On a global scale, Australia and New Zealand are always ranked highly for their biomedical research capabilities and clinical excellence. However, despite the strength of this foundation, we have historically been poor at translating and commercialising our own discoveries. Frustrated by this market failure, we decided to do something about it.
The key barrier to translating and commercialising our technologies has been the lack of capital and access to expertise. We also recognised that across Australia and New Zealand, all of the capabilities existed to create a ‘virtual pharmaceutical pipeline powerhouse’, but that they weren’t connected or coordinated. Our aim was to develop a model that brought together these research and clinical capabilities and partnered them with institutional capital and expertise; thereby overcoming the break in the early stage translation and commercialisation chain, often referred to at the ‘1st Valley of Death’.
With this concept on paper and a healthy dose of naïve optimism, in 2007, we managed to convince eight brave medical research institutes in New South Wales and Victoria, supported by those State Governments, to join Brandon BioCatalyst (then known as the Medical Research Commercialisation Fund) when we established our first fund of AUD$30 million.
Our first modest fund was raised with the support of 2 leading superannuation funds AustralianSuper and Statewide. The superannuation funds were convinced by the critical mass of research capabilities and the strong pipeline of assets coming out of our research members, but they also saw the opportunity to grow a local industry, create local jobs and benefit the health of patients; while at the same time generating strong returns for their members. Furthermore, the long development timelines of biomedical technologies matched well with the long-term horizons and investment strategies of the superannuation funds. Since these early beginnings, there are now five leading superannuation funds that have invested in successive Brandon BioCatalyst Funds. In addition to the superannuation fund investors, Australia’s largest and most successful biotechnology company, CSL, is also an investor in Brandon BioCatalyst Funds. In addition to capital, CSL generously provides the Brandon BioCatalyst with access to its significant global, development and commercialisation expertise.
Membership now includes more than 50 medical research organisations and tertiary hospitals across Australia and New Zealand as part of the Brandon BioCatalyst network. Support is provided by the Victorian, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australian, West Australian state governments, as well as the Australian Federal and New Zealand governments.
The sale of Fibrotech Therapeutics to Shire in July 2014 for US$557 million, the successful sale of Spinifex Pharmaceuticals to Novartis (June 2015) for US$725 million, and the sale of Elastagen to Allergan for US$95 million (February 2018) and the recent sales of Longas in 2021 (acquirer yet to be disclosed) provide strong validation of the Brandon BioCatalyst model and its ability to guide very early stage technologies through to commercialisation on the world stage.
By investing in biotech discoveries, our superannuation funds are generating long-term, superior returns on behalf of their superannuate investors, but they are also helping create jobs and grow a sunrise industry. This is a virtuous circle where returns are generated for our aging population, while at the same time, the capital superannuates invest, supports health-enhancing discoveries.