Health policy lead appointed to MRCF board

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The Brandon Capital managed Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF) has announced the appointment of Erica Kneipp to its board.

Ms Kneipp is head of research strategy at The Australian National University College of Health and Medicine.

MCRF said Ms Kneipp was instrumental in establishing the $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) and the $500 million Biomedical Translation Fund (BTF).

“COVID-19 has presented Australia with even stronger rationale to further grow and expand our biotech capabilities; the opportunity is Australia’s to seize,” said Ms Kneipp.

“Health policy has been pushed right to the top of the public policy agenda, alongside security and finance, and is appreciated now more than ever, as integral to innovation, industry, job growth, bio-security and sovereignty. Realising that, alignment of policy settings to accelerate our biomedical capabilities is essential to future-proof our nation.

“Australia has world-class research capabilities and with the right public policy levers, and access to capital, Australia’s biomedical sector can become a major contributor to the nation’s recovery from the pandemic.”

She continued, “COVID-19 has fast-tracked health innovations that were once thought too hard to implement at scale, like telehealth. We need to make sure that when the pandemic is behind us, that this crisis-nudge sticks and serves to revolutionise healthcare in Australia.”

Ms Kneipp said more needs to be done to improve the translation of research into new health treatments and wealth-generating businesses.

“We are a great ideas nation, with room to improve on how we ‘transact’ those ideas to get them into the market, making a difference to the lives of patients and creating jobs and income along the way,” she said.

“Our universities are world-class idea generators. In this time of great transformation, it is vital to ensure and protect Australia’s discovery capability while exploring mutually beneficial collaborations with industry to enhance translational opportunities and keep the innovation pipeline primed and thriving."

She added, “The MRFF is a national treasure and it took real political will to establish and operationalise. With the BTF, the Australian Government demonstrated its faith in the sector and a preparedness to invest in risk. Both funds, together with the NHMRC, demonstrate Australia’s commitment to reaping the full potential of biotech in term of jobs, business growth, health and wellbeing.”

Pioneer venture capitalist and Chair of the MRCF Board, Bill Ferris, said Ms Kneipp’s in-depth understanding of public policy and belief in the importance of Australia’s biomedical sector will be an asset.

“Erica’s first-hand experience in designing and implementing the MRFF and BTF means she brings deep understanding of public health policy, and the importance of a thriving biomedical sector, to our national bio-security, the creation of sustainable high-value manufacturing jobs, and income generation for the country,” said Mr Ferris.

Dr Chris Nave, CEO and co-founder of the MRCF, said Ms Kneipp’s unique experience in program implementation and research translation will be hugely valuable to the MRCF going forward.

“Medical research has been at the forefront of many minds this year with COVID-19. Because of the decades of investment by successive governments in Australia’s medical health infrastructure our country was able to respond swiftly and effectively to the national healthcare emergency created by COVID-19.  Our medical research capabilities have also enabled Australia to be a key contributor in the global health response to the pandemic,” he said.

“Over the last 20 years, we’ve seen a dramatic expansion of Australia’s biotech capabilities, especially in terms of access to capital for early-stage biotech innovations,” says Dr Nave. “While huge strides have been made, the sector is still in its infancy and much needs to be done to build a late-stage manufacturing sector. COVID-19 has demonstrated the vital importance of our sector, we must use this to learn, grow and expand our capabilities.”

Ms Kneipp also sits on other Boards including the ANU National Centre for Indigenous Genomics, the ANU Centre for Personalised Immunology and the ANU Academic Board.