Australia’s medical research sector is thriving, with this year seeing record levels of government investment $6.8 billion and sizeable contributions from the private sector – into early stage, domestic projects. The translation of this research into new products and therapies, however, is not progressing at the same pace, when compared with international peers.
It currently takes an average of ten years for a medicine to progress from initial discovery to marketplace, at an estimated cost of $2.6 billion. With global competition on the rise, there is a growing need to be more efficient in this space.
Australia’s largest biotech, CSL, is helping to change this by developing and supporting pathways between research breakthroughs and pharmaceutical products, across the entire biomedical ecosystem.
Like many pharma and biotech companies, CSL is committed to developing and facilitating these pathways to research translation. With a view to enhancing activity, expertise, and capability, CSL aims to help medical researchers communicate with industry; and financiers make better-informed decisions about early-stage projects.
Dr Andrew Nash, CSL’s Chief Scientific Officer, says these efforts are necessary given the challenges in bringing important treatments to market.
“Now more than ever there is an economic imperative to invest in and commercialise science and support the nation’s world-class medical research. We are seeing some really promising opportunities delayed as they transition from academic labs to pharmaceutical products,” said Dr Nash ahead of the Bio Connections Conference, hosted by Informa Connect.
“Australia’s medical research community has a rich source of potential new discoveries to address the world’s unmet medical needs, so, it is vital we support and provide the building blocks needed to streamline and accelerate the translation of promising medical research.”
Why is the process so challenging?
On the academic side, Dr Nash says giving researchers a stronger sense of what they need to do to create investible opportunities is vital; as is having the people and capabilities to “progress that through to a translated outcome”.
Getting a better foothold on the ‘platforms’ needed to develop drug technology is also important. These platforms – whether focused on small molecules of biologics, such as monoclonal antibodies and RNA-based vaccines – aren’t always widely available to the academic sector, making it harder to yield drugs from research, he says.
“It’s vital that scientists have better access and expertise in this area,” Dr Nash said.
Within the investment sector, Dr Nash believes more expertise in translational science is needed to justify and support decisions that involve longer term commitment.
“For a company or investor to take that plunge and invest in developing a drug for humans, they need to understand that gap between great early-stage science and the identification of the candidate drug with an MOA relevant to human disease. In other words, they need to understand that what they are observing in the lab will actually translate to humans,” he said.
Creating a better ecosystem
To foster these skills and improve access throughout the biomedical research ecosystem, CSL is running a number of key programs.
Its newly announced biotech incubator in Parkville, Victoria – in partnership with WEHI, the University of Melbourne and with support from Breakthrough Victoria – will provide infrastructure and commercial support to biotech start-ups. Similarly, a new CSL research acceleration initiative is promoting investment into “very early stage” projects.
The organisation is also collaborating and co-investing with various partners to speed up commercial outcomes. Under a joint venture with Brandon Bio Catalyst, and the University of Melbourne it is accelerating the development of a vaccine against periodontal disease.
“Creating an environment rich in support for local research translation means an expedited pipeline of Australian therapies and technologies to address unmet medical needs for patients,” Dr Nash said.
“It will give Australian patients greater access to clinical trials as research is translated into lifesaving medicines, locally. Meanwhile, intellectual property (IP) will remain on shore, which offers substantial benefits to Australia in terms of royalties, license fees, supply chains, well-paid jobs, and capital investment.”
To hear more about the exciting work CSL is doing to bring drugs to market more quickly, register your place at the Bio Connections Conference hosted by Informa Connect. Andrew Nash will join a stellar line up of speakers including Breakthrough Victoria CEO Grant Dooley, and Pfizer Executive Director, Dr Anand Gautam.
Learn more and register your place here.