In Startup Smart

Growing investment in medical technology and pharmaceutical innovation is set to fire a new pipeline of high-impact ventures into Australia that have been hiding in the corridors of universities waiting to be commercialised.

This week, non-profit organisation Medtech and Pharma (MTP) Connect announced it will inject $7.4 million into 14 medtech, biotech and pharmaceutical projects over the next two years.

The funding will be matched by a further $32 million from industry partners under MTP Connect’s project fund program.

Among the funded projects is the Bridge Program, which connects 14 companies, universities and industry associations to promote practical skills in commercialisation through training in drug discovery and development with direct exposure to various industry practitioners.

Other projects include St Vincent’s Hospital’s BioFab3D@ACMD in Melbourne, which will be Australia’s first robotics and biomedical engineering centre built inside a hospital; The Centre for Entrepreneurial Research and Innovation, a national consortium for medtech and pharmaceutical research and training; and Queensland University of Technology’s biofabrication research centre for advanced manufacturing technologies.

“It’s an exciting time, these are truly national initiatives”, MTP Connect CEO Sue MacLeman tells StartupSmart.

“I love the accelerators and the digital health initiatives.”

All 14 funded projects have a key focus on driving the development of medtech and pharmaceutical innovation through nationwide collaboration.

“We want those startups to build those skills to get the investment they need [and] reach out and tap into the global value chain,” she says.

MacLeman says there is a vested interest now to see ideas brewing in research institutions and universities fully commercialised for high-impact and social benefit.

MTP Connect received nearly 40 applications for funding and up to $90 million in support was offered by industry partners before the final 14 were selected.

“That tells me they understand the need for this and it was a real call for action,” she says.

While the funding scheme runs for two years, MacLeman says the outcomes will last well into the future.

“The MTP sector has a fantastic opportunity for growth, but is currently hindered by constraints, including a lack of collaboration between business and research, skills shortages, the need for more focused funding and investment, and the need for more streamlined and harmonised regulatory and market access frameworks,” she says.

“There also needs to be a focus on globally competitive incentives and long-term policy vision and stability.”

The investment from MTP Connect comes as Victorian premier Daniel Andrews revealed the state government will put $4 million into a new world-class Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre (MMIC) led by Monash University.

The MMIC will encourage real-world application of innovative ideas by connecting students with the business sector.

Associate professor Michelle McIntosh, who will head the MMIC’s operations, says pharmaceutical innovation presents a unique economic and social opportunity for the state.

More than 50% of ASX-listed life science companies are located in Victoria where everything from oncology medicines to vaccines are made.

“Victoria is home to 22 manufacturers who between them employ many thousands of workers directly, and create many times more jobs in the allied support areas,” says McIntosh

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