Government announces new investment in gene therapy

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The federal government has announced $80 million for the development of CAR-T therapies at Melbourne's Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and over $65 million in competitive research grants for research into personalised medicine and genomics.

According to prime minister Scott Morrison, speaking on the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, “This investment will be life-changing for so many of our sickest Australians, including many children battling cancer.”

The centre will invest $25 million in the therapies - bringing the total investment to $105 million.

Health minister Greg Hunt said the funding would ensure Victoria was a “global health and medical research destination”.

“It will put Melbourne at the global forefront of cancer research and give our patients the best chance of treating and beating cancer.”

Peter MacCallum interim chief executive Nicole Tweddle said this investment recognises its long history in cellular therapies and immunotherapy.

“Peter Mac is excited to lead this field in Australia with our esteemed clinical and research partners across the country,” said Ms Tweddle.

“We thank the Commonwealth Government and the Peter Mac Foundation for this investment which has the potential to revolutionise outcomes for Australian cancer patients.”

Mr Hunt said the $65 million in grants are the first competitive call for applications under the government's $500 million Genomics Health Futures Mission.

He said funding will be available over three years from 2019–20 to 2021–22 for research into:

  • Cancers (including lung cancer and mesothelioma) and diseases with high mortality and low survivability ($15 million);
  • Paediatric acute care genomic research for critically ill children ($15 million); and,
  • Ethical, legal and social issues related to genomics in health care ($3.7 million).

Funding will be available over four years from 2019-20 to 2022-23 for flagships for pathogen genomics, including infectious respiratory diseases ($32 million).