Policy stability essential, says Pharmaxis CEO

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Pharmaxis CEO Gary Phillips has backed Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's call for Australia to lift its performance when it comes to translating R&D into commercial returns.

Speaking to ABC Business, Mr Phillips said Australia's global performance on translational research was at a "low ebb" internationally.

"In biotech, it takes us sometimes 10-15 years to go from the original innovation to having a product on the market. What we need is consistency when it comes to policy and the wider environment so investors feel confident about investing over the long term.

"If we have a policy environment that changes every time there's a change of Government, or even when we change Prime Minister, then that impacts investor confidence," said Mr Phillips.

He also echoed Mr Turnbull's comments highlighting the importance of collaboration between universities, researchers and industry, pointing to the US as a "shining example" Australia could follow.

"There you have start-ups coming out of universities, well funded and able to bridge the 'valley of death' between the high cost of late stage development and commercialisation.

"Unless you're well funded it's very difficult to make that leap," he told ABC Business.

Pharmaxis was founded in 1998 with the goal of commercialising respiratory products based on technology developed at The John Curtin School of Medicine.

Phillips joined Pharmaxis in 2003 when the company went public and served as its Chief Operating Officer for five years. He was appointed CEO in March 2013 following the FDA's decision.

Phillips is well-known in the biopharmaceutical industry having been Managing Director of Novartis Pharmaceuticals Australia.

He has been leading Pharmaxis in a new strategic direction following the FDA's rejection of its cystic fibrosis treatment BRONCHITOL in 2013.

Having previously shunned partnerships with global pharmaceutical companies, Phillips has secured commercialisation agreements covering a number of compounds with Boehringer Ingelheim and Synairgen.

Investors have backed the new strategy, with the company's share price almost quadrupling in the past year.

According to Phillips, the company has done three things - access funding for the BRONCHITOL study demanded by the FDA, "drastically" reduce cash burn while continuing to invest in its early stage pipeline.

The actions taken have set Pharmaxis on a positive path, he said, creating a "strong small company out of a larger company."

Phillips said the 'enterprise value' of the company remains relatively small but that its $54 million in cash reserves will be used to "build that value" over time as it leverages its pipeline and recognised chemistry platform.