New report highlights biotech potential

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"Biotechnology is a field of boundless possibilities," according to a new Pfizer-sponsored report from The McKell Institute.

In the report, Bio-Savvy: How Australia can build a stronger biotechnology industry, the think-tank has made a series of recommendations about growing Australia's local biotechnology sector.

Amongst the recommendations, the report suggests government funding for the TGA. The regulator is currently fully funded via cost-recovery.

"Australia should follow the US Government’s lead and contribute the equivalent of two thirds of the TGA’s current budget of $142 million, resulting in a cash injection of $95 million to kick-start the process of TGA reform," it says.

The report recommends enhanced intellectual property protection, including an extension in data exclusivity, and the introduction of a UK-style 'patent box' to incentivise the retention of locally developed IP in Australia.

It also recommends enhancing the R&D Tax Incentive, which has recently been wound back by the Turnbull government, and even government funding for AusBiotech.

"If Australia is to gain a voice among the global cacophony, AusBiotech must be funded more strategically," says the report. "AusBiotech fundamentally needs priming through funding from the Federal Government. A substantial injection of funding is not only needed to make up for twenty years of neglect under Governments of all persuasions, it is absolutely necessary to support AusBiotech’s ability to overcome the marketing and lobbying presence of the larger and better resourced industry bodies, such as BIO and the UK’s Biotechnology Industry Association.

"Providing more funding to AusBiotech will allow the organisation to be the aggregate voice for the industry at an international level, assisting in attracting two instrumental groups to Australia: patient capital, in the form of sovereign wealth funds or international superannuation/pension funds; and large pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, which will provide an important source of experience and options for young biotechs to partner with or be acquired by the global giants."

Pfizer Australia head, Melissa McGregor, welcomed the report.

"Pfizer is celebrating 60 years of operation in Australia and from six staff in 1956, we have grown to an organisation of more than 1700 contributing more than $2.1 billion to the Australian economy annually.

"We are a proud contributor to the Australian biotechnology sector and sponsored this report to stimulate conversation about how the sector can remain internationally competitive and play an important role in Australia’s diversifying economy."