Message from the Director

Time waits for no-one, nor for our belated newsletter - the first six months of 2019 have flown by!

In March, we were thrilled to be recognised once again for our high quality research in complementary medicine through the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) 5 ranking and for our significant contribution to an additional ERA 5 ranking in Pharmacology at Western Sydney University.

We remain the only research institute in the field that has achieved consistent ERA 5 rating since our evaluation commenced in 2012. In addition, in June our laboratory facilities received the top A1 rating by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). This is particularly exciting as our new scientific laboratories will be completed at Westmead in September along with the Jacka Foundation Conference Centre. Our new facilities at Westmead will include analytical, pharmacology, cardiovascular and neurophysiology laboratories, whilst we are also raising funds for their expansion.

Showcasing our capabilities, NICM and University colleagues have recently returned from a very successful series of meetings in China, including a presence with Australian industry partners at the largest natural products expo in Shanghai; advancing our Chinese Medicine Centre collaboration with Beijing University of Chinese Medicine; progressing higher degree research collaborations with Sun Yat Sen University, and advancing high level plans for a major Chinese medicine and health data research platform in China.

The Government’s private health insurance reforms came into effect on 1 April with natural therapies Government rebates cut from the private health insurance cover, removing almost 20 natural therapies, including naturopathy, Pilates, yoga and tai chi. NICM along with key stakeholders and industry leaders expressed their concern to the Government and Health Minster Greg Hunt regarding the complete rebate ban, most especially where evidence was currently contrary to the ban. The complementary and integrative medicine community welcomed Minister Hunt’s announcement (opens in a new window) investing $2 million for an updated commissioned evidence review of certain natural therapies. This updated review is due to commence in 2019, with the final review report to be provided to Government in 2020. In other policy and submission news, in June we put forward NICM's submission to the Medical Board of Australia Public consultation on clearer regulation of medical practitioners who provide complementary and unconventional medicine and emerging treatment.

Over the last six months our researchers have been in high demand for their expertise, including on two separate World Health Organization initiatives, as well as ongoing participation at international conferences and with national and international media - as you will read in this newsletter edition. NICM has also been appointment as an International Collaborating Centre for Chinese Medicine Clinical Research, by the World Federation of Chinese Medicine Societies. NICM researcher Justin Sinclair also received accolades by industry and awarded Researcher of the Year in recognition of his extraordinary contributions to the development of medicinal cannabis research in Australia.

The Hon Karen Andrews, Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, announced the success of the Future Food Systems Co-operative Research Centre (CRC) in which WSU Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment is a core partner along with several industry partners. Researchers from NICM will be contributing to two of the research themes of the CRC. The CRC has been funded for 10 years and Western Sydney University expects $1.3 million in funding each year.

Our Vice-Chancellor and President of Western Sydney University, Professor Barney Glover received a prestigious appointment of an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in the Australia Day honours, recognising his distinguished service to tertiary education, to professional associations and cultural organisations. Under Professor Glover’s leadership, Western Sydney University has also for the 14th consecutive year been recognised as an Employer of Choice for Gender Equality (EOCGE) by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), as well as ranked first in the world for its work to address gender equality, and second for reducing inequalities by promoting inclusive and equitable quality education - according to the inaugural Times Higher Education University Impact Rankings. As one of a small group of Australian universities that became a signatory to supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goals, we are deeply committed to tackling issues such as improving access to education and addressing inequality.

In May, the release of the United Nations Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) report was a timely reminder for the complementary healthcare industry to acknowledge and understand the impact climate change will have on natural medicine. Blackmores Institute’s Sustainable Nutrition report highlights the exposure of 1,000,000 species threatened with extinction and the need to protect and restore nature. You will find a link to this very interesting literature review in our reports and resources section of this newsletter.(opens in a new window)

We sincerely thank our supporters, new and old, in providing ongoing assistance for our leading integrative medicine research. We are particularly excited also of our deepening research collaborations in Chinese medicine, our growing herbal, nutraceutical and Australian bush medicine research and the potential to develop further opportunities in India.

I hope you enjoy our winter edition.

With best wishes,

Professor Alan Bensoussan

9 July 2019