Australia’s position as a global leader in tropical health will be further bolstered by a $15.4 million funding injection as part of the Abbott Government’s plans to support the development of Northern Australia.

Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb – who is overseeing the finalisation of the government’s forthcoming White Paper on Developing Northern Australia – said Australia’s tropical researchers and research hubs were among the world’s best.

“Tropical medicine is one of our national strengths and we are only beginning to grasp the scale of opportunity of this and there is great untapped potential, now and into the future,” he said.

The Australian Tropical Medicine Commercialisation Grants Programme will provide $8.5 million to commercialise research in new tropical therapeutics and diagnostics undertaken in Australia.

It will build connections between Australian research institutes and global players in the health sector including pharmaceutical companies and philanthropic organisations like the Gates Foundation and Wellcome Trust.

The Budget will also invest $6.9 million in a strategy to build Australia’s primary research capacity, funding collaborative projects focused on priority diseases including dengue, malaria, Hendra, multi-drug resistant tuberculosis and others.

Northern Australia’s proximity to the fast growing Tropical region presents extraordinary opportunities for Australian tropical medicine. James Cook University, for instance, is a leader in tropical health and medical research.  

The tropical zone currently produces around 20 per cent of global economic output but it is growing at a much faster rate than the rest of the world. By 2025, its combined output is projected to reach US$40 trillion.

By 2050, half the world’s population will live in the tropical zone, including 60 per cent of its children, and the region will be home to more middle class consumers than anywhere else.

Mr Robb said Australian medical research can help manage or eradicate many of the diseases specific to this region, including Australia’s own tropical zone.

“We can play a significant role in helping to increase the quality of life of hundreds-of-millions of people in our region, while at the same time aiding the development and capacity of our own Northern Australia tropical zone.”

The Australian Tropical Medicine Commercialisation Grants Programme will be administered under an arrangement between Austrade and the Department of Industry and Science.

The research grants will be funded the National Health and Medical Research Council under the direction of a Scientific Advisory Panel including scientific experts, health policy officials, health practitioners and consumers.

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