Australian government hands out AU$79m to fund digital health tech development

Four organisations will each receive AU$19.75 million to help Australian SMBs commercialise their medical research.

The Australian government has announced it will invest AU$79 million to develop new digital health technologies, medical devices, and medicines.

The funding, delivered under the Medical Research Future Fund's Medical Research Commercialisation initiative, will be equally shared among four organisations that will work with local small and medium-sized businesses to commercialise the application of their research. Each organisation will receive AU$19.75 million.

"The initiative has already supported implementation of new products that are changing clinical practice and improving lives," Minister for Health Greg Hunt said.

"They include a novel device that improves the success rate of breast cancer surgery and an implant that promises to treat glaucoma for six months from a single injection, removing the need for daily drop therapy."

The recipients include Australia's National Digital Health Initiative (ANDHealth), which will use the fund to develop digital health technologies with commercial potential, and non-profit MTP-IIGC that will use the fund to support early clinical development of medical devices with commercial potential.

Two of the remaining grants have been awarded to the Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF) for preclinical medical research or innovation projects, and clinical development of novel drugs, or novel uses for existing drugs.

"This funding represents a significant milestone in the development of Australia's digital health industry … currently, the median amount of capital raised by Australian digital health companies is approximately AU$250,000. This program will be transformational in providing investment of up to AU$1 million per company, alongside substantial support and expertise to accelerate the scale up of these life changing technologies," ANDHealth's CEO Bronwyn Le Grice said.

Hunt also announced on Friday two fellowships under the Medical Research Future Fund's Researcher Exchange and Development within industry initiative.

One recipient is Dr Ewan Millar from the NSW Health Pathology who will undertake a 24-month part-time project with New York-based digital diagnostics firm Paign to focus on how applying deep learning and AI to breast cancer biomarker can improve treatment response and behaviour predictions.

The other recipient is Dr Cindy Chia-Fan Shu from Kolling Institute at the University of Sydney Royal North Shore Hospital. She will undertake a 12-month project with biotech firm Regeneus to focus partly on developing models for pre-clinical trials for osteoarthritis treatments.

Last year, the federal government handed over a total of AU$18.8 million to fund the development of 21 new biomedical and medical technology projects. It was part of round three of the government's AU$45 million BioMedTech Horizons program, an initiative designed to support the development of health technologies.

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