New AusBiotech chief on the sector’s ‘inflection’ point

Stuart Mason

The Australian biotech sector is at an “inflection point” and is ready to work with the federal government on its Future Made in Australia plan, and other critical policies, to capitalise on interest from overseas, according to new AusBiotech chief executive Rebekah Cassidy. 

AusBiotech is the leading industry representative body for Australian organisations operating in the global life sciences sector, and has a network of over 3,000 members including startups, SMEs, service providers, large pharmaceutical and medtech organisations, and research institutions. 

Ms Cassidy was announced as the organisation’s new CEO earlier this year, and has now been in the role for six weeks. She was most recently Sanofi’s deputy head of corporate affairs and sustainability for Australia and New Zealand, and has extensive experience in biotech across strategy, policy and media. 

AusBiotech chief executive Rebekah Cassidy

With increased attention and funding on offer for the life sciences sector following the pandemic, a renewed need for sovereignty in key industries and the Albanese government’s flagship Future Made in Australia policy, Ms Cassidy said it’s an exciting time for Australian biotech firms. 

“I definitely see the sector at an inflection point,” Ms Cassidy said. 

“This moment in time has the potential to be a great moment for biotech. What I’m picking up from the stakeholders I’m speaking with is a posture of willingness to listen and talk.” 

Ms Cassidy said there are several different reviews and new policies that present enormous opportunities for the life sciences sector. 

“There is an overarching keenness to have the right conversations with the sector to enable the right outcomes,” she said. 

“An R&D strategic review has been announced by the Minister for Industry and Science and we have a National Health and Medical Research Strategy in development. The impression I’m getting from our members is a desire for these to be deep-thinking pieces of work that include a representative voice from industry.” 

In her first month in the top job at AusBiotech, Ms Cassidy has hit the ground running – already attending the AusMedtech 2024 conference in Adelaide, the BIO conference in San Diego and a range of meetings with the organisation’s many and diverse members. 

“I’ve been having conversations with lots of members about the opportunities and challenges in the market,” she said. 

“It has enabled me to discuss what we’re seeing at a global level and how we can work more closely as a biotech industry body. 

“[Minister for Industry and Science] Ed Husic also attended BIO and ran an Investing in Australia roundtable with our members and some very large organisations. This was a great opportunity to dig underneath some of the common conversations and topics I’m already hearing.” 

Common issues raised by AusBiotech members include access to capital, growing capacity constraints for early phase clinical trials, challenges retaining phase two and three clinical trials in Australia, and talent attraction – particularly in terms of commercialisation skills, research and development, and taxation. 

AusBiotech last month launched the First 100 Days Policy Taskforce, which will help crystalise these and other issues that are hampering the growth of the sector and begin to work towards solutions. 

“We sought expressions of interest from our members to sit around the table with us and deep dive into some of these big topics, so we can start to move quickly beyond challenges into solutions mode,” Ms Cassidy said. 

“Both industry and government must each have a role in finding, enabling and supporting these solutions. “AusBiotech has amazing members with amazing minds – there’s no reason we can’t come together on these topics.” 

Sovereignty has been in the spotlight since the onset of Covid, and biotech has been identified by the federal government as one of the key industries it wants to keep onshore and cultivate further in Australia. 

“Sovereignty is undoubtedly a critical conversation with government,” Ms Cassidy said. 

“It’s important we recognise Australia is not the only country having these discussions – all the major markets in the world are considering their own sovereign needs, what they want to be good at manufacturing, creating and inventing in their countries and how they are supporting these aspirations.” 

Ms Cassidy said one of her main aims as CEO of AusBiotech is to provide a cohesive voice for the sector in a collaborative manner. 

“As the sector scales up and out, the opportunity for AusBiotech is to keep listening to its members,” she said. 

“It’s less about impediments and more about the right collaborative conversations that are informed, forward-looking and solutions focused. And collaboration is key – there are many voices in this sector, which is a wonderful thing, but there are opportunities for us to collaborate more cohesively and speak with one strong voice.” 

This article was produced by in partnership with AusBiotech.  

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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