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The New Frontier: Neuroscience, Digital Health and Clinical Trials Part II

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Creating Australian jobs: The clinical trials sector continues to grow

Clinical research is a significant contributor to the Australian economy according to Dr Bronwyn Evans, Chair and Sue McLeman, CEO of MTP Connect in their recent report on the economic profile and competitive advantage of clinical trials in Australia. The report shows that total clinical trials expenditure in this country was approximately $1.1 billion in 2015. This is direct expenditure on clinical studies predominantly by medical, biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies who provide more than 84% of the funds. Importantly, any infrastructure support or overhead costs are not included in this estimate so the actual contribution to the economy is likely to be considerably greater.

MTP report 1Australia’s clinical trial sector at a glance. Source: MTP Connect

‘Understanding the expenditure is important for us not only now but in the future,’ says Dr Tina Soulis, CEO at Neuroscience Trials Australia. ‘The complexity of clinical trials is reflected in the range of professions required to complete even the simplest of clinical studies but taken as a whole, the number of research and management jobs supported at big and small pharma companies or clinical research service providers is about 4,700,’ she said.

Added to this are about 2,200 clinical staff who perform the key tasks that involve patient interaction at healthcare organisations but excludes staff at universities or medical research institutes who contribute to clinical trials. Employment figures from these institutions are generally not reported. This would suggest that the total clinical trial employment in Australia is well in excess of 7,000.

MTP report 2Clinical trial employment in Australia. Source: MTP Connect


‘And the sector is growing,’ says CEO Soulis. If Australia maintains its historical growth in trial numbers and improves patient recruitment by 25% to 50% the value of the sector could increase to $2.1-2.5 billion and sector employment to 13,000 to 16,000 in the next 7 years.

‘We expect the impact on neuroscience trials to be at the high end of these figures,’ says Soulis. ‘With an ageing population and increasing numbers of people suffering neurological disease we anticipate pressure will be on us to test more drugs and fast-track those that show promise.’

‘We are already looking at ways to retain key staff, at developing training programs for recent graduates and keeping abreast of information technologies that will allow us to cope with the demand,’ she said.