MELBOURNE, Australia – The Australian government is injecting more funding into its life sciences sector to help it become more globally competitive in commercializing products.
The Medical Technologies and Pharmaceuticals Industry Growth Centre (MTPConnect) announced at the AusBiotech annual conference this week that it would provide A$7.4 million (US$5.6 million) of funding over two years for 14 national projects in the med-tech, biotech and pharmaceutical sector.
Those projects could leverage as much as $32 million in industry partner funds, because the selected programs receive funding from MTPConnect's Project Fund Program, a competitive, dollar-for-dollar matched funding program.
"Funding must be provided from all of the industry partners, at least matching the total amount of funding received from the MTPConnect Project Fund together with any other contributions from government agencies," MTPConnect CEO and Managing Director Sue MacLeman told BioWorld Today.
MTPConnect works closely with industry organizations in the sector, and "we do not want to replicate all the good work that they do," MacLeman said, noting that the plan is to identify constraints and barriers and provide solutions.
MTPConnect signed a memorandum of understanding with AusBiotech and hopes to do the same with Medicines Australia, the association that represents multinational pharma companies operating in Australia.
"AusBiotech is the lead partner in a project set to deliver a comprehensive global investment education program for the Australian life sciences sector," MacLeman said.
"This program will provide companies with the training and access they need to be competitive on a global scale via effective access to global capital markets."
The project is aimed at improving management and workforce skills and improving capability of the sector to engage with international markets and access global supply chains. Those areas have long been identified as shortcomings for the Australian biotech sector. (See BioWorld Today, Oct. 25, 2016.)
The AusBiotech consortium comprises five companies that have insight and experience in the life sciences and investment landscape in Australia, including AusBiotech, the Australian Securities Exchange, law firm DibbsBarker, public relations firm WE Buchan and financial advisors KPMG.
The consortium partners will match the grant to deliver the program. The project aims to provide education, resources and training for companies and potential university and research institute spinouts to foster investment readiness for private companies.
Partners will also assist companies with investment pitching and preparing for a successful IPO. Education and resources for investors will also be developed, including face-to-face programs for potential investors.
"The benefits of the investor education component of this project will be shared through investors' participation in the wider biotechnology community," AusBiotech CEO Glenn Cross said.
"As investment in the sector grows, AusBiotech hopes to see a self-perpetuating growth cycle, with Australian life sciences research and SMEs considered a viable and attractive investment option for both local and international investors."
BRIDGE TO COMMERCIALIZATION
Medicines Australia was also included in the list under its Bridge Program, a consortia of pharmaceutical companies that will transfer practical commercialization skills for researchers and SMEs through online and residential training, providing exposure to industry practitioners in the scientific, legal, financial, clinical, regulatory and reimbursement disciplines.
"The program is unique in its integration into venture capital and global pharmaceutical networks and its ability to share specific, detailed and practical learning that will accelerate the commercialization process," MacLeman said.
Bridge Program consortium members include Abbvie Inc., Amgen Inc., Australian Private Equity & Venture Capital Association Ltd., Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH, CSL Ltd., Deputy Vice Chancellors Research Group, Johnson & Johnson, Macquarie University, Medical Research Commercialization Fund, Medicines Australia, MSD Australia, Mundipharma plc, Novartis AG and QUT.
"Pharmaceutical companies have a wealth of experience in product development, and the Bridge Program provides a great platform for sharing their expertise," Wes Cook, chairman of Medicines Australia, said.
"By fostering innovation through collaboration, we can continue to strengthen the life sciences ecosystem in the region and ultimately provide greater access to health and medical innovation for people around the world," Kathy Connell, director of New Ventures Australia and New Zealand, for Johnson & Johnson Innovation, told BioWorld Today.
AusBiotech is also involved in a project that hopes to narrow the cultural gap between business and academia through the Industry Mentoring Network in STEM program, which will develop a national mentoring program linking PhD students with qualified industry mentors.
That program aims to build a skills and knowledge base to embed a commercialization culture that pulls research through to market development.
MTPConnect received 38 applications from industry, research organizations and universities, with a proposed $90 million of matched funding coming from the sector. MTPConnect selected the projects that would deliver results on a national scale, have sector-wide impact and are aligned with MTPConnect's Sector Growth Priorities as defined in its draft Sector Competitiveness Plan, which was released in July.
"The MTP sector has a fantastic opportunity for growth, but is currently hindered by constraints, including a lack of collaboration between business and research, skills shortages, the need for more focused funding and investment, and the need for more streamlined and harmonized regulatory and market access frameworks," MacLeman said.
Other organizations chosen for the funding include:
• STC Australia, a national med-tech accelerator to create a dedicated commercialization infrastructure to accelerate niche, advanced manufacturing and medical device technology development opportunities;
• Murdoch Children's Research Institute's national digital health initiative to create an integrated ecosystem for development and commercialization of evidence-based digital health products;
• Monash University with CSIRO to upgrade protein production platforms for a variety of expression systems;
• St. Vincent's Hospital, Melbourne, for Australia's first robotics and biomedical engineering center embedded within a hospital;
• Monash University's Australian hub of Canada's Commercialization Centre for Regenerative Medicine to support development of regenerative medicine products and therapies;
• Cancer Therapeutics CRC to establish a national framework to provide drug discovery organizations access to a comprehensive Hit ID platform that includes, a fit for purpose drug discovery library (up to 450,000 compounds), an ultra-high-throughput screening facility, fragment-based drug design capability, and a state-of-the-art software platform for in silico drug discovery; and
• Clinical Oncology Society of Australia to implement the Australasian TeleTrial Model to increase access to clinical trials closer to participants' homes.