February 18, 2013  Print

Westmead Millennium Institute (WMI) has welcomed the Federal Government announcement of reforms aimed at increasing Australia’s international competitiveness as a location for clinical trials.

The Minster for Health, Tanya Plibersek, and the Federal Member for Parramatta, Julie Owens visited WMI in Western Sydney today to discuss the package, which will support growth in a sector that injects hundreds of millions of dollars a year into the Australian economy.

The Australian Government funding of $10 million will allow implementation of several recommendations by the Clinical Trials Action Group.

The Executive Director of WMI, Professor Tony Cunningham said the Government’s announcement is a welcome recognition of Australia’s excellent record in bringing together medical research and clinical trials for health and economic benefits.

“It is the tight nexus between basic and clinical research that distinguishes WMI, the Westmead Hospital and the Westmead Research Hub, allowing us to achieve our ‘bench to bedside’ outcomes,” said Professor Cunningham.

“The key impediments to the clinical trial industry in Australia are the high Australian dollar, rising and varying costs between clinical trial sites, and delays in trial approvals. The funding the government has announced should do a great deal to eliminate these barriers.”

The second-largest medical research institute in New South Wales, WMI has 130 PhD students and strong international links and reputation.

WMI, along with the Westmead hospitals and other research institutes on campus, forms the Westmead Research Hub, which is recognised nationally as a model example of an integrated health research centre.

Speaking during the visit of Minister Plibersek, the Chairman of the Westmead Clinical Trials Group, Professor Howard Gurney, said the Federal funding for expediting the reform of clinical trials would generate dividends.

“The fundamental financial consideration is that clinical trials give the best indication of how the health dollar should be spent, saving several hundred million dollars in Australia each year,” said Professor Gurney.

WMI is currently building a new and larger headquarters, which will bring together all its researchers currently scattered throughout the Westmead campus.

The new facility, which still requires additional funding, will include a clinical trials centre when it is completed in early 2014. 

“Our young medical research institute has already contributed to great advances in some areas of patient treatment, and our new accommodation will help more people with debilitating illnesses,” said Professor Cunningham.

WMI has quickly become one of Australia’s largest and most productive medical research institutes. The Institute’s leading clinical scientists have had international discoveries through clinical trials, including:

  • IDEAL Trial – a multinational NHMRC and AHMAC funded trial examining the correct time to initiate dialysis forendstage kidney failure, which has led to a worldwide change in dialysis practice
  • Pancreatic islet cell transplantation – a NHMRC funded trial which has lead to providing much better control oftype 1 diabetes than traditional therapy of insulin injection
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS) gene discovery – translating gene discovery into better care for people with MS
  • Melanoma – our researchers discovered the first gene coding for susceptibility to Melanoma
  • Melanoma – reported promising results with a new drug that shrinks brain tumors in melanoma patients