NICM Newsletter 10


Message from the Executive Director

As 2009 draws to a close we mark another productive year for the Institute. Highlights include the NICM National Symposium held in Brisbane in June that saw the announcement of our inaugural Researcher of the Year Awards and the launch of the Cooperative Research Centre bid; announcement of the integrated care grants program outcomes in November which has attracted considerable media interest and major progress in our key areas of focus. These include national networks to develop research priorities in significant disease burden areas and commissioning of cost effectiveness studies of complementary medicine interventions. I am pleased and excited to announce that the cost effectiveness studies commissioned by NICM will be released in February, as will a series of reports from the research priority expert networks. In addition to these projects, we are pleased with development in our Indigenous medicine research support work and our three national collaborative centres are coming to fruition with significant advances in their programs. The Centres are now at a stage where more substantive outcomes can be reported, and we are in the process of updating our website to provide more detailed information about their activities and results.

The development of our Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) proposal is progressing well. The fact that $50M was committed ($20 million in cash and $30 million in-kind) by industry and other partners for the proposal in such a short space of time is clear evidence of the enormous support and interest in developing a strong evidence base and a sustainable value-add sector. Thank you to all the people who have been involved in these projects and gave so generously of their time, and to our Establishment Committee Chair, Professor John Funder AO. While we are of course disappointed about the technical difficulties we encountered in lodging our proposal, it has given us the opportunity to re-engage with partners and strengthen our proposal for 2010. We are in the process of meeting with partners individually and look forward to a consortium meeting on 12 March next year in Melbourne.

After Christmas NICM will continue to function but at this stage at a much reduced capacity as we come to the end of the first tranche of NICM funding from the Federal government. Both I and NICM General Manager Suzanne Pierce will return to our substantive positions and maintain part-time support for NICM. We have met with Parliamentary Secretary Mark Butler and at the time of writing we are awaiting feedback on our request for ongoing funding.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank our Foundation partners for their support as we come to the end of the first stage of our development – the Federal Government through the Department of Health and Ageing, the NSW Government through the Office for Science and Medical Research (Industry and Investment NSW) and the University of Western Sydney which hosts us and provides invaluable infrastructure support.

I would also like to acknowledge the work of our Advisory Council (Chair Dr Col Gellatly AO), our Scientific Advisory Committee (Chair Professor John Chalmers AC) and Audit and Risk Committee (Chair Rhonda Hawkins, DVC) for their tireless support and guidance over the last two years. Their insights and knowledge of the broad issues of the health, research and industry sectors have been invaluable and we thank them for their commitment to enhancing complementary medicine research. Thanks also to the many national and international research and clinical leaders who have participated in various grant, award and review committees.

Finally, our thanks and best wishes to the Directors of our three National Collaborative Research Centres, Professor Basil Roufogalis (NICM Collaborative Centre for Traditional Chinese Medicine), Professor Con Stough (NICM Collaborative Centre for Natural Medicine & Neurocognition) and Professor Luis Vitetta (NICM Collaborative Centre for Nutraceuticals and Herbal Medicines); and to our research priority expert networks. These are Professor Marc Cohen (wellness and prevention); Professor David Colquhoun (cardiovascular); Professor Ric Day (musculoskeletal and pain); Professor Paul Komesaroff (diabetes, obesity and metabolic syndrome); Dr Monica Robotin (cancer); and Professor Con Stough (dementias).

The staff at NICM wishes you a safe and restful holiday break and we will be in touch again in 2010.

Professor Alan BensoussanExecutive Director

Integrated care grants program and directions report

NICM is pleased to announce the outcomes of its Integrated Care Research Program grants for 2009. Reviewed by an independent international assessment committee, six grants have been allocated, two as a result of a partnership between NICM and the National Breast Cancer Foundation. This partnership is particularly significant and valuable in light of the high rate of use of complementary medicine by women with breast cancer.

The Integrated Care Research Program was established to seed research and data collection that will help develop the evidence base of integrated care within Australia, being mixed use of mainstream and complementary medicine. There is currently no clear picture of how integrated care is being used by healthcare practitioners in Australia despite widespread practice in a range of settings. The grants will help provide insights into the impact integrated care can make to our health system including demonstrating safety, clinical efficacy and cost-effectiveness. The health and economic benefits offered by the projects are exciting and will advance with focused and well structured research.

Two types of grants were available. Type 1 (scale up) grants are designed to accelerate integrated care research where there is already strong preliminary evidence of safety, efficacy and cost-effectiveness arising from research undertaken in Australia. Type 2 (research program developmental) grants are aimed at an earlier stage of research, providing assistance for the development of research programs in integrated care settings.

The grant recipients will address a range of issues, from testing whether people can recover from heart surgery faster, to trialing herbal therapies alongside chemotherapy and the use of acupuncture with IVF. A list of the six recipients and a summary of their proposed work will be available online today.

In addition to the grants program, NICM commissioned a review of integrative care initiatives and models as part of its translational research program. Information about this review and associated report and resources will also be available online shortly.

Researchers of Indigenous Medicine Forum

On 23 September 2009, NICM hosted a researcher focused forum on research of Indigenous Medicine in Brisbane, Queensland. Co-chaired by Professor Gerard Bodeker, Global Initiative for Traditional Systems of Health, Oxford University and by Professor Michael Reid, Director-General, Queensland Health; the forum was the culmination of preliminary consultations with researchers of Indigenous medicine commissioned by NICM. NICM is following up directions set by the forum, and will report on progress next year. 

Collaborative Centre for Neurocognition received ARC grants

The NICM Collaborative Centre for Neurocognition has received two Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery grants for two projects - Improving cognitive function in the elderly and Glucose facilitation of cognitive function: effects of effort, age and glucose control. These three year projects have received funding of over $450,000.

The ageing population has been identified as one of the major issues facing Australian society. It has significant societal, economic and importantly, personal/human costs. Both of these projects assess biological processes that may improve cognitive functioning in the elderly and implement interventions that may reduce cognitive ageing.

European Union complementary medicine initiative

The European Union (EU) recently announced they will grant 1.5 million Euros to a three year network of research for complementary and alternative medicine, called CAMbrella. This 'umbrella' of research projects is set to commence in January 2010.

Several working groups will focus on patients' needs, legal conditions for the implementation of naturopathic treatments, and the role of complementary and alternative medicine treatments in healthcare systems, as well as on questions of terminology and methodology. The objective is to develop a comprehensive view of the current status of complementary medicine in Europe that will serve as a starting point for future research activities. Eventually, the CAMbrella project will provide a list of recommendations.

The group consists of 16 scientific partners from 12 countries. An advisory board will facilitate collaboration among the various stakeholders in complementary and alternative medicine, including consumers, practitioners, clinical providers and manufacturers, and regulatory authorities.

Draft National Pain Strategy

The draft National Pain Strategy is now available for expert community consultation on the Pain Summit website. You may download the draft strategy at:

The National Pain Summit aims to elevate awareness of the prevalence and economic cost of persistent pain to the community through the development of a National Pain Strategy which will be aligned with the Federal Government's proposals for health reform to make more effective, cost-effective and accessible healthcare solutions available to all Australians.

The intended audiences for the National Pain Strategy are state and federal governments, funders, clinicians, consumers, researchers and research funders. The closing date for comments is 31 January 2010.