Generating and transforming new industries - presentation by Dr Megan Clark


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Australia’s biotechnology industry is growing. By 2007 Australia had more than 470 biotechnology companies, and the top 10 had a market capitalisation of more than A$22 billion.

We continue to build capacity in biotechnology, and we’re working with more than 50 partners in the scientific community and industry through our Australian Biotech Growth Partnerships scheme. Under the scheme, centred on the CSIRO Molecular and Health Technologies Division, companies can access our expertise and infrastructure. We share the risk of and returns on research.

Slide from the Generating new industries, transforming new ones presentation

Our expertise includes:

  • gene cloning
  • protein expression
  • protein purification
  • x-ray crystallography
  • computational chemistry
  • rational drug design.

Slide from the Generating new industries, transforming new ones presentation

One early biotechnology success story was the anti-influenza drug Relenza, spawned by research by CSIRO and the Victorian College of Pharmacy in the 1980s. Mark Von Itzstein now at Griffith University and Peter Coleman were key inventors of the chemistry and structural biology.

Biota Holdings Limited, which developed the drug, is now one of Australia’s biggest biotechnology companies.

More recently, we’ve been working with Melbourne based drug discovery company Avexa, which announced late last year that it was recruiting patients for phase III trials of its anti-HIV drug apricitabine.

And Arana Therapeutics, formed from a merger between Evogenix and Peptech in 2007, is now one of Australia’s best performing biotechnology companies. Arana engineers proteins for novel antibody products targeting diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. Evogenix was a spin-off from the CRC program - the former CRC for cellular Growth Factors. CSIRO has been an important collaborator and is also a shareholder.

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With our partners at the Vision CRC and CIBA Vision Corporation, we have developed extended wear contact lenses made from a soft, silicone hydrogel.

In other work, also through the Vision CRC, we have come up with a corneal onlay - a permanent but removable device acting as an alternative to laser surgery to correct vision.

Among other breakthroughs is NovoSorb, a suite of biodegradable polymers for use in cartilage repair and cranial and facial bone repair. The technology was invented by CSIRO and developed by PolyNovo Biomaterials Ltd, which recently merged with Metabolic.

As you can see from these examples with our research and industry partners, CSIRO is here attempting to build and transform whole industries. These innovations are like a stone being thrown into a millpond - we expect collateral benefits radiating outwards - to SMEs.

We expect our polymer work to have spin-offs in the fine chemical synthesis business, to manufacturers of sheet polymers, to printers, Original Equipment Manufacturers, system integrators, logistics and supply companies, engineering businesses and so on - generating new, high-tech green-collar jobs.