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Unrivalled innovative research

Our research in Australia is unrivalled with NICM Health Research Institute rated “well above world standard” by the Australian Government’s Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) process. We are Australia’s most awarded ERA 5 rated institute in the field of complementary medicine research, consecutively rated well above world standard.

Australia is internationally renowned for the strength of its (mainstream) basic medical and clinical research, clinical trials and analytical capabilities. However, while it has one of the highest levels of use of complementary medicine per capita in developed nations, historically it provides one of the lowest investments in related research. The Institute seeks to provide a coordinated, national approach to developing a comprehensive research agenda and resolving complex methodological issues to facilitate appropriate translation of evidence into practice and policy.

Closing the evidence gap through high-quality research

We conduct clinical and laboratory research to close the gap between our use of complementary medicines and our understanding and knowledge of how they work.

Our laboratory research provides a critical step in understanding how herbal medicines work in the body. Chemical analysis of herbal products for quality assurance is an important extension to our clinical studies program and provides a wealth of opportunities for innovation in medicinal product development. Our state-of-the-art Herbal Analysis and Pharmacology Laboratories are among the very few licensed by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration to undertake testing and provide certificates of analysis for herbal products.

Research Priorities

Complementary medicine research is a strategic priority in Australia's National Health and Medical Research Council plan and one of the Institute's roles is to articulate national priorities in basic and translational research. In its first year of operation overarching priorities were established by NICM HRI, going forward these higher level priorities are being refined and translated into a workable plan that will help concentrate research effort. NICM HRI has developed a unique process to help identify these priorities which will be of national and international relevance.

Clinical Trials

Our clinical program concentrates on four key nodes:

  • Women's health in collaboration with Professor Felix Wong, Liverpool Hospital
  • Aged care in collaboration with Professor Daniel Chan, Bankstown Hospital
  • Cardiovascular health in collaboration with Professor Hosen Kiat, Cardiac Health Institute
  • Gastroenterology in collaboration with Professor John Kellow, Royal North Shore Hospital and Nepean Hospital

We have successfully completed clinical trials on the evaluation of herbal medicines and/or acupuncture for health conditions such as:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Infertility
  • Endometriosis
  • Menopause
  • Dementia
  • Cardiovascular diseases including diabetes and metabolic syndrome
  • Management of lymphoedema and other cancer treatment related symptoms
  • Breast cancer fatigue
  • Cold sores
  • Delayed onset muscle soreness
  • Dysmenorrhoea
  • Eating disorders
  • Hepatitis C
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Neurocognitive function
  • Pre-diabetes
  • Threatened miscarriage

Find out more about NICM HRI's current Clinical Trials.

Preclinical Research

Our preclinical laboratory research focuses on the identification, bioactivity and mechanisms of action of herbal medicines and herb-drug interactions:

  • Quality assurance through authentication of the botanical identity of raw herbs and identification of active ingredients.
  • Extraction, isolation and quantification of herbal biomarkers.
  • Method development for quality assurance of complex herbal medicines and stability studies.
  • Herb-drug interactions.
  • Preclinical bioactivity and clinical availability studies.
  • Molecular basis of the neuroprotective and anti-ageing effects of traditional Chinese herbal medicines.

Research Translation

Improving integrated care

Within Australia, integrated care is being provided by sole practitioners and multi-disciplinary teams within a range of settings, including hospitals and clinics. However, there is no current profile of integrated care initiatives; compendiums of examples and their benefits, or information collected on a regularised and agreed basis to enable trends to be monitored and comparisons of health and costs benefits to be made. NICM HRI has prepared a directions paper to help address this gap and provided seed funding to a number of integrated care studies.

Health economics of integrative and complementary medicine

A key goal of any healthcare system is to deliver health services that improve the health of a population. With pressures on healthcare budgets (expensive new technologies, an ageing population, etc) tough decisions need to be made in how to best allocate the available resources. NICM HRI has conducted research that helps demonstrate the relative value of integrative and complementary medicine interventions to the community.

Regulation and policy

NICM HRI undertakes research on policy issues relating to integrative and complementary medicine in Australia.

Building capacity across the sector

We deliver key initiatives to build Australian research and industry capacity in complementary medicines including the following:

  • Three NICM HRI Collaborative Centres: these leveraged over $6m in funding from $1.8m committed, training over 13 PhD students and 21 research associates and post-doctoral fellows and producing over 170 peer reviewed publications and in excess of 1200 citations.
  • Standard Operating Procedures for Clinical Trials to strengthen the quality of clinical research in this area.
  • The Herbal Chemical Marker Ranking System (Herb MaRS), developed by NICM HRI as a comprehensive set of guidelines and criteria for selecting the most suitable chemical markers for quality assurance and quality control analysis of complex multi-ingredient herbal medicine formulations, whilst also considering each herbs therapeutic action on specific conditions.
  • International Collaborations with China including a Joint Research and Development Centre with the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences.