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Goodbye 2023, Hello 2024!

As the end of the year approaches and we mark the final days off in our diaries, most of us look forward to quality time with family and friends and down time spent in nature or with a good book.  

Before the working year ends, I encourage you to take a moment to look back and reflect with satisfaction and pride on the many milestones that have been achieved for the NSW health and medical research sector in 2023. It has been another incredible year for the Office for Health and Medical Research, as we helped drive and support innovations that change and save lives by improving patient health outcomes.  

I am ever impressed by the dedication of the individual and collaborative work efforts of everyone within the health and medical research sector and the work of my valued colleagues.  

Though this year we sadly farewelled long-standing Executive Director Dr Tony Penna, after a decade of service in the Office for Health and Medical Research, and several more decades in the NSW health system, filled with countless accomplishments. I have been delighted to continue his legacy and every day, I feel inspired by our ongoing successes.

Supporting the sector

2023 Medical Devices Fund announcement panel

This year we provided significant funding for early-mid career researchers, PhD students, cardiovascular, spinal cord injury and translational research grants. This funding supported researchers to continue their work in emerging areas. Six promising researchers were awarded $3 million in the fast-growing field of microbiomics, as part of the Early-Mid Career Researcher Grant program.  

We have awarded nearly $7 million for two impressive recipients of the Medical Devices Fund for 2023. With this support, SDIP Innovations and Medlogical Innovations, will now be able to further progress development of their cutting-edge technologies for bone injury and prostate cancer. 

In addition, 584 researchers, scientists, clinicians and entrepreneurs across NSW participated in the 2022-2023 cycle of our  Commercialisation Training Program, where they gained fundamental skills that will allow them to take their product to market and build a sustainable business that, in turn, will improve the healthcare of patients and also support our state’s economy. 

Our commitment to exploring emerging opportunities has seen NSW Health become a world leader in the development of bacteriophage (phage) therapy for patients suffering from treatment-resistant bacterial infections. In 2023, we funded $3.5 million to scale local manufacturing capacity in phage therapy, improving accessibility for NSW patients with difficult-to-treat infections. We also contributed to the establishment of the adeno-associated viral (AAV) vector serological service within the Children’s Hospital at Westmead, allowing specialists to identify patients who may benefit from gene therapy trials.  

Funding was also provided to strengthen clinical trial capacity and expertise in NSW in July, when Minister Park announced a $25 million funding boost for PrOSPeCT (Precision Oncology Screening Platform enabled Clinical Trial). These game-changing developments continue to cement our reputation as world health leaders in advanced therapeutics research and innovation.  

NSW Government announced a partnership with Myeloid Therapeutics to operate a $96 Million RNA Facility at Macquarie University. This partnership leverages the state’s world-class advanced therapeutics expertise and builds on existing investments including the NSW RNA Production & Research Network and Australia’s first Viral Vector GMP Manufacturing Facility at Westmead. NSW Health has also made significant investment to establish and scale local GMP manufacturing capabilities.  

Global reach

The Australian delegation at BIO 23

NSW Health is committed to partnering with other world-leading innovation and research nations and our quality health initiatives, clinical trials and commercialisation support, ensure that our state continues to be a highly regarded partner of choice. In 2023, the Office for Health and Medical Research collaborated with Investment NSW to showcase, promote and attract international investment in the state’s leading health and medical research sector. NSW Health has also led international delegations and showcased our outstanding health system and medical research.  

I feel honoured that our Office, along with Investment NSW, was able to promote the incredible life sciences talent of our state at the BIO International Convention, by funding over 30 delegates to attend and hosting a full house event profiling our biopreparedness in diagnostics, vaccines and advanced therapeutics. These opportunities allow us to continuously spotlight and showcase our strengths fostered by NSW Health, including our dynamic health and medical research ecosystem and diverse collaborations.   

Local focus

Rural, Regional and Remote Clinical Trial Enabling Program cluster meeting in early 2023

From a local perspective, we are dedicated to improving health services and care options, while inviting invaluable patient and consumer input and co-design. Our clinical trial management system, to manage planning and reporting of clinical trials in NSW public hospitals and health services, was successfully launched this year across all local health districts and is already showing great benefits in improving the financial management and oversight of trials. This year we also announced and commenced the Rural, Regional and Remote Clinical Trial Enabling Program, that will support local communities in Western, Northern and Southern NSW to bring clinical trials closer to home for many living in those areas.  

Important new policy initiatives also took place. The NSW Health Chief Pharmacist Unit, in collaboration with the Office for Health and Medical Research, developed the Preparation of Pharmaceutical and Advanced Therapeutic Directive. This will ensure that NSW public health facilities comply with standards for compounding and preparation of a broad range of clinical trial products and advanced therapeutics.  

Our impressive NSW Health Research Ethics and Governance Information System (REGIS) is is now being used in three of eight jurisdictions across Australia, with TAS Health signing up in 2023 to utilise REGIS for new site applications, amendments, annual site progress or final reports, and safety notifications for research projects.  

Broader support

Anne O’Neill, Minister Harris and Cicada Innovations CEO Sally-Anne Williams with award winners from the 2023 Commercialisation Training Program.

 The dedicated team at the Office for Health and Medical Research works tirelessly to drive health and medical research initiatives to improve health services and systems in NSW and beyond. This means that our team members continue to deliver business planning support to local health districts and hospital networks, provide commercialisation guidance to previous recipients of the medical devices fund, and facilitate the sponsoring of research events. These initiatives have the common goal of ensuring patients in NSW have access to advanced treatments and a progressive health system, that is sustainable, evidence-driven and future-ready. The collaborative community we have built, and the vast expertise we enjoy locally, and apply globally, ensure that every day we are one step closer to this goal. We look forward to continuing this progress in 2024. In the meantime, I wish you safe travels and a restful, rejuvenating and healthy holiday season. 

Anne O’Neill
Acting Executive Director

Updated 5 months ago