Australia has a strong base in biotechnology, with many incentives for R&D and commercialization. Here are the top five private Australian biotech companies that have recently showcased the country’s credentials in the sector.
Australia is a highly developed nation in the Southern Hemisphere. Famous for its huge wool trade and iron ore wealth, the country is also an attractive destination for biotech companies.
One of the main benefits for biotech companies in Australia is the nation’s R&D tax incentive, which offers tax offsets for R&D activities. There are also sources of capital for companies such as the Medical Research Future Fund and Biomedical Translation Fund.
Some of the most successful biotech companies in Australia have included the pain medicine developer Spinifex, which was acquired by Novartis in 2015, and Fibrotech, which was snapped up in 2014 by Shire, now part of Takeda. Meanwhile, firms such as CSL, ResMed and Cochlear highlight the country’s ability to generate public life sciences companies.
To demonstrate the latest life sciences innovations coming out of Australia, we’ve listed five private Australian biotech companies that have raised big venture capital funding in the past year.
Headquarters: Sydney, New South Wales
Radiopharmaceuticals are the game of the Australian biotech company AdvanCell, which is developing radioactive lead atoms called Alpha 212 to kill cancer cells.
Traditional radiopharmaceutical drugs use a form of radiation called beta radiation to treat cancer. In contrast, Alpha 212 emits alpha radiation, which has a shorter range than beta radiation but, once delivered to a tumor site, can deliver a lot more energy to kill nearby target cells.
To further its quest to develop a scalable and reliable supply of radioactive isotopes, AdvanCell raised A$18 million (US$11.4 million) in a Series B round in August 2022.
Headquarters: Orange, New South Wales
Originally known as Soil Carbon Co, Loam Bio is working on ways to supercharge the agricultural sector and cut carbon emissions from the soil using microbes.
The firm is developing a fungal coating for crop seeds that helps the plant to store carbon in soil, which boosts soil health and crop yields.
In October 2021, Loam Bio raised a A$40 million (US$30 million) Series A round led by the firm Time Ventures to finance the development of the technology.
In May 2022, Loam Bio launched a collaboration with the grain storage and handling organization GrainCorp to roll out its coating technology to farms in Australia. The product could also let farmers offer carbon offsetting projects and diversify their income streams.
Headquarters: Melbourne, Victoria
Nutromics is a company gunning to speed up diagnostics in the clinical setting. This is particularly needed in intensive care units, where diseases can progress fast and current diagnostic tests can take several hours to process.
Nutromics’ solution is a skin patch device that can carry out blood tests continuously, allowing clinicians to monitor the blood in real time. Nutromics’ first target indication for the device is monitoring blood levels of the antibiotic drug vancomycin. Too much vancomycin in the blood can cause acute kidney injury in patients, so an efficient monitoring device could help to prevent overdoses.
Nutromics bagged a US$14 million investment round in September 2022, which will help the company to expand across Australia and the U.S. More fundraising is expected in 2023 after the company has carried out clinical studies of the technology.
Headquarters: Melbourne, Victoria
OccuRx earns a place on this list by raising US$14.5 million in a Series B round in September 2022. The Australian biotech company specializes in the development of small molecule treatments for conditions involving tissue scarring known as fibrosis. The drugs are designed to block a protein on the cell surface that OccuRx suggests is linked to the development of many fibrotic diseases.
OccuRx’s lead candidate drug is due to enter phase 3 testing in 2023 for the treatment of the autoimmune disorder scleroderma. Another clinical-stage candidate is planned to begin phase 2 trials in 2023 for the treatment of chronic kidney disease and the kidney condition focal segmental glomerulosclerosis.
Headquarters: Noosaville, Queensland
Provectus Algae is part of a growing group of companies using algae as minifactories for valuable chemicals such as food flavorings, cosmetics and food supplements. As algae absorb carbon dioxide, this method could provide sustainable alternatives to existing production methods for the same chemicals.
To help the company produce viable manufacturing methods with algae, Provectus employs a range of digital tools including machine learning, automation and bioinformatics.
The Australian biotech company raised A$11 million (US$8 million) in late 2021 to fund the research and commercialization of products in its pipeline.
Supporting biotech companies in Australia
While Australia has many strengths as a home for biotech companies, there are improvements that can be made. In a strategic plan released by the Australian authorities in 2022, the authors highlighted challenges for Australia’s biotechnology sector, including a lack of access to capital, limited support for translating research into benefits for patients, and a lack of coordination of giving incentives and support.
To address these issues, the government has pledged to support all parts of the R&D pipeline and provide further incentives for cementing the nation’s biotech expertise.