BioWorld International Correspondent

SYDNEY, Australia - Two Australian states are continuing what amounts to a rivalry in biotechnology by recently announcing major, separate initiatives that add up to A$168.7 million (US$91 million) funding for biotechnology over a number of years.

The states of Queensland and Victoria both used the recent declarations of their annual state budgets to announce the initiatives. Once announced, such initiatives are rarely changed by the state parliaments.

The Queensland government announced that it had committed A$100 million to a Queensland-based venture capital fund to invest in biotechnology, with the money to be invested over four years in about 20 projects.

The Queensland BioCapital Fund will be managed by another government body, the Queensland Investment Corp., and have a life of about 10 years and an expected average annual return of 20 percent or more.

No details were available about the projects in which the fund will invest but government officials said that QIC would recruit experts in biotechnology and venture capital to advise the fund.

The Victorian initiative is for A$68.7 million to be spent on biotech research and commercialization initiatives over the next four years, including A$27 million to implement an already-announced strategic development plan, A$6.7 million on technology commercialization venture through an existing center and A$35 million on the state's medical research institutes.

The strategic development plan contains a number of general statements but includes promises to develop biomedical research facilities at Monash University in Melbourne and an Australian animal genome research facility.

All the Australian states compete for biotechnology projects but the tussle between Victoria and Queensland is especially fierce. Premiers of both states attended an international conference of the Biotechnology Industry Organization held in San Diego last year and made competing announcements of major science projects. Queensland Premier Peter Beattie went as far as to offer A$15 million in grants to poach interstate scientists prepared to commercialize their discoveries in Queensland.

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