Topics: $1.2 million in funding to tackle the threat of antimicrobial resistance in aged care facilities; $1.3 million funding for a revolutionary artificial heart technology
Well good morning everybody. It’s great to be here in sunny Brisbane, hosting the Health Minister, Greg Hunt. We’re here at UQCCR, where there’s some amazing work being done in the space of medical research and the government has a very important announcement to make. So on that note, I’ll pass over to the Minister.
Thanks very much to Trevor who has been such a passionate advocate both for the University of Queensland and for medical research here in Brisbane. So, to Trevor, to Professor David Paterson here at the University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research, Professor Peter Hoj, the vice chancellor and all of our amazing medical staff. Where our universities meet our hospitals, we have both hope and research and the capacity to save lives and protect lives.
And saving lives and protecting lives is what the focus of medical research in the Budget is about. It's also about creating an additional 28,000 jobs, and not just any type of job, but high skilled, high paying, high network jobs that will provide benefits for all Australians. So it's an incredibly important combination.
Here in Brisbane, we are in one of the great centres of medical research not just in Australia but in the Southern Hemisphere. This is an important place to talk about the developments coming out of the Medical Research Future Fund, and in particular to make two announcements today. In the Budget, there was $6 billion for medical research.
It's not about the money though, it's about the lives that can be saved, the lives that can be protected, the lives that can be improved. And as part of that, we have the $2 billion Medical Research Future Fund, with a $1.3 billion health and medical sector growth plan at the heart of it.
Clinical trials are absolutely fundamental to giving Australians new treatments, early access to treatments, and then to rolling those treatments out around the world.
We know that anti-microbial resistance is an emerging threat. It comes from the success of our treatments, but bacteria adapt and so there's an arms race in terms of the fight between our medical research and the evolution of the bacteria. Fortunately, in David Paterson and others, we have some of the best scientists not just in Australia but around the world.
And David's work is leading the push to save up to 30,000 lives a year around the world. Up to 30,000 lives a year around the world. So in that context, I am delighted to announce a federal contribution of $1.2 million to the University of Queensland to help save lives and protect lives in aged care facilities.
This program, in terms of anti-microbial resistance, David, will be matched with $700,000 from the university, but above all else it's ensuring that we take care of our elderly. We give them early diagnosis and therefore better treatment. So, if they have an infection which comes from bacteria, then we can ensure that they get the right treatment which will actually defeat the infection. That's really a fundamentally human thing.
The second announcement I want to make today is in relation to an allocation of funds under the Biomedical Translation Fund. And this is where the Commonwealth invests in new Australian devices, treatments, therapies, drugs and we take a share along with the private sector. Queensland is the home of what is likely to be, in my judgment, the world's leading new artificial heart technology.
Daniel Timms, a very proud Brisbane boy, has gone on to create a company, BiVACOR, which is now on the cusp of being able to deliver a total artificial heart to patients around the world and that will save lives, it will protect lives and it will improve lives. And the Commonwealth will be contributing $1.3 million to the artificial heart project alongside a private sector investment. It's great for the economy. It's fundamental for the patients and it's our privilege to be able to assist in each of these two areas. David, if you could tell us a little bit about your lifesaving research.
Absolutely. Thanks very much, Minister, for the very kind grants to the University of Queensland. I'm here at the University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research, which importantly is on a large hospital campus – The Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital. That's important because our research is clinical research. It's looking at what is the impact of antibiotic resistance on elderly Australians who are frequently in nursing homes and as a result of their age and their medical problems, are also frequently inpatients in hospitals.
We're looking at the impact of antibiotic resistance on these elderly Australians and looking at the best ways that we can work with geriatricians, we can work with pharmacists, we can work with nursing staff, to ensure that antibiotic resistance affects are minimised in elderly Australians. And I’d really like to thank the Minister for the support he’s given.
We're happy to take any questions on two announcements and then anything else afterwards.
How is Queensland, I guess, sitting in with all the other states (inaudible) innovation and all these research projects?
Well only yesterday, I announced Professor Ian Frazer, I could say the great Professor Ian Frazer, as the national chair of the Australian Genomics Missions, the largest ever mission, a $500 million dollar mission under the Medical Research Future Fund. So, you have David Paterson, Daniel Timms, Ian Frazer and so many others who are fundamental to steps forward.
Professor Elizabeth Coulson, who’s on the Australian Brain Cancer Mission. So, we're very blessed to have her in Queensland. Homegrown Australian medical research leaders. But what was interesting, and to Peter Hoj, this is a tribute to you and your university and the ecosystem you've created, Brisbane is now a magnet for world class global researchers. And so, we have the best of the best here, but we're now attracting the best of the best from around the world.
Is this funding just for (inaudible) or is this for research facilities across the country?
So, I’ll let David explain how he intends to run the project.
So, this funding is specifically to the University of Queensland, and it is a collaboration amongst a variety of different centres within the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Queensland. So we'll be working very closely with nursing homes and also hospitals and also research laboratories, such as that of Professor Mark Schembri at the University of Queensland.
So Professor Len Gray, who’s a geriatrician, has a key role in this project because he's the one who’s got the connections with nursing homes. Because as researchers we've got to have that clinical connection in order to do this research. So this funding is to the University of Queensland to undertake this important research. And we know that while it's going to be useful knowledge for those of us in South East Queensland, it's also going to be applied across Australia. But our aim is if we do it here, we advertise it the world and it's actually implemented worldwide as an innovation.
What sort of information you’re getting from these aged care facilities, samples, that sort of thing?
So we know that elderly people in aged care facilities unfortunately get inappropriate antibiotics. So everyone has bacteria on them and it's very easy to grow bacteria and assume that they’re a cause of an infection. Because you're an older person, there's an impetus to give antibiotics.
But we know that probably a third, to 40 per cent of antibiotics prescriptions in nursing homes are inappropriate. And so, one of the big innovations of Professor Len Gray is to use a telehealth approach to be able to communicate with nursing staff and pharmacists who are affiliated with nursing homes, to allow them to optimise their antibiotic prescription. So that's one of the key aims.
The second one is really to look at the bacteria at a genetic level, and are these resistant bacteria originating in nursing homes and then being spread to hospitals or is it the other way around? Are they coming from our hospitals and then going to the nursing homes? So we really need the genetic expertise of people like Professor Mark Schembri, Dr Patrick Harris, to be able to determine why are these elderly Australians getting these resistant bacteria.
So, could this be potentially the root cause of the superbug problem that we’re seeing across the world, is the challenge of superbug resistance?
The problem has got many, many causes and the solution is also multifactorial. For example, here at the University of Queensland, we work right from antibiotic discovery – so, finding new antibiotics – right through to doing clinical trials, so to evaluating antibiotics on patients at Royal Brisbane Women's Hospital and other facilities.
So, it really- we couldn't say that nursing homes are the root cause of antibiotic resistance, but clearly for the elderly Australians who are residents in nursing homes, it is a major issue. Instead of being able to be treated with an antibiotic tablet in your nursing home, to have to be admitted for intravenous antibiotics into a major hospital, it's a big imposition on a person's life, and so that's what we're really trying to address.
So this research could save lives?
Absolutely. We're very confident that because we know that there's such a huge impact of antibiotic resistance on outcome of patients, if we can reduce resistance we can save lives, we can prevent inappropriate admissions to hospitals, and we're all about quality of life as well in getting people back to their highest functional level.
Okay. Thank you very much.