AusBiotech’s survey of members is providing an insight into the current challenges facing the biotech industry, as it pivots into new working practices and adjusts to the new reality.
The quick seven-question survey conducted last week revealed information that is critical for AusBiotech, as Australia’s largest biotechnology industry body, to understand and convey how the biotechnology community is faring and how it can move from survive to thrive in the quickest possible time.
As the venture capital environment looks more uncertain, companies are predominantly carefully managing their bottom line to ensure they can exist without capital injection over the next 12-months. Forty per cent are seeking capital at this time. The impact that the necessary travel bans have had on incoming and outgoing international delegations was indicated amongst the reasons hampering efforts to raise capital.
Also noted was the announcement by the Australian Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, for major temporary measures effective immediately on foreign investment “to protect Australia’s national interest as we deal with the economic implications arising from the spread of the coronavirus.”
He said: “The temporary change will be achieved by reducing to $0 the monetary screening thresholds for all foreign investments under the Act. By temporarily reducing the foreign investment thresholds, the Australian Government will ensure appropriate oversight over all proposed foreign investment during this time.”
Uncertainty is challenging industry’s confidence, with 62 per cent respondents indicating that their clinical trials are being delayed or that recruitment has been paused. Those that are going ahead are looking to remote monitoring to assist and the development of teletrial capabilities is being addressed.
AusBiotech has previously jointly released a position statement in support of the clinical trials sector and in recognition of the challenges the health system faces during COVID-19. This position statement details specific guidance on how and why clinical trial sites should remain open, and was developed by the Research and Development TaskForce (RDTF), sponsored by AusBiotech, Medicines Australia, and the Medical Technology Association of Australia, together with respective memberships.
While companies have indicated that they are currently assessing the retention of their staff, comments highlighted that the retained staff have had their hours and/or pay reduced by up to half, and that further reductions are expected.
Seventy-five per cent of respondents indicated that the Jobkeeper payment would not help their business. There was an overwhelming call for Government to consider life sciences’ unique business model in the Jobkeeper payment so pre-revenue companies are also eligible. AusBiotech is seeking a class ruling on the Jobkeeper payment scheme to provide the certainty that biotech companies need to continue to advance; these pre-revenue companies house priceless talent and intellectual property that could be permanently lost to Australia if they are not able to weather the COVID-19 storm.
Members said transportation is essential for medicines to continue to arrive in Australia with samples, investigational medicinal products, and other biologics a priority due to their key role in the health of our citizens and the conduct of clinical trials. Freight costs are skyrocketing, and shipments are being bumped.
Medicines Australia has urged the Federal Government to “ensure international air freight and commercial flights continue to operate so medicines and medicine supplies can continue to arrive into Australia – both for COVID-19 emergency needs and existing health conditions within the community.”
Connect and share
It was highlighted in the survey that respondents wanted a way to connect and share information, and for AusBiotech to be a voice of the sector to ensure access to stimulus programmes. AusBiotech is run by industry, for industry. It continues to advocate for the needs of its membership, and ensure the sector’s voice is heard.
AusBiotech has launched its member-only LinkedIn Group AusBiotech: Communicating during COVID-19 to link companies and people working across the biotech pipeline. This platform is particularly pertinent now, but will be relevant into the future as we recover. It’s not just a notice board. This central two-way forum will help members share information and connect quickly and easily, to get the answers needed from each other.
Join the group, and share your questions and news in a dedicated member online space.