Updated on 18 April 2013
Dr Anna Lavelle, chief executive officer, AusBiotech, Australia
AusBiotech, which is Australian biosciences' flagstaff industry organization comprising of a network of over 3,000 life sciences companies, has been providing representation and services to promote the global growth of Australian biotechnology for the past 25 years. Dr Anna Lavelle, chief executive officer, AusBiotech, Australia, speaks about the latest developments that have taken place in the association for the past two years and also how AusBiotech's is cultivating a supportive environment to enable companies to grow and advance their commercial interests. Here are the excerpts from her interview.
What are the major developments/activities/achievements of the Association in the last two years?
The last two years have been a significant period for AusBiotech and for the Australian biotechnology industry, with: major achievements in public policies impacting the sector, such as the introduction of the ‘Research and Development Tax Incentive'; the building of a strong showcase platform to attract investment in promising Australian biotechnology companies; and the anniversary celebrations, marking 25 years since AusBiotech began as the Australian Biotechnology Association (ABA) to support the growth of the industry. Meanwhile the industry organization has continued to deliver expanded services and networking events, and the flagship annual industry conference that attracts more than 1400 people from around the globe each year to share views and latest happenings.
What are the major policies developments and changes in the field of bioscience that have happened recently in the country?
The strong performance of the biotechnology sector in an unpredictable economic market, underscores the industry's success, maturation, and resilience. The Australian biotech industry was named the fifth most innovative in the world, by the Scientific American World View magazine (2011). There's a buzz amongst investors, most notably about the value offering available in Australia, and increasing activity in mergers and acquisitions, as well as licensing deals.
Dominating AusBiotech's advocacy agenda has been the work we have done in representing the membership's interests on public policy issues with the potential for profound impacts, with the main focus on supporting the delivery of capital to our sector via the R&D Tax Incentive and addressing the campaign by others to ban patents on biological materials. The introduction of the $1.8 billion R&D Tax Incentive program legislation last year was a momentous and pivotal inflection point for Australian innovation; the type we as a community will look back on in admiration and congratulate its architects' foresight. It was the culmination of years of campaigning, planning consulting and AusBiotech advocacy, which was initially flagged as part of the Australian Innovation Review of 2008, known as the Cutler Review.
What is the size of the life science industry in your country and the split size of pharma/biotech/medtech industry?
Despite the challenges of the global economy and the degree of difficulty in building a biotechnology and life sciences sector from scratch, Australia is doing very well by any comparative measure, with an impressive return on investment from a maturing stock of quality companies. Australian biotechnology boasts a raft of success stories and a world-class industry. Australia is already a leading location for biotechnology companies with over 900 biotechnology companies (400 therapeutics and diagnostics and 500 - 900 medical technology companies (Innovation Dynamics, 2008 & IBIS World, 2005)). The Australian biotechnology sector is still dominated by human therapeutics companies, but encompasses the fast-growing sectors in agriculture, food technology, medical devices and diagnostics, industrial applications and cleantech.
With respect to industry credentials, there are currently 100 ASX-listed life sciences companies, with a market capitalization of $40.7 billion (BioForum, Oct 2012). In a global context, the Australian biotech sector boasts the largest listed biotechnology sector as a proportion of GDP in the world (Beyond Borders, 2011). As 2013 commenced, Sirtex Medical was hailed a stand-out performer for 2012 and some analysts are tipping the biotech sector to be a "hot space" in 2013. At the close of trade on Christmas Eve, the S&P Indices replaced Integra Mining Limited with Sirtex Medical (SRX) on the S&P/ASX 200 and the good news didn't end there for the oncology treatment developer. Having freshly joined the S&P/ASX 200, Sirtex took second place for the highest share price increase for 2012 at 193 percent, on the back of its September report of a 37 per cent increase in sales of lead product, SIR-Sphere microspheres. The performance prompted The Australian Financial Review (7 Jan 2013) to refer to Sirtex as the "poster child for the medical research and bio-pharmaceutical sector."