The Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) CTA Initiative – 2021 Clinical Trials Activity grant opportunity aims to fund research in two priority areas:

  • Rare cancers, rare diseases and unmet need
  • Effective health interventions.

The intended outcome of the research funded by this grant opportunity is to improve the health and wellbeing of Australians by investing in new clinical trials that support increased access to high-quality, evidence-based and effective health care.

Priority 1: Rare cancers, rare diseases and unmet need priority

Applications to the Rare cancers, rare disease and unmet need priority are required to address a rare cancer, rare disease and/or an unmet need.

In Australia, it is estimated that more than 40,000 Australians are diagnosed with a rare or less common form of cancer and for many, support options are minimal with a lack of evidence-based information to inform treatment options and support networks1.

Rare diseases are life-threatening or chronically debilitating disorders or conditions uncommon in the general population. Rare diseases typically exhibit a high level of symptom complexity leading to diagnostic delays and require frequent, ongoing multidisciplinary care and treatment2. To date, more than 10,000 rare diseases have been identified and approximately 8 per cent of Australians live with a rare disease3.

Unmet medical need arises where individuals are living with a serious health condition where there are limited satisfactory options for prevention, diagnosis or treatment to support improved health outcomes.

Priority 2: Effective health interventions

Applications to the Effective health interventions priority are not required to address a rare cancer, rare disease and/or an unmet need.

Since the inception of the MRFF, the pace of development of health and medical sector technology, therapeutics and trial methodologies has continued to grow. Investment in key emerging fields will promote new approaches that support efficient and effective research.

Establishing the effectiveness of an innovation does not guarantee its uptake into routine usage. Implementation trials generate scientific knowledge to improve the uptake of evidence-based interventions in practice. Effective health intervention trials assess the effect of a given strategy on implementation outcomes to improve health or therapeutic outcomes.

Comparative effectiveness research is the generation and synthesis of evidence that compares the benefits and harms of alternative methods to prevent, diagnose, treat, and monitor a clinical condition or to improve the delivery of care. The purpose of comparative effectiveness research is to assist consumers, clinicians, purchasers, and policy makers to make informed decisions that will improve health care at both the individual and population levels.

Consistent with the Medical Research Future Fund Act 2015, the objective of this grant opportunity is to provide grants of financial assistance to support Australian medical research and medical innovation projects that:

Rare Cancers, Rare Diseases and Unmet Need

  • Stream 1 – Conduct a clinical trial of new drug and/or non-drug treatments and therapies for rare cancers, rare diseases and/or unmet needs.
  • Stream 2 – Conduct a clinical trial assessing the safety, effectiveness and acceptability, of neurostimulation for improving outcomes in patients with spinal cord injury.
  • Stream 3 – Conduct a clinical trial assessing the safety, effectiveness and acceptability, of pharmacological and/or non- pharmacological interventions for improving outcomes in individuals with chronic pain.

Effective Health Interventions

  • Stream 4 - Conduct a clinical trial of new drug and/or non-drug treatments and therapies in individuals who have been identified through molecular testing.
  • Stream 5 – Conduct an implementation science trial to determine best ways to implement preventative health interventions, screening or diagnostic test, therapeutic agent, technology or model of care that is not in routine use in Australia.
  • Stream 6 – Conduct a clinical trial assessing the comparative effectiveness and acceptability of health interventions in improving outcomes in individuals with complex chronic conditions, including comorbidities.

For this grant opportunity, 

  • up to $71.6 million of funding from the MRFF is available over four years from 2022-23 for the six Streams
  • for all Streams, there is no minimum grant amount and the maximum amount available for a single grant application is $3 million.

Project period

  • The maximum project period is five years.

Applications to this grant opportunity must propose research that addresses one of the six Streams of research.  An application may be submitted to one of the six Streams only. Applicants must specify the Stream to which they are applying in their application.

Applications will only be accepted from NHMRC approved MRFF Eligible Organisations. A list of NHMRC approved MRFF Eligible Organisations is available from the GrantConnect GO Documents and from the MRFF Eligible Organisations Institutions list on the NHMRC website.


2 Anderson M, Elliott EJ, Zurynski YA. Australian families living with rare disease: Experiences of diagnosis, health services use and needs for psychosocial support. Orphanet J Rare Dis. 2013;8:22  

3 Elliott EJ and Zurynski YA. Rare diseases are a ‘common’ problem for clinicians. AFP. 2015;44:9