Huge funding boost to launch Australia's first collaborative cardiovascular research accelerator

Today Federal Minister for Health, the Hon Greg Hunt MP, announced funding for two new Research Centres through the MTPConnect Targeted Translation Research Accelerator Scheme and the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF). The announcement includes a $10 million commitment over four years and more than $20 million in partner contributions for the Australian Stroke and Heart Research Accelerator (ASHRA), led by a collaborative of academic partners including Monash University.

In launching the funding, Minister Hunt said it would translate into superior research for prevention, diagnosis and treatments.

"Both national research centres are uniquely placed to foster collaborations across academia, industry, and community and consumer groups, enabling considerable advances towards tangible products and solutions for sustainable health and economic benefits," he said.

This investment, the biggest in history for cardiovascular disease from the MRFF scheme, is in addition to $17.5 million in Victorian Higher Education State Investment Fund (VHESIF) funding announced in September to launch the Monash University HeartLabs accelerator, enhancing Monash’s growing reputation as a hub for world-leading cardiovascular innovation.

Professor Stephen Nicholls, Director of Monash University’s Victorian Heart Institute and leader of the Monash ASHRA Node, said the investment completely shifts the paradigm.

“It is the most progressive, disruptive approach and investment in cardiovascular innovation and acceleration the country has ever seen,” Professor Nicholls said.

“This cash injection will allow us to move our discoveries forward rapidly and bring them to the clinic and to patients. It’s also about creating a culture of entrepreneurship and commercialisation among the next generation of young researchers.”

“We are committed to shifting the business as usual mindset to ensure that Australia becomes a leader in cardiovascular innovation and that Monash plays a big part in that.”

This investment will fund a range of activities in the Monash cardiovascular innovation ecosystem, including two commercial-ready projects at different stages of the innovation pipeline.

Professor Peter Currie and Associate Professor Mikael Martino will receive more than half a million dollars to investigate the potential of novel cellular therapies and tissue engineering to prevent heart damage following ischemic injury, to reduce scarring and prevent the onset of heart failure.

A collaborative project led by Professor Stephen Nicholls, in conjunction with Melbourne-based industry partner ESN Cleer, will run a clinical trial to test an exciting new saliva-based heart failure diagnostic device on patients.

The Australian Stroke and Heart Research Accelerator is a partnership between Monash University and six academic partners, and more than 25 additional partners from health care, government, NGO, research organisations and industry.

Leader of the Novel Cellular Therapy project and Research Director of the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute Professor Peter Currie said: “We are excited by the opportunity to develop our promising macrophage-based technologies for the treatment of heart attack.”

“We know that such events cause cardiac muscle damage, that’s why we’re making advances in technologies that deliver innovative protein-based therapies to repair what would otherwise be long term heart damage. We think this investment can be a pathway for next-generation treatments for patients suffering from the debilitating conditions that arise after an acute myocardial infarction.”

Speaking on the announcement, Monash University Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Rebekah Brown said: “This investment recognises Monash as a world-leading research institution for cardiovascular and stroke research. Our research is having a significant impact on improving patient health outcomes and delivering long-term economic and social benefits for Australia.”

Professor Stephen Nicholls said the funded projects are just the beginning of the pipeline of innovation emerging from this TTRA Centre.

“We know there is so much potential for research breakthroughs that we can bring to commercial partners and clinical trials. We look forward to collaborating with teams across Monash and beyond on more groundbreaking research we can bring to clinicians via this Centre.”

Link to The Australian Government announcement.

MTP Connect - ASHRA