Tag Archives: Ausbiotech

better healthcare

Demanding data for better healthcare

Featured image above: President of Cook Advanced Technologies Neal Fearnot discusses issues facing the global healthcare sector at AusMedtech. Credit: AusMedtech

The medical sector has long been searching for faster, cheaper, better data to improve patient responses to medical devices and therapies. More data is also needed to help inform investment decisions in research and technology, meet regulatory requirements and validate new products entering the market.

Pressure on each of these activities is increasing as the world’s population ages, and more people require healthcare. The rising demand for data is also a product of new regulatory organisations and legislative measures, which aim to protect society from poor technology. In Europe, for example, one of the proposed new directives from the European Commission is for some medical device companies to provide post-market clinical data for their products annually, which will require ongoing data collection from patients and customers.

Problems surrounding the need for data extend well beyond the cost and time required to run clinical trials and build new platforms to deal with data. Major issues lie in moving data between the many parts of the healthcare industry that have traditionally operated separately, such as biomedical and pharmaceutical companies, research facilities, medical practitioners and hospitals.

The separation between these entities means that healthcare data sits in ‘data silos’, and efforts to connect the information held by each party are held back by logistical, social and political barriers, such as public concern over the loss of privacy if health records are shared.

These issues and potential solutions were examined in detail by industry leaders at the AusMedtech conference held in May. AusMedtech is an annual event run by AusBiotech, which brings together representatives from across the medical industry to showcase health innovations and examine issues facing the sector.

“In order to ensure a medical therapy or device remains safe, effective and performing correctly, companies have to figure out how to get feedback data from their products continually,” says Neal Fearnot, Vice President of Cook Group Incorporated in the USA, and key speaker at AusMedtech. “That’s a global challenge.”

One of the major focuses of the conference was how to employ a “patient-centric” approach in solving this problem.

“Of all the stakeholders that we have, the patient is the most important,” says Fearnot. “The rest of us in the industry have to think about how to make policy, equipment and procedures more effective so that when the patient needs healthcare, they get what they need.”

On the one hand, this means asking patients to drive change. Lee Hickin, Microsoft’s commercial lead for the Internet of Things, was at the conference to talk about the future of health IT. He says that in order to break down existing data silos, patients need to demand connectivity.

“They need to say to the creators of these products, ‘Why isn’t your product connectable? Why doesn’t it communicate with other services?’.”

The industry hopes that if patients can get a hold of their own data, they will be empowered to make better health decisions, which will in turn reduce the burden on medical facilities.

While Microsoft is not a traditional member of the medical industry, Hickin says they see self-care as core to the future evolution of healthcare.

“We believe that as we as individuals become more aware of our health, we will take more care of our health.”

The topic was raised in a different light at Meditech, a separate medical technology event in May by the Warren Centre. Cochlear’s Chief Software Architect Victor Rodrigues was a panellist at the event, and made the point that when it comes to self-care technologies, people are often afraid of losing contact with a physician.

But Hickin believes that’s not the aim of these technologies. “It’s not about replacing clinical and consultation health,” he says. “It’s just about the individual knowing what their physical state is.”

– Elise Roberts

Australian life science

Innovation in life sciences

The community of Australian life science innovators are clever, focused and driven. Yet many fail to achieve their commercial goals. Sometimes this because of the science – which is not yet sufficiently developed for the commercial path.

Sometimes it is inexperienced management or governance. But usually, the key barrier is access to capital. Australia has talent and good ideas aplenty, but our small economy and lack of risk capital produces challenges not seen in bigger economies, like the USA. “Yes,” I hear you saying.

What about other smaller nations? It is true that some Scandinavian countries and Israel perform very well. But when the culture, government structures, location and many other factors are taken into account, the comparisons with Australia – although very useful– are not equivalent.

In order to optimise our performance and deliver both social and economic benefits, the current conversation at the Federal level is well directed. We need an approach that is system-oriented; that considers the international exemplars and how they can be applied in the Australian context, and pays attention to capital access.

“The strength of biotechnology for our economic future is clear, but to realise its vast potential will take radically new thinking and an entrepreneurial attitude.”

When the Biomedical Translation Fund (BTF) was announced as part of the Turnbull Government’s National Innovation and Sciences Agenda (NISA) in December 2015, it was welcomed by AusBiotech as a game-changing package that will transform Australia’s ability to commercialise.

The biotechnology and medical technology sectors are particularly excited by the ability of the program’s investment to be a multiplier and make available much-needed capital to translate our research from universities and medical research institutes into products and services – including medical therapies and cures, medical devices, digital heath solutions, diagnostics and vaccines.

Fund manager, GBS Ventures, which specialises in the life sciences has invested $400 million in 30 companies in recent years and reports it has attracted $5 in private money for every $1 of public money invested.

So far as this can be extrapolated to the new fund, the BTF could be the catalyst for over $2.5 billion to flow into the sector.

