While health security is a strategic focus, this is not reflected in higher funding for neglected diseases R&D
In 2016, Australia invested US$22 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 the G-FINDER survey conducted by Policy Cures Research.
Based on this data, Australia is a moderate donor to global health R&D: It is the eighth-largest public supporter in absolute terms and eighth-largest also in relative terms (0.000018% of gross domestic product (GDP)). Reported financing by Australia for global health R&D is at its lowest level since 2007; in 2016 it was half the level it was in 2012. Malaria (US$9 million) and tuberculosis (US$7 million) are the two biggest diseases areas Australia funds.
Australia has made health 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; and 3) research and learning relevant to country and regional health program contexts and to answer key operational questions.
Australia’s Foreign Policy White Paper, released in November 2017, mentions health security as essential to human and economic development. Australia appointed its first ever Ambassador for Regional Health Security in June 2017. A continuing commitment to health research and development is a part of the government’s emerging diseases commitment, particularly in regard to malaria.
The ‘Health Security Initiative for the Indo-Pacific Region’ was launched by the Minister for Foreign Affairs in October 2017, pledging A$300 million (US$223 million) over five years for research into prevention and containment of infectious diseases that have potential to cause “social and economic harms”. A$150 million (US$112 million) is yet to be allocated under this program and provides an opportunity to influence spending directions. Up to A$75 million (US$56 million) of this is expected to be announced by the end of March 2018.
This follows a 2015 decision to contribute A$30 million (US$23 million) over three years to three product development partnerships (PDPs) – the Tuberculosis Alliance, the Medicines for Malaria Venture, and the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND). The goal is to bring to market diagnostics and medicines for tuberculosis and malaria, including the development of a new all-oral regimen, which treats drug-sensitive and multi-drug resistant tuberculosis. The PDP funding will for the first time include vector control PDPs but excludes funding for vaccine development.
The Australian Government announced in October 2016 that it will provide A$2 million (US$1.5 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, Australia established a non-ODA funded Centre of Excellence in Infectious Disease Emergency Response Research to “improve Australia’s readiness to respond to future pandemics and other infectious disease emergencies.”
Australia established a domestic A$20 billion (US$15 billion) perpetual fund for academic health research in 2014, the Medical Research Future Fund. Investments will be directed towards areas of national medical importance, a small proportion of which will be set aside for global health challenges. The government intends for the fund to eventually have annual disbursements of A$1 billion (US$743 million). The first disbursements have included a A$2 million (US$1.5 million) contribution to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and A$6 million (US$4 million) towards research into antimicrobial resistance.
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. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s (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 other 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.
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, 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.
- DFAT; Australian aid budget 2017–18; 2017
- DFAT; Australian Foreign Policy White Paper; 2017
- DFAT; Australian aid: promoting prosperity, reducing poverty, enhancing stability; 2015
- DFAT; Health for Development Strategy 2015-2020; 2015
- DFAT; Health Security Initiative for the Indo-Pacific region; 2017
- DFAT; Research and innovation initiatives; 2017
- Foreign Minister; Indo-Pacific Health Security Initiative; 2017
Civil Society sources