region. NHMRC cooperates with the Global Research Collaboration for Infectious Diseases Preparedness to facilitate effective responses to outbreaks of infectious diseases such as the Zika virus. However, funding by the NHMRC for global health R&D has recently declined.