The federal government's Medical Research Future Fund is investing $40 million in the creation of Australia's first national biotechnology incubator.
The incubator, which will be run by the Brandon Capital-managed Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF), has been established to provide a bridge in the translation of promising research into new therapies.
The funding will be used to create a piece of national infrastructure that further supports life science researchers to commercialise their ideas.
The incubator program aims to provide funding to 20-25 Australian companies developing preclinical biomedical assets during the three-year funding period. Individual projects are eligible for up to $1 million in funding. It will also provide up to $1.5 million, matched with $1.5 million from the MRCF, in funding to support 10-12 Australian companies in the development of their clinical-stage products.
“The Australian biotech incubator provides a game-changing prospect for more of our world-class medical research to be commercialised. This expansion of risk capital and expertise is key to progressing many more of our lab discoveries into clinical studies and ultimately into life-saving new therapies globally,” said pioneer venture capitalist and the chair of the MRCF, Bill Ferris AC.
“Over the last decade, we have seen a gradual increase in the availability of capital to support the development and translation of Australian biomedical discoveries. However, the reality is that gaps, or even chasms, still remain. One of these is the capital required to bridge the gap between where research grant funding finishes, and before a technology is at a stage that it can attract its first seed investment,” said Dr Chris Nave, CEO and co-founder of the MRCF.
“This new incubator has been designed to directly address this problem and we believe it can make a real difference. The other significant gap, is the lack of capital for late-stage clinical development and commercialisation, but that is another problem that we are working toward solving.”
The MRCF will use the $40 million to develop two streams of activity over the next three years. Any Australian small to medium enterprise, life science researcher at an Australian university or research institute, is eligible to apply for funding.
The first stream of $20 million will identify promising preclinical biomedical technologies, providing funding and expertise to guide the development of assets through to the point that they are ready for seed investment.
The second stream of $20 million will provide capital to support the clinical development of novel therapies to treat disease. Opportunities that successfully receive funding through this stream, will also benefit from matching capital from the MRCF.
“The funding will see an increase in the translation of our greatest discoveries from the laboratory bench to the bedside,” continued Mr Ferris. “It will ensure Australians have access to the latest health treatments and will ultimately lead to more jobs, income, exports, infrastructure and manufacturing for the sector.”
Companies that successfully go through the incubator program can also have access to follow on investment from the MRCF’s $700 million life sciences fund.
“It is hugely competitive for small biotech companies looking to receive their first investment,” said Dr Nave. “Up to 96 per cent of applications seeking funding from the MRCF are declined due to being too early in development or lacking key supporting data. Yet many of these research discoveries have significant potential and this new incubator provides a mechanism for researchers to get their research innovations to a point where they are attractive to investors and partners.”
“We have world-class researchers in Australia who have the capabilities and infrastructure to advance and create therapies with the potential to have an enormous impact on some of the world’s largest health concerns,” he said.
“Overall, the incubator will create jobs, manufacturing opportunities and will nurture and develop world-class talent and research teams in the Australian biomedical industry.”