Cicada Innovations to operate new biotech incubator to drive translation of world-class medical research

03 November 2022
CSL, WEHI, and the University of Melbourne have announced the appointment of an independent operator to oversee and manage a new start-up incubator that will support and grow early-stage Australian biotech companies.

At a glance

  • CSL, WEHI and The University of Melbourne jointly announce the appointment of Cicada Innovations as the independent operator of a new biotech incubator which will be located in CSL’s new Global Headquarters currently under construction in the Melbourne Biomedical Precinct.

  • Cicada’s appointment as operator follows the project partners joining forces to create an incubator and commercial wet lab space for biotech start-up companies, with the Victorian Government’s landmark Breakthrough Victoria Fund providing funding to support the $95 million project.

  • It will be Australia’s first and only incubator that is co-located with a leading biopharmaceutical company, providing all of the wrap-around support that start-ups need to translate Australian medical research into new treatments and therapies.

Cicada Innovations, a Sydney-based deep-tech incubator, will be responsible for establishing operations and overseeing day-to-day management of the incubator and its residents.

The incubator, to be located at CSL’s new global corporate headquarters under construction in the Melbourne Biomedical Precinct, will support start-up companies to translate promising medical research into commercial outcomes.

Drawing on experience

Experienced in establishing and running incubators in Australia, Cicada was selected following a competitive global search.

The incubator will be located at CSL’s new global
corporate headquarters currently under construction
in the Melbourne Biomedical Precinct.

Cicada has a successful track record of supporting ventures to create life-changing technology by applying cutting-edge science and a strong national presence coupled with global reach.

Twice named ‘top incubator in the world’ by International Business Incubator Association, Cicada has helped incubated start-ups raise over $1.5 billion in funding, achieve over $1.3 billion in exits and trade sales, file over 600 patents, and launch over 700 innovations globally.

WEHI Director, Professor Doug Hilton AO said that the appointment of Cicada is an important step forward for the incubator.

“The incubator is vital for building a critical mass of management-skilled scientists who have the knowledge and confidence to run successful biomed and biotech companies,” he said.

“Ultimately the incubator will accelerate translational outputs to take scientific discoveries to the next stage of development faster.

“Cicada’s unique experience, underpinned by a wealth of knowledge about Australia’s biotech ecosystem and the unique challenges facing start-ups here, will provide a launchpad for incubator residents to translate medical research to successful commercial outcomes.”

Dr Andrew Nash, CSL’s Chief Scientific Officer and Senior Vice President, Research, said, “Incubator residents will be working in an innovation-driven environment alongside a large and focused CSL R&D team, enabling opportunities for peer-collaboration, learning and sharing of ideas.”

Sally-Ann Williams, CEO Cicada Innovations, said: “Global health challenges require collaboration between all parts of the ecosystem to bring solutions to market.

“The opportunity to connect Australia’s world leading biomedical research with the support needed to translate discoveries to products in market is one that will benefit Australia as a whole.

“This incubator can be a catalyst nationally for growth in commercial biotech outcomes for Australia and we are delighted to help bring that vision to life.”

Role of the incubator operator

The incubator will be open to applications from small biotech companies who have engaged in early research and are seeking to take their discoveries to the next stage of development.

Operated by Cicada, the incubator will provide affordable, state-of-the-art wet-lab facilities, equipment and office space to start-ups.

Cicada will provide a range of services, including commercialisation education programs, facilitated access to investors, industry mentoring and access to service providers for incubator residents, ensuring the creation and ongoing success of a vibrant biotech ecosystem within the incubator.

University of Melbourne Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Jim McCluskey said the appointment of Cicada, with its depth of experience and understanding of the support required by research scientists to nurture biomedical start-ups, was substantial progress in establishing Australia’s leading incubator.

“Once the incubator is operational it will accelerate the translation of promising medical research into biotech inventions and commercial outcomes, provoking new collaborations while addressing the challenges facing the community,” Professor McCluskey said.

Community of support

Made possible with financial and in-kind support from CSL, one of the world’s largest biotech companies, University of Melbourne and WEHI, together with investment partner Breakthrough Victoria, an independent company managing the $2 billion Breakthrough Victoria Fund, the incubator is scheduled to open to start-ups in 2024 and will be able to accommodate up to 40 early-stage companies from around Australia and internationally.

CSL’s Chief Scientific Officer, Dr Andrew Nash, said incubator residents will benefit from Cicada’s operational expertise and proven track record of incubator management as well as its location within CSL’s new Global headquarters and Australian R&D hub.

“The strong collaboration between CSL, the University of Melbourne, WEHI, Breakthrough Victoria and now Cicada Innovations has been critical to bring the incubator to fruition and reflects CSL’s values and desire to deliver on our promise to patients worldwide.

“As Australia’s largest biotech, we can share our extensive knowledge with resident biotech start-ups who will have access to the wrap around support they need to translate their medical research into new treatments and therapies,” he said.

About the biotech incubator

Incubators reduce barriers to entry for start-ups through an affordable ‘one-stop shop’ that provides access to expert technical support and sophisticated technology platforms which can be expensive and cost-prohibitive to small companies. Start-ups that are incubated have a much higher five-year survival rate and accelerated growth trajectory compared with standalone entities.

Many of Australia’s greatest medical research breakthroughs have been built upon national collaborations. This incubator will build on this history and will be open to all high-quality early-stage spinouts from the precinct, across Victoria, around Australia and internationally.

Breakthrough Victoria CEO Grant Dooley said: “Breakthrough Victoria is proud to be investing in the biotech incubator, which will give start-ups access to industry expertise and specialised lab and clinical facilities and infrastructure to develop and commercialise their innovations.”

Located over two floors of CSL’s new corporate headquarters being built in the Melbourne Biomedical Precinct, the incubator will have one floor of purpose-built wet lab space and another for meetings, office and collaboration space.

There, the incubator will be embedded alongside seven floors of leading-edge laboratory and clinical manufacturing space supporting CSL’s own R&D program, in which the company has invested more than US$1 billion globally the past fiscal year.

The incubator is expected to open by early 2024 and welcomes expressions of interest from start-ups across Australia and internationally.

Start-ups interested in applying for residence in the incubator are encouraged to email incubator@csl.com.au.

Media enquiries 

M: +61 475 751 811
E: communications@wehi.edu.au

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