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European Biopharmaceutical Review

The Oz Factor

Australia offers European investors a wealth of untapped opportunities in biotechnology, says Nicola Watkinson of Invest Australia, who explains the advantages of Australia’s biopharmaceutical market for European companies

With a strong science base, state-of-the-art infrastructure and transparent, internationally harmonised regulatory and intellectual property regimes, together with its globally costcompetitive R&D facilities and combined with its record of commercialisation, Australia is an ideal destination for biotechnology investment. With 427 core biotech companies, Australia is a strong biotechnology location in the Asia-Pacific and the sixth largest centre in the world (1).

Australia also offers a dependable business bridge for companies seeking to enter the lucrative Asian markets. Australia’s time zone advantages, its cultural affinity with Asia and its Euro-American-style business environment are all strong attributes. These features, when combined with a secure political climate and strong macroeconomic environment, provide prudent European pharmaceutical companies with a dependable springboard to surrounding markets, ensuring a strong pipeline of new therapeutic products.

Australia’s international reputation as the biotech hub for the Asia-Pacific is becoming increasingly entrenched in the minds of the global biotechnology community. Of the 380 partnerships formed in 2006, over 67 per cent were with overseas companies or agencies (2).

Home to a thriving network of 427 companies, Australia’s domestic market is comprised of firms whose core business is biotechnology. Of these, 49 per cent are involved in human therapeutics, 16 per cent in agricultural biotech and 13 per cent in diagnostics. Almost 100 biotechnology companies are listed on the Australian stock exchange (an increase from 73 in 2004) and their total revenue exceeds £1.2 billion.

The nation’s medical research institutions and universities have a strong history of R&D. They generate a stream of world class discoveries with commercial potential in a variety of areas: the molecular genetics of cancer, malaria, epilepsy, immunology, vaccine development, obesity, diabetes, neuroscience, assisted reproductive technology, stem cells and regenerative medicine.

Australia has significant biomedical strengths in clinical trials and stem cell research. Forbes has identified Australia as a ‘surprising’ leader in stem cells, with one of the many recent discoveries including the identification of breast stem cells by the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of medical research (WEHI) and the Victorian Breast Cancer Research Consortium.


Some 700 clinical trials are carried out at more than 2,000 sites in Australia each year. Among the multinational companies which regularly involve their Australian affiliates in international trials are AstraZeneca, Amgen, Bristol Myers Squibb, Biogen Idec, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck Sharp & Dohme, Novartis, Pfizer and Roche. In an Economist Intelligence Unit pharmaceutical benchmarking analysis (3), Australia was ranked first as the location to conduct clinical trials, ahead of Germany, India, Japan, Singapore, the UK and the US.

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Nicola Watkinson has been the Senior Investment Commissioner for Europe since March 2003, identifying new investment opportunities in Australia for European firms seeking to grow globally. She manages offices in France, the UK and Germany, supported by an expert team of multilingual staff. Nicola works closely with major corporations and SMEs to develop the business case for Australia. Nicola has created extensive networks across business, industry groups, chambers of commerce and governments. Nicola has more than eight years of experience in attracting investment into Australia and has co-ordinated projects which have brought in an excess of A$2 billion of new capital investment and created 2,000 new jobs in Australia. Nicola is on the board of the Industrial Supplies Office (now Industry Capability Network), Victorian Branch, and the Australian Swiss Chamber of Commerce Executive Committee.
Nicola Watkinson
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