01 June 2018

Biotech Insights: 2018 industry snapshot and key trends

With the latest Scientific American Worldwide Scorecard ranking Australia in the top five bio-economies globally, Australia’s biotechnology and life sciences sector continues to show healthy performance for the fifth consecutive year.  Despite the challenges of the global economy, there has been generally positive sentiment from an industry that is expected to continue growing, reaching close to $8B in revenue over the current year.

In an age where phrases such as “precision medicine” and “personalised health” are increasingly becoming part of the healthcare and therapeutics narrative, innovations from within the biotechnology industry will continue to offer endless possibilities as many technologies that were once considered the stuff of science fiction become an integral part of everyday life.

Australian biotech - industry snapshot

The importance of the biotechnology industry to Australia’s economy was highlighted in the Australian Government’s 2018 Federal Budget, in which the Government announced a new $500M Genomics Health Futures Mission involving new clinical trials, technology development and greater community education, presenting opportunities for both businesses and research organisations to invest.  The Federal Government has also established a ~$500M Biomedical Translation Fund (BTF) with $250M of government capital and $250M private sector capital to be used to invest in biomedical discoveries, particularly targeting projects at advanced pre-clinical and Phase I and II stages of development.  The BTF is intended to complement the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF), which is predicted to reach ~$20B by 2020. It is expected that funding for the Genomics Health Futures Mission will be sourced from the MRFF, representing the largest single disbursement to date from the fund.

Healthcare, medical technology and pharmaceutical innovation continue to be major areas of investment from a broad spectrum of local and off-shore funding bodies. It is estimated that over the past two years, China alone has invested ~$5.5B in Australian intellectual property and healthcare assets, and on average a third of private equity and venture capital investment deals have been in healthcare. In addition, a significant number of industry participants have also benefitted from capital raisings on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX). 36 healthcare companies were listed on the ASX in the last three years, generating a collective total of over $5B. Together, the 160+ ASX listed healthcare companies have generated market capitalisation valued at ~$150B.

Coupled with the recent introduction of proposed legislative amendments to incentivise innovation and investment, following the Productivity Commission’s public inquiry into Australia’s intellectual property laws, there has never been a more vital time for biotechnology companies to review their Australian business strategy, including intellectual property management and enforcement strategies, to ensure they are best-positioned to exploit these recent developments.

Biotech - What are the key trends?

The Australian biotechnology industry is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 4.4%, reaching $8.67B in aggregated revenues by 2021. It was reported by CSIRO in 2017 that the medical technology and pharmaceutical sectors could add $18B, as well as 28,000 new jobs to the Australian economy over the next eight years.

Increased spending on healthcare

  • With an aging population and increasing demand for not only curative but preventative treatments, as well as medical technologies that are safer and less invasive, the industry enjoys a strong level of support from the Australian Government.

Growing M&A activity

  • With declining return on investment, aggressive price pressures and the costs of drug development increasing, biotech and pharma companies are looking at strategic alliances and other forms of inorganic growth to succeed.

Integration of genomic and proteomic medicine into healthcare

  • Increased funding for research focussed on the structure, function, evolution and mapping of genomes – enabled by continual developments in bioinformatics – will lead to precision technologies and personalised medicine.

Development of gene editing and genetic engineering techniques

  • The rapid uptake and development of gene editing technologies like CRISPR/Cas9 are creating exciting opportunities to treat and possibly cure genetic diseases, as well as revolutionise basic laboratory research.

Rise of biologics and biopharmaceuticals for medical treatments

  • The development and manufacture of high value biopharmaceuticals and the emergence of follow-on biologics (biosimilars) coming to market off the back of developments in other areas of biotech.

Artificial Intelligence and digital health

  • Augmenting research and development with artificial intelligence and the impact that this will have on the drug discovery and development process is in its early days but looks promising, as do emerging smart device, implant and bionics technologies.

As many of you head off to BIO 2018, we hope you will tune in to our biotech insights program over the coming week as we report on key trends for the industry. These insights will be published on the KWM IP Whiteboard blog daily from 4-8 June, and can also be followed on LinkedIn. We also invite you to “opt in” to receive this material via email alerts.

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