Government funding to fight infectious diseases

Research, Science and Innovation Associate Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall. Photo: File.

The Government is investing in a new Infectious Diseases Research Platform to boost Aotearoa New Zealand’s Covid-19 response and preparedness for future pandemics.

A total of $36 million will be invested into research on Covid-19 and other infectious diseases, with the intention to improve NZ’s readiness for future pandemics.

Research will focus on prevention, control, and management of infectious diseases.

Last year, MBIE and the Ministry of Health worked with the health and research sectors to identify areas where research was most needed, leading to the priorities for this investment.

“Our response to Covid-19 has been informed by science from the beginning, and as a result we have saved lives,” says Research, Science and Innovation Associate Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall.

“But the lack of a dedicated infectious diseases research fund has been a longstanding gap in our domestic science capabilities. When the pandemic hit, scientists either volunteered time to support the Covid-19 response, or received ad hoc grants for small pieces of research. To address this, we are investing $36 million over three years in a new programme of research to sustain the contribution of cutting-edge science to the response.”

The money has been reprioritised from an unspent allocation to the Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund.

Verrall says the focus will be on major research questions relating to Covid-19, which are common to all infectious diseases.

“The first priority area is improving prevention and control, including through better understanding of disease transmission, and further vaccine research. The second is in improving our management of infectious diseases, for instance through diagnostics, surveillance and therapeutics,” says Verrall.

The fund will co-create detailed research programmes with Māori and Pacific communities, researchers, clinicians and government agencies.

“Reducing the impact of infectious diseases on Māori and Pacific people, and promoting the development of our next generation of pandemic scientists, are key drivers of this work.”

The Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund topped up the funding to Crown Research Institutes, to enable them to continue operating in the face of a decline in commercial revenues due to the pandemic.

CRI revenue has not fallen as much as forecast, meaning some of that top-up was not spent.

Verrall says is important the Government’s science investment reflects, and is responsive to, New Zealand’s changing needs.

“This important investment will enable us to sustain the valuable contribution scientists make to the Covid-19 response, improve capability and prepare for future pandemics. It will generate practical collaborations between scientists, the health system, and the pandemic response.”

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment will run an investment process, and will open up for proposals from next month for the platform host.

Further information can be found here:

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