Bill Ferris, pioneer venture capitalist, appointed Chair of the MRCF
March 24, 2020
Pioneer venture capitalist, Bill Ferris, the architect behind the Federal Government’s $500m Biomedical Translation Fund (BTF), has been appointed Chair of the Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF).
Mr Ferris was former Chair of the Garvan Medical Research Institute and inaugural Chair of the Turnbull Government’s Innovation and Science Australia Board. Mr Ferris will take over from Hon. Peter Beattie, former Premier of Queensland, who will remain on the MRCF Board.
In other changes, Hon. Robert Knowles, a former Minister of Health for the State of Victoria will join the Board, replacing the MRCF’s inaugural Chair, The Hon. Alan Stockdale, former Treasurer of the Victorian Government and former Federal President of the Liberal Party, who stepped down after 11-years in the role.
“At a time when a biotech company, CSL, has become more valuable than one of our largest banks or BHP, we see a glimpse of what Australia’s future can be,” Mr Ferris says. “In order to create more CSLs, we need to foster innovation and not squander the health and medical infrastructure that has been built up.”
“The MRCF is a nationally important entity which exists to commercialise our most promising biotech innovations, contributing to the country’s economy and improving our national health system. I’m really delighted to give my support to this mission.”
Venture Capital firm, Brandon Capital, established the first MRCF fund of $30m, 13 years ago, with a focus on commercialising early stage biomedical discoveries. Today, with over $700m under management, it is the largest life science investment fund across Australia and New Zealand.
Dr Chris Nave, CEO and co-founder of the MRCF, says at this time of unprecedented change as the world tackles COVID-19, it highlights the vital importance of Australia’s medical research capabilities and infrastructure.
“Medical science and research will ultimately provide a solution to COVID-19. We are so fortunate that we have the research capability in Australia to be a leading part of the global response. It is only because of years of forward thinking and investment by successive Australian governments that we are in this position. Not only does our medical research capability equip our nation to tackle challenges like COVID-19, it also offers a future industry that will provide sustainable jobs and income for the country. Bill’s expertise, as one of Australia’s most accomplished and visionary venture capitalists will help shape and drive the MRCF into this future,” Dr Nave says.
“The MRCF was established to make capital available to commercialise world-class research. Through the MRCF, we now hold enough capital to put $20 – $30m into companies carrying out phase one and two trials. This was simply not possible five years ago. The next steppingstone for the industry is to access sufficient capital to support phase three trials, which need upward of $100m per investment. By doing this, we will create the CSL’s of the future,” Dr Nave says. “While we aren’t there yet, we do have the pools of capital available through our superannuation funds, provided we continue to demonstrate returns and build confidence.”
“The MRCF has undergone a dramatic expansion in scope and purpose over the last 13 years,” Hon. Peter Beattie says. “Bill joins us at a critical and exciting time as we continue to build the country’s biotech capabilities.”
As engineer of the BTF, Mr Ferris oversaw the creation of a biotech investment fund which emboldened and enabled major super funds to match government investment to provide much needed capital to develop biomedical discoveries in Australia.