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European Biopharmaceutical Review

New Opportunities

Nicola Watkinson at Invest Australia analyses Australia’s maturing biotech market and finds that European companies are frequently considering Australia in the push to take drugs to market

The Australian biotech industry continues to mature and grow rapidly. Australian biotechs have been performing solidly in terms of raising capital over the 2006/2007 financial year, helped by the transitioning pipeline of a number of companies in anticipation of positive outcomes.

The half-year ending 30th June 2007 saw a record $500 million raised from rights issues, private placements and IPOs by listed drug development and device companies. Companies such as Avexa, Acrux and Progen raised more than $160 million in aggregate to support Phase III clinical trials, and devices companies Ventracor and Heartware raised an aggregate of $60 million.

In 2006, a total of 345 alliances were announced, 84 of which were with European partners. Global biotechs were most interested in collaborative R&D ventures, followed by clinical trials. Recent data from Innovation Dynamics shows the Australian biotech market is maturing with the focus of international alliances shifting from R&D agreements to licensing and distribution agreements. More Australian companies are demonstrating Phase III success, signalling that Australia’s biotech market is creating more depth.

“Australia will remain an important location for R&D across a range of disciplines. Australian biomedicine researchers excel in fields such as the molecular genetics of cancer, malaria, immunology, vaccine development, obesity, diabetes, assisted reproductive technology, regenerative medicine and oncology,” said Dr Anna Lavelle, CEO of AusBiotech, Australia’s biotechnology industry organisation.

“European companies that have recognised these strengths include Bristol Myers Squibb, AstraZeneca, Servier and Novartis. They are well-established in Australia and regularly involve their Australian affiliates in international trials,” she adds. “But with more Australian-based research outcomes moving towards commercial success, progressing towards clinical trials and Phase III trials, Australia’s commercialisation capabilities are growing stronger, research capabilities are expanding and its greater critical mass is strengthening,” said Dr Lavelle.


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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. She has created extensive networks across business, industry groups, chambers of commerce and governments. Nicola has more than eight years’ experience of 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.
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