Australia’s first national biotech incubator established with $40m MRFF investment
August 23, 2021
Australia’s first national biotech incubator is to be established with $40m funding from the Federal Government’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) and will be run by the Brandon Capital-managed Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF).
The Australian biotech incubator has been established to provide a critical bridge in the translation of promising research into revolutionary new therapies. The funding will be used to leverage Australia’s biotech research excellence to create a piece of national infrastructure that further supports life science researchers to commercialise their innovations.
“The Australian biotech incubator provides a game-changing prospect for more of our world class medical research to be commercialised. This expansion of risk capital and expertise is key to progressing many more of our lab discoveries into clinical studies and ultimately into life-saving new therapies globally,” says pioneer venture capitalist and Chair of the MRCF, Bill Ferris.
“Over the last decade we have seen a gradual increase in the availability of capital to support the development and translation of Australian biomedical discoveries. However, the reality is that gaps, or even chasms, still remain. One of these is the capital required to bridge the gap between where research grant funding finishes, and before a technology is at a stage that it can attract its first seed investment,” says Dr Chris Nave, CEO and co-founder of the MRCF.
“This new incubator has been designed to directly address this problem and we believe it can make a real difference. The other significant gap, is the lack of capital for late-stage clinical development and commercialisation, but that is another problem that we are working toward solving”
The $40m funding will be used to develop two streams of activity over the next three years and any Australian SME, life science researcher at an Australian university or research institute, is eligible to apply for funding.
The first stream of $20m will identify promising preclinical biomedical technologies, providing funding and hands-on expertise to guide the development of these assets through to the point that they are ready for seed investment.
The second stream of $20m will provide capital to support the clinical development of novel therapies to treat disease. Opportunities that successfully receive funding through this stream, will also benefit from matching capital from the MRCF.
Together, both streams will result in at least a further $60m being invested into the biotech industry.
“The funding will see an increase in the translation of our greatest discoveries from the laboratory bench to the bedside,” continues Mr Ferris. “It will ensure Australians have access to the latest health treatments and will ultimately lead to more jobs, income, exports, infrastructure and manufacturing for the sector.”
Companies that successfully go through the incubator programme may also have access to follow on investment from the MRCF’s $700m life sciences fund, the largest in Australia and New Zealand.
“It is hugely competitive for small biotech companies looking to receive their first investment,” continues Dr Nave. “Up to 96 percent of applications seeking funding from the MRCF are declined due to being too early in development or lacking key supporting data. Yet many of these research discoveries have significant potential and this new incubator provides a mechanism for researchers to get their research innovations to a point where they are attractive to investors and partners.”
The incubator program aims to provide funding to 20-25 Australian SMEs developing preclinical biomedical assets during the three-year funding period, with individual projects eligible for up to $1,000,000 in funding. It will also provide up to $1.5m, matched with $1.5m from the MRCF, in funding to support 10-12 Australian SMEs in the development of their clinical stage products.
“We have world-class researchers in Australia who have the capabilities and infrastructure to advance and create therapies with the potential to have an enormous impact on some of the world’s largest health concerns,” says Dr Nave. “Overall, the incubator will create jobs, manufacturing opportunities and will nurture and develop world-class talent and research teams in the Australian biomedical industry.”
Mr Ferris was the architect behind the Federal Government’s $500m Biomedical Translation Fund (BTF) which was established in 2015 to create a source of VC dedicated to commercialisation of later stage biotech opportunities in Australia. It is unique in that it matches public with private capital, with the Brandon Capital MRCF BTF being the largest fund at $230m.
The BTF has been successful at developing a number of late-stage biotech companies in Australia. One of these is PolyActiva, a biotechnology company which has developed a biodegradable, slow-release ocular implant for treating glaucoma, the leading cause of blindness affecting 70 million people globally.
PolyActiva’s implant is aimed at providing six-months of therapy from a single injection, removing the need for up to four times daily drop therapy, that is often poorly applied and poorly adhered to by patients. It has received $30m in investment, including funding from the MRCF’s BTF, to complete Phase I & II clinical trials, with its world-leading product manufactured here in Australia.
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About the Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF) and Brandon Capital Partners
Brandon Capital Partners is a venture capital firm that manages the Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF), Australia and New Zealand’s largest life science investment fund, with more than $700 million under management. The MRCF is a unique collaboration between major Australian superannuation funds, the Australian and New Zealand governments, Australian state governments and more than 50 leading medical research institutes and research hospitals. The MRCF supports the development and commercialisation of early-stage biomedical discoveries associated with member research organisations, providing both capital and expertise to guide the successful development of new therapies. The MRCF has supported more than 50 start-up companies to date, most of which were founded by the MRCF.
For more information about the MRCF visit: https://www.mrcf.com.au/
For more information about Brandon Capital Partners visit: www.brandoncapital.com.au
About the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF)The Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) is a research fund set up by the Australian Government in 2015. In July 2020, it grew to $20 billion. The net interest from the fund pays for important health and medical research projects.
For more information on the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) visit: https://www.health.gov.au/initiatives-and-programs/medical-research-future-fund/about-the-mrff