CSL, the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI) and the University of Melbourne have secured funding to create a start-up incubator to support early-stage biotechnology companies.
The incubator will be located over two floors at CSL’s new global corporate headquarters that is currently under construction in the Melbourne Biomedical Precinct.
The incubator, which is expected to open in 2023, will be supported by CSL, the University of Melbourne and WEHI, with a contribution from Breakthrough Victoria.
Breakthrough Victoria is an independent investment management company administering the Victorian Government’s $2 billion Breakthrough Victoria Fund.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said, "This inaugural investment from Breakthrough Victoria supports local people and their ideas to create long-term business opportunities and jobs for Victorians.”
The incubator is scheduled to open to start-ups in 2023 and will be able to accommodate up to 40 early-stage companies from around Australia.
The incubator will be open to applications from small biotechnology companies that are engaged in early research and seeking to take their discoveries to the next stage of development.
In addition to affordable wet-lab facilities, equipment and office space, the incubator will provide a range of services, including commercialisation education programs, facilitated access to investors, industry mentoring and access to service providers.
WEHI director Professor Doug Hilton AO said the challenges that research scientists face when they spin out a company or biomedical start-up include skill gaps in translating their research into commercial products.
“The Melbourne Biomedical Precinct is known for its internationally competitive, high-quality scientific outputs, but lags its global precinct peers when it comes to translating biotech inventions into spin-outs and commercial outcomes,” said Professor Hilton.
“This collaboration will help to build a generation of corporate and management-skilled scientists who have the knowledge and confidence to run a successful biomed or biotech company and raise the calibre and quantity of translational outputs from the Melbourne Biomedical Precinct.”
University of Melbourne Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Jim McCluskey said the incubator will provide a strong innovative environment that will nurture biotech start-ups, attracting more local and international investors, talent and companies into research collaborations.
“Universities are critical to meeting the major social, economic, environmental and medical challenges impacting on our communities. The creation of this biotech incubator builds on more than a century of collaboration between CSL, WEHI and The University of Melbourne, strategically supported by State government investment in translation of medical research, driving economic prosperity and impact for Victoria.
“Bringing together talent, investment and research expertise in this way cements Australia’s reputation as leaders in biomedical education and research, working to improve the lives of many people around the world.”
The incubator will be the first and only incubator in Australia co-located with a leading biotechnology company.
CSL CEO Paul Perreault said the incubator residents will benefit from the company's onshore translational R&D expertise and capacity as they co-mingle with employees at its state-of-the-art R&D hub, providing opportunities for cross-pollination, learning and the sharing of ideas.
“As one of the world’s leading biotechnology companies, CSL is driven by our promise as a patient-focused organisation, so this partnership clearly aligns with our Values and Purpose. We are well positioned to support incubator residents, whose experience often lies purely within the lab, better understand commercial aspects of medicines development that may be foreign or new to them," said Mr Perreault.
Dr Andrew Nash, CSL’s chief scientific officer, said a thriving biomedical precinct would benefit us all.
“Formalising a place to nurture promising start-ups is a natural extension of our long-term support of and collaboration with many like-minded partners. We hope to see significant long-term health, social and R&D benefits from this initiative, including greater retention and upskilling of domestic research and development capabilities and an increase in commercial acumen of Precinct researchers.”
The incubator will be open to all high-quality early-stage spinouts from the precinct, across Victoria and around Australia.
Breakthrough Victoria CEO Grant Dooley said, “This is Breakthrough Victoria’s inaugural investment. This project aims to provide a sustainable asset for decades by providing a catalyst to progress ideas to commercial outcomes.”
The Victorian government also announced an investment in a new RNA research acceleration fund and the next phase of a medical research fund.
The state's innovation minister Jaala Pulford unveiled the new mRNA Victoria Research Acceleration Fund and the 2021 round of the Victorian Medical Research Acceleration Fund, with combined funding of $5 million.
Both funds will provide extra weighting for grant applications received by women-led projects and those in which women make up at least half of the research team.