Government backs new 10-year stem cell mission


Health minister Greg Hunt has announced $150 million from the Medical Research Future Fund for a ten-year Australian Stem Cell Therapies Mission.

Mr Hunt said the mission will focus on the use of stem cells from fat, cord blood, bone marrow and foetal tissue as possible treatments for spinal cord injuries. It will seek to research potential stem cell treatments for dementia and the potential repair of damaged brain tissue.

Stem cells have potential as treatments for unmet clinical need, even including the development of kidneys with functioning tissue as an alternative for renal replacement. Mr Hunt said the mission could fast-track the use of these kidneys in humans.

One-in-ten Australians have chronic kidney disease, one in three children having inherited disease and approximately 53 Australians dying every day from related kidney disease.

Mr Hunt said the benefit of stem cell therapies is not limited to individual patients, with a significant economic benefit if Australia can capture even a small share of the emerging global regenerative medicine market, including around $6 billion in annual revenue and 6,000 jobs.

He said the creation of the mission is the "first step" in a "coordinated effort" to promote the growth of a regenerative medicine research and industry in Australia. 

The mission will be co-chaired by Stem Cells Australia program leader Professor Melissa Little and inventor of the Nanopatch Professor Mark Kendall.

"We are ready - the science is ready, having progressed phenomenally over the past 10 years. The industry is ready, with appropriate standards in place," said Mr Hunt.

"We will work closely with other stakeholders to ensure the potential of stem cell medicine is unlocked."