Landmark event advances horizon scanning for disruptive health technologies in Australia

6 December 2022: For the first time, senior representatives from patient organisations, government and the life sciences industry have come together nationally to consider how Australia should prepare for disruptive health technologies.

‘Medicines of Tomorrow: Australia’s First Horizon Scanning Forum’ was held in Canberra to promote a greater understanding of new and emerging medicines and to facilitate faster access to these innovations for Australian patients.

Elizabeth de Somer, CEO of Medicines Australia, said the inaugural event brought together more than 300 stakeholders from across Federal and State/Territory Governments, the medicines and life sciences industry, researchers, clinicians and patient group organisations.

“The COVID-19 pandemic showed us how important it is to have rapid access to innovative medicines, vaccines and treatments once they have been approved as safe and effective,” Ms de Somer said.

“We cannot predict the future, but we are getting better at forecasting future health needs. Using science, data and human ingenuity, the future looks bright for health innovation – and we must be ready for its arrival.

“Horizon scanning means looking at trends in disease areas, populations, healthcare and technology solutions to identify disruptions which could challenge our health system.

“Without identifying disruptive technologies, we would not know what to prepare for. But we cannot just look at the horizon – we must act. And act in collaboration, as we did during the pandemic.

“Only by acting in partnership with industry, health experts, governments and patients will we be able to ensure that Australian patients have rapid access to the latest, disruptive health technologies that can transform and save lives,” Ms de Somer said.

Almost 300 attendees joined in Canberra and via an online stream. Highlights included:

  • Four insightful case studies on disruptive approaches to deal with challenging disease areas: precision medicine for mental health; gene therapy for Duchenne muscular dystrophy; disease modifying therapies for Alzheimer’s disease and combination therapies for cancer patients.
  • A presentation from University of Melbourne’s PRIMCAT team demonstrated how faster access to innovative cancer treatments could have economic impacts.
  • Attendees also heard how patients can benefit from horizon scanning and the key lessons from other countries’ horizon scanning systems.

The Minister for Health and Aged Care, the Hon. Mark Butler MP, addressed attendees via video message.

“Our Government is very pleased to see collaborations like today,” Minister Butler said in his video address.

“Myself and my team from across the Health Portfolio are committed to improving the outcomes for all Australians and events such as today move us forward in the right direction.

“I’m looking forward to progress horizon scanning in Australia to ensure our health systems are fit for purpose to bring innovative technologies to patients quickly,” Minister Butler said.

A key panel session with experts from across industry, patients, genomics and Government agreed that Australia needs a nationally coordinated horizon scanning system to benefit patients.

In summarising the event, Elizabeth de Somer said the day was a positive stride towards tighter collaboration that will in the end, benefit all Australians.

“At some point in our lives, we are all patients.

“We do not know what the future holds but by working together, we can better prepare for the latest medical and health innovations to make sure no Australian patient is left behind,” she said.


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