A new biotech incubator backed by $65 million in industry and government investment has launched, offering innovative Australian startups access to a wet lab space and other facilities in Melbourne.
Expressions of interest for the Jumar Bioincubator opened on Thursday, with its operator Cicada Innovations calling on biotech ventures to take up residency ahead of the opening of the facility in September.
The incubator, which has been 18 months in the making, aims to boost research translation by connecting early-stage and scaling ventures with the facilities and infrastructure to progress their discoveries towards real-world applications and commercialisation.
Founding partners CSL, the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI), and the University of Melbourne have together pitched in $45 million over ten years in cash and in-kind contributions.
The facility will be located across two floors of CSL’s new global headquarters and Centre for R&D at Melbourne’s biomedical precinct in the inner-city suburb of Parkville. The 18-story building opened to CSL staff in April.
Breakthrough Victoria, which manages a $2 billion state government innovation fund, has also provided an initial investment of $25 million, bringing total support for the project, including build costs, to $95 million.
Biotech ventures that become residents will be able to access wet labs and support facilities at “startup friendly prices”, and are guaranteed to retain 100 per cent of their intellectual property and have “no equity ties to the three founding partners”.
Startups will also receive preferential access to the “unique platform technologies of WEHI and University of Melbourne”, as well as access to hospitals, universities and research institutes within the biomedical precinct.
Cicada Innovations chief executive Sally-Ann Williams said that “by supporting young maturing biotech companies to succeed, Jumar can be a catalyst nationally for growth in commercial biotech outcomes for Australia”.
The deep tech incubator was selected as the operator of Jumar following a global search that took into account its proven track record supporting startups. Camille Shanahan, a consultant at biopharmaceutical consultancy Biointelect, has been appointed general manager.
“Camille’s passion for growing Australia’s biotechnology industry has been evident throughout her career. Her experience and networks will contribute to building a thriving community — both inside Jumar, and connected to a thriving biotech ecosystem nationally,” Ms Williams said.
CSL chief scientific officer and head of research Dr Andrew Nash said transitioning from a “biotech startup to a commercial success requires a shift in capabilities, processes, mindset as well as access to capital”.
“Jumar Bioincubator residents… will receive hands-on support and work near a large and focused CSL R&D team. Aligned to our promise to patients, we are looking forward to supporting the resident biotech start-ups as they navigate the translation of their promising medical research into new treatments and therapies,” he said.
Breakthrough Victoria chief executive Grant Dooley added that the incubator, and the infrastructure, expertise and support it would provide, is an investment in the “next generation of company founders”.
It will help build a pipeline of investment opportunities in local innovation that can be developed in Victoria to improve people’s lives and create jobs and investment in the state,” he said.
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