A new year, a 30th birthday, a BioFest and good news rolling in already…welcome 2016


As the industry returns to speed in the New Year after the festive season break, the mood remains upbeat on the back of an eventful 2015 that saw innovation placed firmly on the political agenda, record capital raising at $1.1 billion and the ‘Top 40’ biotech index outperform.

During the break on 28 December 2015, AusBiotech’s marked 30 years since the industry organisation was founded as the Australian Biotechnology Association. This year will see a range of activities to celebrate the occasion, including a special historic edition of the journal, Australasian Biotechnology on 1 March and a gala luncheon event mid-year, building to the crescendo with the International BioFest 2016 in October - the largest ever gathering of life sciences in Australia.

Biotech Daily said its Index (ex majors Cochlear, CSL and ResMed) outperformed itself versus the previous year, up 22% and also outperformed the benchmark S&P/ ASX 200, which was down 2.7% for the year. The majors were up 16.9%.

Since the break, there been news of the first major merger for the year with AusBiotech members Shire and Baxalta merging in a deal worth US$32 billion, with an aim to be a leading biotech company specialising in rare diseases.

Brandon Capital has announced an expansion into the US with the opening of a new office in the San Francisco bay Area.

Dr. Chris Nave, Managing Director of Brandon Capital Partners and Principal Executive of the Medical Research Commercialisation Fund, said: “A clear priority for our firm is to expand access for the MRCF network members, our Australian portfolio companies and entrepreneurs to the well-established life science ecosystem and talent pool in the San Francisco Bay Area and US.  The opening of our Palo Alto office is an important step towards achieving this goal."

Save the dates for key events in the year to come

  • Registrations are now open for AusMedtech, Australia's premier medical technology conference, to be held 10 – 11 May 2016 in Adelaide, and the Tech Transfer Summit, 12 – 13 April in Brisbane
  • Save the date for the International BioFest 2016, encompassing the 17th International Biotechnology Symposium and Exhibition (IBS 2016), AusBiotech 2016 and Australia Biotech Invest 2016, which will be held 24 – 27 October 2016.

Special US$400 discount for AusBiotech members for BIO

AusBiotech will once again be leading the Australia delegation to the world’s largest biotech event, the BIO International Congress (4 – 6 June 2016, San Francisco). For a short time only (until 31 January 2016), BIO is offering a special US$400 discount to AusBiotech members.

When members complete the form, you lock in the savings. Registration is not required at the time of completing the form and you can register any time before BIO 2016. Discount codes will be sent at the beginning of February and are non-transferrable. If you’re contemplating going to BIO, we encourage members to complete the form. AusBiotech members who are also BIO members receive US$800 discount.

Policy in 2016

AusBiotech will commence the year’s policy updates with briefings on the Biomedical Translation Fund, by the new Innovation and Science Australia (ISA) Chair Mr Bill Ferris AC, in February.

AusBiotech will be working to both keep you informed and represent you as the details of the key planks of the National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA), including the review of the R&D Tax Incentive, are developed in the coming months.

Tax reform work at AusBiotech this year will focus on preserving the R&D Tax Incentive, developing the new investor incentives to drive investment in biotechnology and the Australian Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Incentive.

The introduction of the patent-box style incentive remains an important, but so far overlooked opportunity, to keep home-grown intellectual property in Australia once it nears and reaches commercialisation and AusBiotech will continue to advocate for the AIM Incentive. We look forward to furthering discussions with the Minister.

Recap on gains for 2015

The last 12- months saw significant gains for biotech, including:

  • The NISA was announced, delivering long-advocated-for highlights.
    • The new Biomedical Translation Fund to support commercialisation
    • The ‘Same Business Test’ will be relaxed with a more flexible ‘predominantly similar business test’. This will allow a start-up to bring in an equity partner and secure new business opportunities without worrying about tax penalties.
    • Employee Share Schemes (ESS) were improved to limit the requirement for disclosure documents given to employees to be made available to the public. This will allow otherwise non-disclosing companies to offer shares to their employees without having to reveal commercially sensitive information to competitors. This will make ESS more user-friendly for innovative companies. allowing them to attract motivated staff without a substantial initial outlay.
    • Tax breaks for investors in early-stage innovative companies.
  • Benefits under the R&D Tax Incentive were retained.
  • Nearly $2 billion was obtained in company exits and licensing deals.

Current consultations open for submissions

Inquiry into Corporations Amendment (Crowd-sourced Funding) Bill 2015

The Senate has referred the provisions of the Corporations Amendment (Crowd-sourced Funding) Bill 2015 to the Senate Economics Legislation Committee for inquiry and report. See the website for more information. Submissions close 5 February 2016.

Inquiry into Australia’s Future in Research and Innovation

The Australian Parliament’s Joint Select Committee on Trade and Investment Growth will investigate how the research and innovation sector can better assist in overcoming Australia’s geographic, economic and labour challenges, with a focus on commercialisation, including how technology imports and exports could be further facilitated. See the website for more information. Submissions close 11 February 2016.

MSAC Process Reforms Feedback Requested

The first set of draft documents about the MSAC Process Reforms have been released for public consultation. See the website for more information. Submissions close 12 February 2016

Regulation of Australian Agriculture Issues paper

The Australian Government has asked the Productivity Commission to undertake a public inquiry into the regulatory burden on farm businesses. To assist in the preparation of submissions for the inquiry into the regulation of Australian agriculture, the Commission has prepared an issues paper which identifies a range of matters about which information and comment are being sought. The issues paper is available at the Productivity Commission website and submissions close 12 February 2015.

Comment on any of the above consultations can be directed to Chief industry Affairs Officer, Lorraine Chiroiu (lchiroiu@ausbiotech.org).