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Transcript of press conference: Melbourne: 3 August 2016: Biomedical Translation Fund; CFA

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The Hon. Greg Hunt MP Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science


3 August 2016



Topics: Biomedical Translation Fund, CFA

GREG HUNT: I'm delighted to launch today the Biomedical Translation Fund.

This is a $500 million fund to take from the lab to the patient the benefits of Australian medical research.

It's about jobs, it's about wealth creation, and perhaps most importantly it's about quality of life.

This could be about treatment for melanoma, so as people who are susceptible might be able to live without the fear and risk and consequences of melanoma.

It could be about treatment for diabetes. It could be about cervical cancer, the next Gardasil. So Australia's created the bionic ear, Gardasil.

People just as Sir Macfarlane Burnet, Nobel Prize winner, who's developed one of the great breakthroughs in relation to influenza treatment.

Howard Florey and the application of penicillin to save up to 82 million lives, and Sir Robert Menzies called him perhaps the most significant Australian that has ever lived.

That's what we're looking to do.

A $500 million fund - $250 million from the Government, $250 from the private sector - to invest and commercialise our great medical research.

JOURNALIST: Why is this fund needed? Is there a gap in support from research through to development at the moment?

GREG HUNT: There is a gap, and so a fund such as this has been identified by the medical community and by the venture capital community.

This is an area where Australia is really good at research, we're really good at our well established companies such as CSL.

But there is a gap in taking our great research, commercialising it and keeping the jobs here in Australia.

So when you have a fund such as this, it attracts private sector funding, it keeps our best researchers in the country and it returns the wealth and the human benefits to the Australian people.

I do want to make one brief point whilst I can about the CFA.

We've seen today the words of the Chief Officer of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade.

It is absolutely clear that Daniel Andrews' CFA plan gets worse and worse and worse.

Lives are at risk, the safety of Victorians will be compromised.

The CFA volunteers deserve to be protected and supported.

Our first piece of legislation, which I confirmed only yesterday with the Prime Minister, will be the protection of volunteers' rights in the CFA and elsewhere around Australia.

JOURNALIST: This is a State issue, why are you interfering in it?

GREG HUNT: Well it's a federal issue as well, because it comes about as a result of a Fair Work recommendation, which has then been adopted.

It's fundamental to safety of all Victorians, and it's fundamental to the rights of volunteers around Australia.

So it's a national issue and we will take national action.

I hope that Bill Shorten will support it.

JOURNALIST: Just on the Fund, Minister, is there something that actually ties the financial support to - when you say it keeps the wealth in Australia, can the fund only support Australian researchers and companies?

GREG HUNT: Yes. This is a fund by Australia, for Australia. We have to have the research based in this country.

And that means that it gives us the opportunity to take the brilliance of our scientists in the lab and to translate it to jobs in Australia and health benefits for Australians.

JOURNALIST: So if a researcher has thought an overseas pharmaceutical company, was the best fit for their -what they've actually come up with, will they be blocked from doing that?

GREG HUNT: No, no, people can take their research in whatever way they want. But this fund will invest in Australian research and Australian commercialisation.

The individual researchers, or the individual institutions, can choose to commercialise in whatever way they want.

But this is for taking Australia's research and turning it into Australian jobs and Australian health benefits.

JOURNALIST: Minister, it's probably outside of your portfolio, but earlier this week a 63-year-old woman gave birth in Melbourne.

A reproductive specialist has labelled IVF treatment for elderly women as irresponsible - do you agree?

Do you think it's selfish of this woman, this child when it grow - in ten years' time, it might not have any parents?

GREG HUNT: Ah look I think you're right, it is outside of my portfolio.

JOURNALIST: Do you think it's selfish though?

GREG HUNT: We'll just stay with that. It's not something I've engaged with. I'll leave it for the Health Minister and the Social Services Minister.

JOURNALIST: When does money from the Fund start being - when does money start to be paid out?

GREG HUNT: So we'd like to see the funds being made available for investment in medical research early in the new year.

Two stages - now they find the investment partners who will oversee the funds, and then we want to see that early in the new year translating to investment in Australian jobs.

JOURNALIST: Just to clarify, say a donor comes forward, they say I want to create a medical research fund, and they then would have the ability to have it matched by the Government?

GREG HUNT: So there are really two parts. We appoint a small number of fund managers, experts in commercialising great Australian research, and they will then receive funds from the Government and from the private sectors.

So anybody can invest, but similarly they then find the right medical research to commercialise and invest in.

So it's matching the right money with the right medical research and then commercialising it.

And at the end of the day, creating benefits for the country and creating benefits for people all around Australia.

What does it mean? Melanoma, diabetes, kidney health functions, these are the sorts of things that we want to treat and take care of.

JOURNALIST: So what's in it for the investor?

GREG HUNT: Obviously they're finding a trusted partner in the Australian Government, and that's a global brand, and they get greater returns as a result. Alright, thank you.