By a conservative analysis, the gap in funding for quality MS research is predicted to rise to a significant shortfall of A$10.3 million per annum over the next couple of years. This is the gap in funding needed to fund all the quality MS research in Australia against what is available.
Over the last 14 years MS Research Australia has become the largest national for purpose funder and facilitator of MS research in Australia, and a growing contributor to MS research internationally. Since inception we have increased funding available for Australian MS research from under half a million dollars to now more than A$4.5 million per annum – a total to date of A$31.5 million.
Whilst MS Research Australia is the largest funder, unfortunately we are seeing an increase of MS research applications that are deemed worthy of funding by our expert panel but missed out due to lack of available funds. In 2016 alone, over A$4.1 million worth of ‘fundable’ MS research applications remained unfunded.
In 2015, with support from the Macquarie Group Foundation, MS Research Australia was able to critically evaluate the size and nature of “the gap”. This was then published in two large reports (The Resource Landscape Report and the Research Audit 2004 – 2014) that helped us to evaluate the impact of our funded research and identify the gaps and opportunities to prioritise our funding.
MS Research Australia currently receives less than 5% of its total annual revenue from government sources. Our own fundraising, via philanthropy and community support is the major stream of funding accounting for around 73% of our total revenue. Around 27% comes from state-based MS societies.
Australia is falling behind the rest of the world with only 7% of funds raised overall for MS (collectively by Australian MS organisations) coming to research, in comparison to between 15 – 20% in other major countries. Large MS societies such as the US, UK and Canada, have initiated successful annual funding campaigns purely for MS research.
MS UK’s Director of Philanthropy and Partnerships, Emma Whitcombe, whom has begun an ambitious and exciting A$175 million MS research only campaign, Stop MS, said ‘The UK MS Society and the global scientific community believe that we are now at a critical juncture in MS research and that a major strategic investment could unlock breakthroughs that are on the horizon.’
MS Canada recently completed a very successful 5 year A$74 million MS research campaign called end MS and are already embarking on another campaign – this time for A$250 million.
The National MS Society (NMSS) in the US consistently fund the most MS research per annum, providing over A$80 million to MS research funding in the 2015 financial year. They also fund MS research outside the US (including projects in Australia). In 2015, the US completed their successful 5 year A$336 million MS research campaign and are now embarking on a substantively larger pioneering campaign.
The US also generously contributed over 50% of the A$32 million funding to the first phase of the International Progressive MS Alliance, on top of their annual MS research commitment and provide significant people power to this global initiative.
Australian MS researchers have enormous potential to contribute to this global push for breakthroughs and insights about MS. But without our support their ideas and expertise will otherwise be simply left on the shelf.
Research is the only hope for a cure. More has to be done to support our Australian MS researchers who, are amongst the very best in the world. We also have many clear and unique strengths in MS research when compared to our global research counterparts. Unfortunately more and more, these researchers are getting “squeezed out” with an increasingly challenging medical research funding environment, leaving them with few options but to move overseas, transition to another area of medical research or out of science altogether.
This is really a call to action for all Australians. MS Research Australia urgently needs your support to ensure that all of the high quality Australian research can be funded to secure a better future for people affected by MS.