Landmark funding for malaria drug development was announced today by Trade and Investment Minister, Andrew Robb, and Premier of Queensland, Annastacia Palaszczuk, as part of the Northern Australia Investment Forum.

Australian scientists at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Brisbane will accelerate development of new antimalarial drugs with the support of a $10 million investment from the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV), based in Geneva, Switzerland.

Speaking from the Northern Australia Investment Forum in Darwin, Mr Robb said investment in treatments for diseases such as dengue fever and malaria was a major development focus for the region.

“The economic burden of malaria alone reaches into the hundreds of millions of dollars each year and the human cost, of course, can be much greater,” Mr Robb said.

“We have significant expertise in managing tropical diseases in our north and Australian researchers and biotechnology companies can play a major role in solving health issues across the tropical zone.”

Ms Palaszczuk said the investment from Medicines for Malaria Venture was a boost to the outstanding team led by Professor James McCarthy at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute.

“This new funding will allow scientists to fast-track the development and testing of new malaria medicines for a lower cost,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“Their work will have social and economic benefits not only for Australia and the Asia-Pacific region but worldwide.”

The MMV support will enable testing of candidate antimalarial drugs in healthy volunteers injected with a small number of malaria parasites, without putting them at risk.

Mr Robb also announced the $8.5 million Australian Tropical Medicine Commercialisation Grants Program to help commercialise Australian research on new tropical therapeutics, vaccines and diagnostics. The program will support partnerships between Australian research institutes and global pharmaceutical companies and philanthropic organisations.

The program is open for applications from 25 November 2015 to 19 February 2016.

The Northern Australia Investment Forum runs from today until Tuesday 10 November at the Darwin Convention Centre. It brings together researchers, international investors, Australian investors and the proponents of development projects across the Northern Territory, Western Australia, and Queensland.

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