Defence urges medical orgs, researchers to rate Australia’s health security capability

The Department of Defence (DoD) is calling on medical, biotech businesses, and medical research organisations to assess the country’s health security capability, providing “an accurate and truly national picture” of Australia’s readiness for potential future pandemics, biosecurity threats, and natural disasters.

Led by the DMTC and funded through Defence’s $1.2 billion Next Generation Technologies Fund, The National Health Security Resilience Assessment (NHSRA) will examine the country’s capabilities in research, development, manufacturing, and distribution of solutions and priority products supporting national health security.

While the NHSRA officially opened for submissions in November last year, the DoD is calling on further contributions from Australia’s medical industry.

The survey assesses sovereign capability across six key health security sectors: medical countermeasures, including vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostic equipment, medical devices, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), modelling and simulation, and hazard management sensing systems.

Results from the survey will help shape the DMTC’s National Medical Countermeasures Initiative (MCMi), which is tasked with building Australia’s sovereign industrial capability and capacity in supplying our defence and health security requirements.

Australia’s National Health Security Agreement, released by the Government in 2011, stresses the importance of effective, rapid, coordinated, and cooperative health sector responses to significant public health events, from disease outbreaks, the release of harmful chemical, biological or radiological agents, and natural disasters to other mass casualty events that may require repatriation of Australians or foreign nationals from overseas for treatment.

The DMTC noted that the Covid-19 outbreak has put a spotlight on Australia’s health security and the importance of ensuring it is “underpinned by a nationally coordinated approach to sovereign preparedness, prevention, response, and recovery (PPRR)”.

“With a strong focus on supply chain resilience and in-country manufacturing capacity, the NHSRA 2020 will assess the strengths and vulnerabilities of Australia’s PPRR ecosystem.”

DMTC partnered with Canberra based innovation consulting firm Gravity iLabs, using its StrategyDotZero platform to “streamline data collection and enable approved stakeholders to both visualise and interrogate the data generated from the NHSRA in real-time”.

“The platform has the capacity to digitise and automate workflows and provide key analytics and reports. This will increase the Assessment’s outreach, accelerate report delivery and maximise resulting project outcomes.”

The DMTC has assured that “all information provided by participants will be stored on a secure Australian server”, with information “de-identified and presented as overall trends for the respective sectors or supply chains”.

Several government agencies were consulted in the development of the survey, including the Department of Health, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the Defence Science & Technology Group (DSTG), the Army, and the (CSIRO).

Selected survey participants will also be invited to take part in further interviews to “enable more detailed discussion of your organisation’s capabilities or capacity in particular sectors covered by the NHSRA,” the DMTC said.

A final report on the survey’s findings will be published in mid-2021.

Final submissions for NHSRA survey close on 31 May 2021.