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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

Unlocking Australia’s manufacturing potential: AstraZeneca, ResMed, and Pathology Technology Australia speak out on crucial roadblocks at Inquiry hearing

Health Industry Hub | July 6, 2023 |

The House Standing Committee on Industry, Science, and Resources heard from key stakeholders who provided insights on the current advanced manufacturing landscape, key barriers and opportunities for improvement during a public hearing held yesterday.

Representatives from the pharma, medtech and diagnostics sectors shared their valuable perspectives with the committee. AstraZeneca was represented by William Downie, Executive Director and Head of Supply and Manufacturing, as well as Penny George, Director of Corporate Affairs. ResMed’s President of Operations, Andrew Price, and Chief Financial Officer, Brett Sandercock, were present alongside Vered Keisar, Chief People Officer. Dean Whiting, CEO of Pathology Technology Australia, along with Justin Meredith, Member Manager and Dr Brad Walsh, Member, also provided their expertise during the inquiry hearing.

Rob Mitchell MP, who chairs the inquiry, emphasised the importance of the inquiry. He said “We need to ensure that we are well-positioned as a nation to take advantage of new technologies, and that our strategic decisions are informed by the right data. Continuing to grow the relationship between industry and our research sector is also vital.”

AstraZeneca shed light on their North Ryde facility, which serves as an aseptic manufacturing site primarily producing Pulmicort Respules and local anaesthetic products. The facility manufactured an impressive 200 million Respules in 2022, with a projected growth rate of 30% over the next five years. Currently, the facility supplies medicines to 18 countries across Southeast Asia, Europe, China, and Japan. Despite its success, changing demand in various markets may leave the facility operating below its total capacity in the next 2-3 years, creating opportunities for additional market transfers. The North Ryde site employs around 300 people, comprising operations and quality assurance staff.

The pharmaceutical manufacturing sector faces multiple challenges in Australia. Nevertheless, there are distinct advantages to domestic manufacturing that could be leveraged more effectively, such as the country’s globally recognised regulation, robust intellectual property protection, highly developed medical innovation ecosystem, well-regarded clinical trial network, expansive health and research infrastructure, and a highly skilled workforce. Additionally, Australia’s proximity to rapidly growing Asian markets offers unique opportunities for the advanced manufacturing sector.

AstraZeneca stressed the importance of a national strategy and coordination to support sovereign manufacturing capability for medicines and vaccines that millions of Australians rely on daily. The company highlighted the critical need for sourcing active ingredients domestically to reduce reliance on international supply chains. The company also pointed out the logistical and cost challenges associated with cold chain storage, which necessitates significant technological investment. Therefore, supporting investment in enhancing Australia’s cold chain storage capacity would not only aid local manufacturing but also bolster the overall industry.

Pathology Technology Australia (PTA) expressed concern over Australia’s heavy dependence on the rest of the world for 97% of its in vitro diagnostics (IVD) technology, with up to 33% routed through the Asia Pacific region. This reliance exposes the country to supply chain disruptions, emphasising the vulnerability of the IVD sector. Despite having a well-funded and vibrant research and development (R&D) sector, Australia struggles with commercialising its innovations, resulting in significant loss overseas. To address these challenges, PTA proposed the establishment of the Australian Diagnostics Action Plan Team (ADAPT), which has conducted a thorough review and submitted recommendations to the government for successful IVD commercialisation.

ResMed expressed concerns regarding the geographical distance of Australia from other countries and growing markets. This geographical challenge leads to higher costs for businesses due to the need to import, manufacture, and export components. ResMed shared their experience of facing supply shortages for cellular chips, causing delays for patients in need of sleep apnoea CPAP devices. To overcome these challenges, ResMed called for policies that incentivise local investment and increase the value of undertaking projects in Australia compared to other countries. They emphasised the need for intellectual property reforms, expanded R&D tax incentives, and investment in domestic microelectronic manufacturing facilities.

ResMed also stressed the importance of workforce development in driving industry growth. They encouraged programs that prioritise women in STEM fields and educational initiatives aimed at nurturing a skilled workforce. Recognising that human capital plays a crucial role in the success of key industries, ResMed urged the Australian government to invest in workforce training and development.

The stakeholders’ testimonies highlighted the significance of a coordinated national strategy and supportive government policies to enhance Australia’s advanced manufacturing capability. The House Standing Committee on Industry, Science, and Resources will carefully consider the insights provided by AstraZeneca, ResMed, and Pathology Technology Australia as they work through the public hearings and towards formulating recommendations to strengthen the country’s manufacturing sector.

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