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Melbourne biotech incubator to drive transformative medical discoveries

This article featured in Illuminate Newsletter Autumn ‘22
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Introduction

An incubator for Australian biotech start-ups, to translate promising medical research into outcomes for patients, is coming soon to Melbourne’s Biomedical Precinct.

WEHI, global biotech leader CSL and the University of Melbourne are joining forces to create an incubator and commercial wet lab space to help grow early-stage biotech companies. Scheduled to open in 2023, the incubator will accommodate up to 40 companies from across Australia.

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

The $95 million project is backed by financial and in-kind support from WEHI, the University of Melbourne and CSL, plus a contribution from Breakthrough Victoria – an independent investment management company administering the Victorian Government’s landmark $2 billion Breakthrough Victoria Fund.

Raising the biotech bar

Start-ups that are ‘incubated’ have a much higher five-year survival rate and accelerated growth trajectory compared with standalone entities. The new 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.

In addition to affordable, state-of-the-art wet lab facilities, equipment, and office space, the incubator will provide a range of services including commercialisation education programs, facilitated access to investors, industry mentoring and access to service providers.

WEHI director Professor Doug Hilton AO said the challenges facing research scientists when they spinout a company or biomedical start-up included skill-gaps in translating their research into commercial products.

Incubators reduce barriers for start-ups by providing an affordable one-stop-shop offering technical support and sophisticated technology platforms, which can be expensive and cost-prohibitive to small companies.

“This will raise the calibre and quantity of translational outputs from the Melbourne Biomedical Precinct,” he said.

A nurturing ecosystem

The incubator will advance the Victorian biomedical ecosystem and boost Australia’s commercialisation outputs. Best-inclass incubators integrate into an effective external ecosystem, like the Melbourne Biomedical Precinct, which is as critical to success as the infrastructure and services it will provide.

University of Melbourne Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Jim McCluskey said the incubator would provide a strong innovative environment to nurture biotech start-ups, attracting more local and international investors, talent and companies into research collaborations.

“Universities are critical to meeting the major social, economic, environmental and medical challenges impacting on our communities. The creation of this biotech incubator builds on more than a century of collaboration between CSL, WEHI and the University of Melbourne, strategically supported by state government investment in translation of medical research, driving economic prosperity and impact for Victoria.”

Enhancing connectivity

This will be the first incubator in Australia co-located with a leading biotechnology company. CSL CEO Paul Perreault said incubator residents would benefit from CSL’s onshore translational research and development (R&D) expertise and capacity as they collaborate with employees at its state-of-the-art R&D hub, providing opportunities for cross-pollination, learning and the sharing of ideas.

“As one of the world’s leading biotechnology companies, CSL is driven by our promise as a patientfocused organisation, so this partnership clearly aligns with our values and purpose. We are well positioned to support incubator residents, whose experience often lies purely within the lab, to better understand commercial aspects of medicines development that may be foreign or new to them,” he said.

Dr Andrew Nash, CSL’s Chief Scientific Officer, said a thriving biomedical precinct would benefit us all.

“Formalising a place to nurture promising start-ups is a natural extension of our long-term support of, and collaboration with, many like-minded partners. We hope to see significant long-term health, social and R&D benefits from this initiative, including greater retention and upskilling of domestic research and development capabilities and an increase in commercial acumen of precinct researchers.”

Breakthrough Victoria CEO Grant Dooley said this was Breakthrough Victoria’s inaugural investment.

“This project aims to provide a sustainable asset for decades by providing a catalyst to progress ideas to commercial outcomes,” he said.

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

First published on 01 March 2022
This article featured in Illuminate Newsletter Autumn ‘22
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