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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

Stakeholders welcome plan for $1.5B NRF investment in medical science

Health Industry Hub | April 16, 2024 |

Ed Husic MP, Minister for Industry and Science, and Mark Butler MP, Minister for Health and Aged Care, unveiled the Medical Science Co-investment Plan, earmarking $1.5 billion of the National Reconstruction Fund (NRF) specifically for medical products.

Minister Husic emphasised, “Too many great Australian ideas have left our shores only to return as an import from another country. Gardasil is a prime example of the terrible cost of lost opportunity, brilliant Australian medical research ended up being manufactured overseas because we didn’t have the capabilities to make it here.”

Health and medical research in Australia exists in an ecosystem with 1,200 biotech companies, 55 medical research institutes and 40 medical research-focussed universities, according to the release. However, medical manufacturing only contributes 0.3% to GDP. 

Prime minister Anthony Albanese broadly outlined the purpose of a new Future Made in Australia Act, which he said will be developed this year. Few policy details were shared as these are expected in the lead up to the budget. However, the speech from the PM included a pledge that the federal government no longer be “an observer or a spectator – we will be a participant, a partner, an investor and enabler.”

The Co-investment Plan delineates a diverse range of high-value investment opportunities, encompassing medical devices, vaccines, and personal protective equipment. Moreover, it articulates strategies to leverage Australia’s existing strengths in clinical trial capabilities and expertise in therapeutic fields such as oncology, immunology, neurology, and cardiovascular disease.

MTPConnect CEO, Stuart Dignam, said “One of the key challenges has been finding the capital needed to support the development of our innovations to take them from bench to bedside to deliver patient impact, and this is where the co-investment plan will help.

“It was great to join colleagues on the [Department of Industry, Science and Resources’ medical science] industry working group which helped steer the focus of the plan and I’m delighted to see the emphasis given to workforce development strategies so our life sciences sector has the skills, capability and capacity to thrive.”

The Co-investment Plan advocates for strengthened collaboration between academia and industry, digitally enabled product development, and infrastructural enhancements, fostering national coordination across the medical ecosystem.

Dr James Campbell, Interim Chair of AusBiotech, highlighted the plan’s significance in attracting investment.

“The Co-Investment Plan outlines the unique environment that companies developing life-enhancing and life-saving technologies operate in, and is a strong indicator to investors of the areas of opportunity where Australia can diversify and grow its manufacturing capabilities.

“Australia’s biotechnology industry has grown 40% in the past two years, reinforcing the knowledge-based sector’s economic and social value and potential to Australia and Australians. In order for small and medium-sized companies to scale up and scale out, attraction of risk-tolerant patient capital across the pipeline remains critical.”

Research Australia said the organisation was “especially pleased by the recognition of the role of government procurement in stimulating new medical products and innovation, a missing link in the innovation pipeline we have been calling for.”

Minister Butler reinforced the government’s commitment to harnessing the talent of Australian medical researchers.

“We need to be utilising their talent and grow a medical manufacturing industry that will be world leading,” he stated.

Minister Husic further added, “This and the other co-investment plans to come underpin our commitment to a Future Made in Australia, giving us a guide to what we can do to boost sovereign capability and tackle supply chain challenges.”

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