Medical Research Policy
La Trobe University
31 May 2017
Dr Fiona Cameron

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ARC NCGP funding by Fields of Research 2009–2016 

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Stacked area chart showing ARC NCGP funding (new and ongoing) by two digit Fields of Research 2009-2017 (2017 excl. LP and LASP). Projects for which there is no FoR code nominated are excluded.

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ARC Medical Research Policy

  • “the ARC does not normally fund health and medical research through its competitive funding schemes”
  • “There are research activities that potentially intersect with both ARC and NHMRC responsibilities.” 
  • “The ARC remains committed to ensuring that there is no eligibility 'gap' between the two agencies (in terms of disciplines or fields of research).”
  • Definition of Medical Research can be found on the ARC website and within the relevant scheme Funding Rules.
  • The ARC does not consider ‘hypotheticals’ or provide pre-eligibility rulings.
  • We do provide examples.
  • Please see ARC Medical Research Policy.

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“Medical” definitions

‘Human health conditions—Pertaining to diseases (as defined above), syndromes, pathological conditions, injuries, signs, symptoms, problems and/or conditions that generally lead to contact with, or utilisation of, health services.

Intervention/al—Includes interventions designed to understand and/or change human health conditions, such as:

  • clinical or pre-clinical trials in human participants; 
  • the collection and/or use of body organs, tissues or fluids e.g. skin, blood, urine, saliva, hair, bones, tumour and other biopsy specimens or exhaled breath; 
  • behavioural interventions; or 
  • dietary interventions.’ 

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Eligible research: 

  1. research in bioengineering, where the goal is to advance engineering knowledge by applying engineering principles to problems that may ultimately have medical applications; or,
  2. research in the natural sciences, where the goal is the fundamental understanding of biological processes or the development of knowledge and/or technology platforms, that may ultimately have medical applications; or,
  3. research (including observational research) where the goal is the understanding of normal human life stages (e.g. infancy, childhood, adolescence and ageing) and/or traits using human participants or populations, unless it involves a health intervention; or,
  4. the use or development of equipment, facilities, tools, games, devices, smart phone applications or other items to support eligible research as listed above.

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Ineligible research: 

  1. ‘research with human health and/or medical goals, including research on the understanding, aetiology, diagnosis, monitoring, management or treatment of physical or mental disease or other health conditions in humans; or, 
  2. research involving the use or development of animal models of human health conditions, or the use of animals for the development or testing of therapeutic goods (including devices) or procedures, for the purpose of better understanding human health or developing treatments for human health conditions; or, 
  3. interventional research in humans, particularly clinical or pre-clinical trials of therapeutic goods (including devices), or research aiming to modify the health of the human participants; or, 
  4. the use or development of equipment, facilities, tools, games, devices, smart phone applications or other items to understand, diagnose, monitor, manage or treat human health conditions.’

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Mind the gap...

  • ‘If the ARC determines that a proposal is at risk of not being considered by either agency (ARC or NHMRC), the ARC reserves the right to deem such a proposal eligible for assessment
  • Recognising that an integrated research project or program may sometimes include a small element of research not supported under this policy, the ARC may, but is not obliged to, deem such a proposal eligible for assessment provided the proposal predominantly comprises eligible research as set out in this policy
  • Proposals deemed ineligible cannot be recommended or approved for funding under the Australian Research Council Act 2001.’

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Physics Chemistry and Earth Sciences (PCE)

  • Example 1
  • The aim of this project is to develop new ways to synthesise novel porous nanomaterials which may have potential future applications as drug delivery platforms. The outcomes from this project will include an improved understanding of techniques for controlling the formation of these nanomaterials.
  • Eligibility comment: This example is eligible for ARC support as, although it is noted that this proposal could ultimately have medical applications, it aims to contribute to knowledge in the chemical sciences (Refer to Policy clauses 1a, 1b). 

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Engineering Mathematics and Informatics (EMI)

  • Example 2
  • This project will develop a novel system for rehabilitation of patients with cardiovascular disease and other co-morbidities such as obesity. The rehabilitation system will be based on an accessible exercise machine, similar to an elliptical trainer, which can be used in the participants’ home, and be linked by Bluetooth to the HeartMatePro Application (App). The App will record exercise, and participants can enter readings such as blood pressure or blood sugar levels so they can be reported to the health centre automatically through the App, or in person, to assist with evaluation of the equipment’s efficacy, and to assist in monitoring the participants’ wellbeing.
  • Eligibility comment: This example is not eligible for ARC support as its primary aim is to develop equipment and use smart phone applications to manage and treat human health conditions (2d). 

HeartMatePro is a mock App invented for the purposes of example only.

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Social, Behavioural and Economic Sciences (SBE)

  • Example 6
  • This project will test the impact of cognitive brain training (CBT) on elderly human participants with the aim of improving their cognitive resilience, thus reducing the likelihood of dementia. The research will measure the impact of different types of CBT on selected cohorts, to test its impact and with the overall aim of reducing the age of onset of dementia.
  • Eligibility Comment: This example is not eligible for ARC support as it uses an intervention with the aim of understanding, managing or modifying a human health condition (2a, 2c).  

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Biological Sciences and Biotechnology (BSB)

  • This project examines the ability to regenerate organs in an animal model and in doing so aims to contribute to knowledge on cell replacement. Using lung damage as a model we plan to investigate the behaviour of circulating peripheral blood monocytes and whether they might be involved in the pathways for stimulating regeneration. This animal model is ideal to understand this perplexing problem. Ultimately, understanding how to regenerate organs in an animal system may allow replacement in other animals including humans.
  • Eligibility Comment: This example is eligible for ARC support as it aims to understand fundamental mammalian biological processes (1b)
  • Australia has the highest level in the world of sun induced cancer. These can be aggressive tumours with a high mortality rate. The molecular basis of these diseases specifically, Sun Cancer 1 (SC1), is thought to be genetic.  
  • This project aims to use basic molecular biological techniques to investigate the implications of Dumpy Duck1 (DpDY1) gene pathways and sun induced pathologies, specifically the effect of DpDY1 signalling on P53 a common tumour suppressor gene pathway in an established mouse model of SC1. This knowledge will expand our understanding of genetic pathways leading to SC1 and enable the search for new pharmaceuticals to combat SC1.
  • Eligibility Comment: This example is not eligible for ARC support as its primary aim is to better understand a human disease (2a) and uses animal models to understand human health conditions (2b).

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Instructions to Applicants
for funding commencing in 2018

Medical Research Statement

  • Proposals which could be considered to be in an area related to medical research should provide justification in support of the eligibility of the Proposal with reference to the ARC Medical Research Policy.
  • Be as clear as possible in your response as to the main aim of the Proposal. This may include well identified, big picture and long-term intent beyond the scope of the Proposal.
  • Address why areas of research which may appear to be medical are required, for example, to provide proof of concept, demonstrate a platform technology and are many years from medical application. 
  • Avoid simply quoting the policy in your response and provide sufficient detail for the ARC to properly understand the intent and limits of the research aims. 
  • A decision on eligibility may be made on the sole basis of this information.

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Proposals with eligibility issues: by scheme

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Stacked bar chart showing the number of proposals with eligibility issues on a scheme by scheme basis. 

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