Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (15:36): My question is for Minister Pulford in her portfolio of medical research, and it relates to the neuromedicines discovery centre, which is a new and unique research venture by Monash University. Trials have shown that medically assisted psychotherapy is an effective and long-lasting treatment option for PTSD, depression and substance use disorders—and I am pleased that Minister Leane has also taken an interest in this. But we need more research, and Victoria is the best place to do it.
This project responds to the royal commission’s key research priority recommendation on innovation in pharmacology and is headed by world-renowned expert Professor Arthur Christopoulos. It stands to not only benefit patients but create jobs in education and health and strengthen our economy via novel IP and manufacturing for commercial supply of pharmaceutical-grade psychoactive medicines. The university is keen to build on this.
So my question is: will the minister take steps to fund this important research centre?
Ms PULFORD (Western Victoria—Minister for Employment, Minister for Innovation, Medical Research and the Digital Economy, Minister for Small Business, Minister for Resources) (15:37): I thank Ms Patten for her question—such an important question on such an important subject. I certainly look forward to working with researchers in this endeavour, with Minister Merlino in his capacity as the Minister for Mental Health, who has, in the first instance for the government, responsibility for delivery of the royal commission recommendations. But we have had a number of very good conversations about the intersection between some of those recommendations and my responsibilities as minister for medical research.
My office and department have met with some of the scientists undertaking some of this cutting-edge research into the impact of new and not-so-new drug treatments for PTSD in particular. I know Mr Leane and I have had discussions about this as well, including after your previous question to Mr Leane about that insofar as it affects our veteran communities, but of course PTSD is also experienced by many people who have experienced trauma throughout the Victorian community, and it is an incredibly debilitating condition that can be very, very stubborn and resistant to treatment.
Whilst I am not in a position to make a funding commitment now—and I would remind Ms Patten and the house that the primary funder of research grants is the federal government, through the Future Fund and the NHMRC, the regular grants rounds—we certainly do support our sector in a whole lot of different ways, including with our own grants rounds and indeed some really important work that we are able to do in terms of facilitating partnerships and building the ecosystem.
Ms Patten said that Melbourne is the best place to do this kind of medical research. Melbourne is very much the best place—certainly the best place in Australia—to do any kind of medical research, and that is not to be dismissive of the exceptional skill and capability and dedication that exist in other states, with whom our researchers work in partnership. But what we have here is very, very special, with around 40 per cent of those national grants, which is the way in which the share is assessed. Our government has now made over a billion dollars of investment into medical research, including in a really wide range of different areas of endeavour.
It is a very rapidly changing area as well as we see new platforms like mRNA, for instance, presenting a multitude of potential new research frontiers for things that have persistently been very difficult problems to solve. We also have, I think, a very particular point of time in human history where we see a really interesting confluence between data science and— (Time expired)
Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (15:40): Thank you, Minister. Well, I take note that, yes, a lot of this comes through federal funding, but as you mentioned, there are some state grants there and also that ability, as you said, to help them fit into that ecosystem. We know that this type of medicine is now in stage 3 trials in the United States. It has got Food and Drug Administration approval. We are at that tipping point, so now is just such an important time.
Certainly Monash University through their discovery centre have done some really great work on their own, so I am just wondering if you would meet with them again to talk about how you can provide assistance to take them to that next step, just to ensure that this opportunity is not lost.
Ms PULFORD (Western Victoria—Minister for Employment, Minister for Innovation, Medical Research and the Digital Economy, Minister for Small Business, Minister for Resources) (15:41): I thank Ms Patten for her interest and her advocacy. I am really happy to meet with the people running this project and to hear their latest as well. \
Of course there is a role for us in advocating to the federal government, but we are certainly much more active and interventionist than just that, and we have for 20 years now in Victoria as a state been really actively supporting and nurturing our extraordinary ecosystem. You know, the goals of our research community are constantly moving and constantly changing, and we pretty ruthlessly pursue making sure that our scientists have the support that they need to do what they do in all sorts of different ways.
I think this is a really interesting field of inquiry and research, and I wish them every success. I am certainly happy to meet with them and to hear from them what more we can do to support them.
Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Northern Metropolitan Region
Question without notice 12/10/21