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Experts ask Indian govt to liaise with Australia to avail benefit of MRFF to incentivize medical research in India

Shardul Nautiyal, Mumbai
Monday, September 18, 2023, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

Trade experts have recommended to the Indian government to liaise with the Australian government to avail benefit of its Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) to incentivize medical research in India.

MRFF is an ongoing research fund set up by the Australian government in 2015. Every year, the government uses some of the net interest from this investment to pay for medical research initiatives. The Australian Government regularly monitors and evaluates how well the MRFF is meeting its goals and publishes reports on focus areas. The Australian Government has announced AUD 8 million for 10 mental health and suicide prevention research projects under the MRFF. A new Primary Health Research Plan will also shape AUD 50 million in funding from the MRFF. To improve care and outcomes for people with diabetes and cardiovascular disease, a new Targeted Translation Research Accelerator Research Plan will shape AUD 77.5 million in funding from the MRFF.

According to Sumanta Choudhury, advisor, Pharmaceuticals Export Promotion Council of India (Pharmexcil), “This is very much relevant in the Indian context as the Indo-Enhanced Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA) has been signed between India and Australia. The ECTA agreement will help Indian pharma companies get regulatory approvals faster in Australia, seen as a market with one of the toughest clearance mechanisms. This will also help to reduce Australia’s dependence on APIs from other countries.”

The ECTA with Australia was inked on April 2, 2022 and is India's first complete trade agreement to be signed with any developed country in a decade. The ECTA has been operationalised with effect from December 29, 2022.
As per the MRFF Act 2015, only limited organisations can become an MRFF Eligible Organization (MRFF EO). Organisations need to apply to the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) to become an MRFF EO.

However, the Act of 2015 lays down few parameters for MRFF EO, due to which only the following types of organisations can apply to become MRFF EOs like Medical research institutes, i.e., bodies that conduct medical research as a primary purpose and which are also registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission, Universities, i.e., Australian universities listed in Higher Education Support Act, 2003, Corporate Commonwealth entities, i.e., Commonwealth entities that are corporate bodies, Corporations, i.e., Australian public companies, Australian private companies, and other incorporated entities.

“However, if Indian pharmaceutical companies want to avail the benefits of the fund, then they can partner with an existing MRFF EO as a Participating Institution in order to apply for funds. If the application is successful, then the Indian pharmaceutical companies will receive MRFF funding via the approved MRFF EO,” experts associated with the development explained.

The MRFF Report on funding for rural, regional and remote health research provides information on MRFF investment in rural, regional and remote health research, the impact of this investment, opportunities for learning and future funding. The Evaluation of the MRFF Clinical Trials Activity outlines the findings of a formal review of MRFF investments in clinical trials, approaches for clinical trials overseas and in Australia, ways to improve funding and granting arrangements for clinical trials through the MRFF’s Clinical Trials Activity initiative and the MRFF more broadly.


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