Former assistant secretary of the Department of Health Erica Kneipp has been tapped to join the board of Medical Research Commercialisation Fund as the pandemic supercharges an opportunity to boost Australia’s biotech capabilities.
Ms Kneipp, head of health and medical research strategy at the Australian National University, was at the centre of the creation of the federal government’s $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund, and the $500 million Biomedical Translation Fund.
Erica Kneipp, Head of Health and Medical Research Strategy at ANU, is joining the MRCF board.
The $700 million Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF), chaired by CHAMP Private Equity Group co-founder Bill Ferris, is led by chief executive Chris Nave, who founded Brandon Capital Partners, which manages the MRCF.
When Mr Ferris was the inaugural chairman of the Turnbull government’s Innovation and Science Australia board he worked with Ms Kneipp to design and implement the Biomedical Translation Fund.
Ms Kneipp said COVID-19 has put health policy firmly at the top of the national agenda. “COVID-19 has presented Australia with even stronger rationale to further grow and expand our biotech capabilities; the opportunity is Australia’s to seize,” Ms Kneipp said.
“Health policy has been pushed right to the top of the public policy agenda, alongside security and finance, and is appreciated now more than ever, as integral to innovation, industry, job growth, bio-security and sovereignty,” she said.
“Realising that alignment of policy settings to accelerate our biomedical capabilities is essential to future-proof our nation.”
The MRCF board also includes former Queensland premier Peter Beattie, former Citigroup banker Denise Allen, and former Victorian treasurer Alan Stockdale.
Since its founding, the MRCF has supported more than 40 start-up companies, most of them founded by the MRCF. Its investors are major superannuation funds such as AustralianSuper, Hostplus, Hesta and Statewide Super, vaccines manufacturer CSL and the Australian government.
“Australia has world-class research capabilities and, with the right public policy levers and access to capital, Australia’s biomedical sector can become a major contributor to the nation’s recovery from the pandemic,” Ms Kneipp said.
“COVID-19 has fast-tracked health innovations that were once thought too hard to implement at scale, like telehealth. We need to make sure that when the pandemic is behind us, that this crisis-nudge sticks and serves to revolutionise healthcare in Australia,” she said.
Ms Kneipp spent 10 years in the Department of Health, where she was assistant secretary of digital health policy and the Office of Health and Medical Research.
Mr Ferris said Ms Kneipp’s knowledge of public policy and expertise in the biomedical sector would be an asset to the fund.
“Erica’s first-hand experience in designing and implementing the MRFF and BTF means she brings deep understanding of public health policy and the importance of a thriving biomedical sector to our national bio-security, the creation of sustainable high-value manufacturing jobs and income generation for the country,” Mr Ferris said.
Mr Nave, who co-founded the MCRF, said Australia’s biotech sector was still in its infancy and more needed to be done to create a manufacturing sector.
“Medical research has been at the forefront of many minds this year with COVID-19. Because of the decades of investment by successive governments in Australia’s medical health infrastructure our country was able to respond swiftly and effectively to the national healthcare emergency created by COVID-19,” Mr Nave said.
The Australian Financial Review
21 December, 2020