The BTF is envisaged as a for-profit investment program of $250 million that is to be matched by an additional $250 million from private investors, so creating a $500 million capital pool available for commercialisation of biotech and medtech projects.

Funding would be engaged, inter alia, before and during clinical trials and product registration stages. The investments by the BTF and its private co-investors are likely to fall in the range of $5 million to $20 million per project.

This is great news for a cash-starved sector.

The strength of biotechnology for our economic future is clear, but to realise its vast potential will take radically new thinking and an entrepreneurial attitude. How we make and fund these new technologies by attracting capital is key.

AusBiotech is pleased to see the Government has been listening to calls for a focus on translation.

Australian life science companies attracted almost $2 billion in deals over the last 18 months, which illustrates that the sector is attractive to investors and demonstrates a good pool of quality technology, talent and opportunity that the BTF will now exploit. Finance from the BTF, along with the R&D Tax Incentive scheme is a powerful, one-two punch that will make a material difference to success in life sciences.

Dr Anna Lavelle

Chief Executive Officer, AusBiotech

Read next: Professor Peter Coaldrake AO, Vice-Chancellor of QUT on Overcoming academic barriers to innovation.

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Excellence in Innovation Awards

Top 25 R&D Spin-off Awards

Featured image above: Top 25 winners accepting their awards with Refraction Media‘s CEO, Karen Taylor. Left to right: executives from iCetana, Refraction Media, Vaxxas, Fibrotech Therapeutics and SmartCap Technologies. Credit: Dave Dwyer Video Production and Photography

The Cooperative Research Centres Association (CRCA) presented the Top 25 R&D Spin-off Awards last week at their annual conference, The Business of Innovation. The awards honoured the Top 25 Science Meets Business R&D spin-off companies – a list of Australian businesses that have successfully moved their R&D from the lab to the marketplace.

The Top 25 companies were compiled by Refraction Media and supported by data from Thomson ReutersThey were judged by a panel comprising of: Dr Peter Riddles, biotechnology expert and director on many start-up enterprises; Dr Anna Lavelle, CEO and Executive Director of AusBiotech; and Tony Peacock, Chief Executive of the Cooperative Research Centres Association.

For each company, the panel considered total market value, annual turnover, patents awarded and cited, funding and investment, growth year-on-year, social value, overseas expansion and major partnerships.

Biomedical fund to bridge valley of death

Details on the delivery of a $500 million biomedical fund, the first cab off the rank for the National innovation and Science Agenda, were discussed Monday 8 Feb at the AusBiotech Biomedical Fund briefing in Sydney and Melbourne.

The Biomedical Translation Fund was announced on December 7 2015. It allocates $250 million of the funds that were previously part of the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) to help bring Australian R&D in life sciences to commercial outcomes.

A team of fund managers will ensure the government’s investment is matched dollar for dollar by private investment, and the MRFF is expected to be fully funded once more from 2018-19. The government and private investment hope to bring in a revenue base “in the billions” in the next few years, according to Bill Ferris, the Chair of Innovation and Science Australia.

Plus the pool of money available to help Australia’s biotech industry to navigate the two ‘valleys of death’ – stages of research development and clinical trains that have stonewalled innovation in Australia – could be much greater, says Brigette Smith, Managing Partner of GBS Venture Partners.

“This is potentially a $2.5 billion investment in Australian technology,” she says, adding that traditionally every $1 equity from Australian investment attracted $5 from international partners.

“The absence of funds has been soul destroying” says Julie Phillips, Chair of AusBiotech and CEO of Australian biopharmeceutical company BioDiem.

Biomedical fund was the missing piece

Bill Ferris was instrumental in calling for the fund through the Government’s McKeon Review – Strategic Review of Health and Medical Research – Better Health through Research in 2013. He told the briefing this morning that there has been “lots of R and negligible D’ in terms of Australian Research & Development.

Ferris says the two valleys of death occur at preclinical phase (Death Valley 1) where a lack of funding inhibits development, and at advanced preclinical Phase I and Phase II in-human trials (Death Valley 2). The fund will “encourage people to give it a go at Death Valley 1 and bridge Death Valley 2” he says.

“It will support Australian technology to remain in Australia for longer, boost nano-engineering and advanced manufacturing and improve Australia’s health outcomes in the medium- to long-term,” he adds.

Details of the fund were released at the event today, in both Sydney and Melbourne. The fund will be delivered through several fund as yet un-named fund managers, with $50-$125 million of taxpayer’s money each, who will then seek similar private investment.

The funds will be delivered to companies with strong Australian input with the aim of creating jobs and pushing through innovation. The find will operate over an average of 7 and maximum of 15 years.

“This $500 million initiative will fuel an exciting development for biotech, med tech and venture capitalism,” says Ferris, who is also Co-Chairman and Co-founding partner of CHAMP Private Equity.

“It will reduce the innovation death rate and reduce the need for our innovation to be carried offshore.”

 Heather Catchpole