MARGARET LIM
June 30, 2016

Forging better MedTech links

Growth Centres

Forging better MedTech links

Sue MacLeman: Aiming to improve commercial outcomes in the MedTech and pharmaceutical markets

Australians have a good track record for great ideas, exceptional research and new inventions. They just need to lift their collective game in in turning these research-based ideas and ventures into ongoing commercial success.

The Medical Technologies and Pharmaceuticals Growth Centre (MTPConnect) was established under the Industry Department’s growth centre program to do just that.

MTPConnect is being led by a newly-minted CEO Sue MacLeman, and aims to power increase collaboration and commercialisation efforts in the MedTech and pharmaceuticals sector.

Unlocking commercial opportunities and driving innovation in the sector has so far been patchy. The sector faces challenges around funding constraints, lack of collaboration between the industry and academic institutions, lack of commercial and business management skills, regulatory requirements, complexities and difficulties presented in the global market, and policy stability in certain areas of government program funding.

"There are some good success stories of companies that have had initial technologies come out of our medical research institutes and are successful on the global stage, but we still have a lot of work to do, particularly going from early stage commercialisation to later stage product development and commercialisation where the real value-add is incomplete," said Ms MacLeman.

To date, some notable achievements include the sale of pain drug developer Spinifex Pharmaceuticals (founded by University of Queensland commercial arm, UniQuest) for a reported US$700 million ($925 million) last year, the sale of Hatchtech, which is developing a new treatment for human headlice, for US$197 million and the sale of Fibrotech in 2014, which is developing new treatments for fibrosis, for US$557 million.

Under the Australian Government's Industry Growth Centres Initiative, MTPConnect aims to maximise the sector's competitive advantages and help cement Australia as an Asia Pacific hub for MedTech and Pharma companies.

The organisation will develop a 10-year Sector Competitiveness Plan that identifies the main barriers of growth, and outlines specific activities to boost the Medical Technologies and Pharmaceuticals ecosystem.

MTPConnect says it will focus on taking 'highly targeted actions to improve collaboration and not duplicate what's already happening on the ground'.

A draft of the Sector Competitiveness Plan will be submitted to the Department of Industry Innovation and Science next week.

"MedTech and pharmaceuticals have all the hallmarks of a high-quality, innovation-based economy. Australia needs to develop this to secure our future. We have an aging population and a significant expenditure in healthcare; we need solutions for the future and should not be dependent on overseas institutions to build those capabilities here," said Ms MacLeman.

"If we get this right, we will have a much more highly productive commercialisation environment that will speed up the time to market, solve some of our own healthcare issues, and transform a whole lot of small companies into more mature companies that are stable and successful."

"But what I would like to see is Australia being reinstated as an attractive clinical trial destination and become a preferred partner for emerging Asian markets," she said.

The country has long been known for its fantastic environment for clinical trials backed by a slew of measures and incentives that have been put in place to support R&D and accelerate clinical trial processes. Some of the world's best research has been done out of Australia.

"Over time we have lost some of that competitiveness – and we need to restate that. This [the MTPConnect] is one of the things that we can do to reaffirm why Australia is such a good place for clinical trials."

The Medical Technologies and Pharmaceuticals sector along with five other sectors (Advanced Manufacturing; Cyber Security; Food and Agribusiness; Mining Equipment, Technology and Services; and Oil, Gas and Energy Resources) has been identified as an area of competitive strength and strategic priority to drive innovation, productivity and competitiveness under the Australian Government's Industry Growth Centres Initiative.

The Initiative will enable national action on key issues such as deregulation, skills, collaboration and commercialisation in the hope of creating an economy that ensures Australia's ongoing prosperity through fostering growth in smart, high value and export focused industries.

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