The information on the Rare Awareness Rare Education (RARE) Portal is intended for educational purposes only and does not replace professional advice.

Rare diseases typically display a high level of symptom complexity and variability. Individuals diagnosed with the same rare disease may be impacted differently and each person’s experience is unique.

There are over 7,000 rare diseases and over 80% of these are genetic in origin. Rare diseases are often complex, serious, chronic and progressive conditions with few treatment options, posing a variety of challenges to Australian healthcare and disability systems. With an estimated 2 million Australians living with a rare disease1 and the number of known rare diseases increasing thanks to advances in technology, including genomics, there is a lot to be learned. 

Limited knowledge and data, and high unmet need are common challenges for rare diseases. Despite these gaps, and the crucial role for research and innovation in improving outcomes for people living with a rare disease, research is still lacking. Researchers struggle to secure funding and coordinate statistically robust studies with small patient numbers. There is often little interest in rare disease research and development from the pharmaceutical industry due to low demand for any specific product.1 Since the launch of the Australian Government’s National Strategic Action Plan for Rare Diseases2 in 2020, there has been targeted investment in rare disease research in Australia.  

The information on this page is intended as a guide only. If you are aware of any additional information that may benefit stakeholders with an interest in this page or another page on the RARE Portal, or if you notice any broken links or misleading information, please let us know via the Contribute page 


Rare Voices Australia (RVA) led the collaborative development of the Action plan, which was launched in 2020 by the Australian Government. The Action Plan is the first nationally coordinated effort to address rare diseases in Australia. Due to the great complexity, significant unmet need and critical urgency associated with rare diseases, systemic reform is required. The Action Plan represents the views of the rare disease sector and outlines a comprehensive, collaborative and evidence-based approach to achieving the best possible health and wellbeing outcomes for Australians living with a rare disease.2  

Research into rare diseases should be informed by the end game—policy-backed systemic health reform that leads to better outcomes for Australians living with a rare disease. There are a range of relevant policies and reports driving change in rare disease care and support in Australia. Some of these are listed below. 

Research and Data Collection

Research into rare diseases must address existing gaps and be informed by, and ultimately translatable to, clinical care.2 It must be collaborative and person-centred, and inform evidence-based policy across all systems, extending beyond health to incorporate disability, social/welfare, mental health, education, employment and housing.2 The Action Plan calls for investment into all types of research, including rare disease coding; data collection and registries; fundamental discovery research; qualitative research; pre-clinical testing; and clinical trials.2 Below are links to initiatives and organisations actively working to progress research into rare diseases. There are also links to information about Australian clinical trials, registries and biobanks.

Research Partnerships

The national peak body, RVA, can link researchers with over 100 rare disease organisations. RVA has many formal research partnerships. For more information please refer to the RVA Guidelines for Research Partnerships.

Rare Disease Consortia

Clinical Trials

Rare diseases are often serious and progressive, so taking timely action is critical. For many people living with a rare disease, participation in a clinical trial may be the only way to access treatment.2 Due to limited treatment options, it is essential that people living with a rare disease can benefit from new transformative treatments and health technologies through access to clinical trials. When speaking with potential participants it is important for researchers and healthcare professionals to discuss risk, benefit and other considerations to ensure informed consent and manage expectations. Below are links to clinical trials information and guidelines.

Registries and Biobanks

The Action Plan calls for a national, coordinated and systemic approach to the collection and use of rare disease data to enable the monitoring and accumulation of knowledge for more timely and accurate diagnosis, best practice and health service planning. Registries are fundamental to increasing rare disease knowledge around clinical practice, epidemiology and post-market surveillance of therapeutics. They are also vitally important for linking people to clinical trials for new treatments and therapies. There are numerous registries collecting different types of data on specific rare diseases—both in Australia and overseas. To understand more about the rare disease registry landscape in Australia please read the Audit of Australian Rare Disease Registries.  Below are some links to Australian registries and biobank information, as well as references to international best practice.

Involving People Living With a Rare Disease in Research

Supporting people living with a rare disease extends beyond healthcare into empowering them to participate in research. Often, people living with a rare disease become the drivers of research as they advocate for a diagnosis, treatments and improved quality of life for current and future generations.

It is vital for researchers to engage with, and actively listen to, people living with a rare disease when planning their research—from the conceptualisation of research questions, through to data collection and the dissemination and implementation of findings. Co-design with people living with a rare disease ensures research has greater impact and translation. This aligns with the priorities of research funding bodies. For more information about how best to involve people living with a rare disease in your research, visit the links below.

If you are looking for a rare disease organsation relevant to your research, please visit the A–Z Support Directory. For more information about a specific rare disease, please visit the A–Z list of rare disease information. If you do not find the rare disease you are looking for, please visit Genetic and Rare Diseases (GARD) Information Center for more information, remembering that information on GARD is based on the American healthcare system.

Guides and Resources

This section provides useful links to national guides and other general resources for researchers working on rare diseases.


Rapid advances in technology and rare disease knowledge demand a continuous commitment to education for all rare disease stakeholders. Below are links to rare disease education resources covering the areas of therapies, genomics, genetics, registries and biobanks, and lived experience stories.

Funding Opportunities

The Australian Government has been investing in research for rare disease, including across related areas such as genomics, clinical trials, research data infrastructure, healthcare delivery and system sustainability. New government funding opportunities open regularly and can be found at the links below. There are also targeted opportunities for research funding offered by some consumer-led rare disease organisations. 

Other Information

Other links to information that may be of interest:

  1. Forman J, Taruscio D, Llera VA, Barrera LA, Coté TR, Edfjäll C et al. The need for worldwide policy and action plans for rare diseases. Acta Paediatrica [Internet]. 2012;101(8):805–7. Available from: 
  2. Commonwealth of Australia. Department of Health. National Strategic Action Plan for Rare Diseases. Canberra; 2020. 63 p. Available From: 
  3. Taruscio D, Mollo E, Gainotti S, De La Paz MP, Bianchi F, Vittozzi L. The EPIRARE proposal of a set of indicators and common data elements for the European platform for rare disease registration. Archives of Public Health. [Internet]. 2014;72(1):35. Available from: 
  4. Stanimirovic D, Murko E, Battelino T, Groselj U. Development of a pilot rare disease registry: A focus group study of initial steps towards the establishment of a rare disease ecosystem in Slovenia. Orphanet J Rare Dis. [Internet]. 2019;14(1):172. Available from: 
  5. EURORDIS Policy Factsheet – Rare Disease Patient Registries. 2013. EURORDIS Rare Diseases Europe. 2 p. Available from: 
Page Last Updated

22/07/2022 14:19