Tag Archives: biomedical

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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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