2018 ushers in year of confidence for Australian biotech


Last year ended on a high with a buoyant sector, confidence at an all-time high and funds flowing into the sector from the Medical Research Future Fund and its $500 million Biomedical Translation Fund (BTF), as well as MTP Connect grants underpinning a flurry of quality activity.

In Australia, IPO activity picked up last year with four medtech companies and four biotechs joining the ASX, including four AusBiotech members Imagion Biosystems, Telix Pharmaceuticals, Sienna Cancer Diagnostics and the Cann Group, which shaped an active and successful year for the Australian biotechnology industry.

According to BioShares, ASX-listed life science companies raised a very healthy $840 million in the last calendar year.

In May 2017 the IP Group, a leader in the commercialisation of scientific innovation developed in research universities, launched a landmark agreement with Australasia’s leading universities, which will see at least AU$200 million over a 10-year period invested in disruptive innovation spin-out companies based on the IP developed by academics.

The nine universities include the University of Adelaide, Australian National University, the University of Melbourne, Monash University, UNSW Sydney, the University of Queensland, the University of Sydney and the University of Western Australia in Australia, and the University of Auckland in New Zealand.

The BTF made its first investments via its three appointed fund managers: Brandon Capital Partners, OneVentures Management and BioScience Managers.

According to BioInformant, 2017 marks the first year that regenerative medicine has disrupted healthcare. The article published on 1 January, says the “regenerative medicine industry has been rapidly expanding over the past few years, making it a high-value, fast-growth market."

It goes on to say: “Key drivers for the market include high rates of clinical trials, accelerated pathways for product approvals, new technologies to support cell and gene therapy manufacturing, and the potential for cell therapies to revolutionise healthcare.”

In Australia, regenerative medicine has staked its claim as an emerging strength. With more than 15 cellular therapy companies focussed on product development and infrastructure support and in excess of 25 current clinical trials, Australia is demonstrating an emerging strength with an active regenerative medicine eco-system with internationally-recognised basic and translational research.

In its publication titled Cellular Therapies and Regenerative Medicine in Australia, AusBiotech notes key industry milestones and activities:

  • In September 2017, Australian surgeons performed a world-first surgery and transplanted a 3-Dimensional (3-D) printed shinbone, modelled at the Queensland University of Technology, into a patient.
  • In a collaboration between CSIRO, St Vincent’s Hospital and Victorian-based biotechnology company Anatomics, Australian surgeons performed the world-first surgery to implant a titanium-printed heel bone, printed using CSIRO’s Arcam 3-D printer, into a patient.
  • A multidisciplinary research group based in the Translational Research Institute Australia is currently researching 3-D scanning and bio-printing techniques with the aim to regenerate breast tissue using adipose stem cells and biodegradable breast scaffolds.
  • Calimmune, acquired by CSL Behring in 2017, develops novel ex-vivo gene therapies for haematologic diseases using gene modification and cell delivery technology.
  • PolyNovo Biomaterial produced and sold NovoSorb, a US FDA-approved temporary lattice inserted ahead of eventual skin grafts for patients with skin burns. Originally developed by CSIRO, the lattice works to encourage the regrowth of normal skin cells.
  • Global medical engineering company Invetech, had its Melbourne office work closely with Organovo, a US-based company in designing, developing, and manufacturing the world’s first commercial 3D bio-printer.

In the US, indicators are also positive with the FDA providing record approvals for novel medicines in 2017 and investor sentiment very confident the biotech sector will outperform the broader market and see an up-tick in M&A activity, according to STAT News.

In significant investments for the year came a US$18 million (AU$23.5 million) investment in Bionic Vision Technologies (BVT) from Hong Kong investors China Huarong International Holdings and State Path Capital. BVT, a company working to create a ‘bionic eye’, will put the funds toward helping the company transition to commercialisation.

The New Year ushered in a year of positivity for the sector and bodes well for a year ahead for Australian biotech.

Viralytics has confirmed the mood, starting the year with a 5 January announcement a $29.6 million equity placement from Lepu Medical Groups, a Chinese life sciences company.

CEO Biotechnology Industry Position Survey

Look out for the annual CEO survey, which will commence this week, to collect a snapshot of industry sentiment, industry metrics and top-of-mind industry policy issues. The survey results will shape our advocacy work for the year ahead and AusBiotech urges its members to contribute to this important body of information.

Save the dates for 2018 events

We are currently planning to run up to 70 events this year and invite you to save the dates for:

NSW Women in Life Sciences Luncheon 2018, 9 March, Sydney

Asian Investment Series 2018

  • Hong Kong Biotech Invest & Partnering, 13 March, Hong Kong
  • Australia-China Biotech Invest & Partnering, 15 -16 March, Shanghai

QLD Women in Life Sciences Luncheon 2018, 16 March, Brisbane

TTS Australia 2018, 17 – 18 April, Brisbane

AusMedtech 2018, 1 – 2 May, Adelaide

Bio International Convention 2018, 4 – 7 June, Boston

AusAg & Foodtech Summit 2018, 3 – 4 September, Melbourne

Australia Biotech Invest & Partnering, 29 – 30 October, Melbourne

AusBiotech 2018, 31 October – 2 November, Brisbane