Australian biotech companies: Navigating the maze
Australia is largely accepted as an active biotech nation and claims the sixth position globally in the industry. A recent survey of the Australian biotechnology industry reported 370 biotechnology and 600 medical-device companies, most, if not all, products of Australia's academic research initiatives. The country presents a unique biotechnology landscape dominated by seed-stage companies and a handful of larger companies with validated technologies and/or products in development. The reason for this skewed distribution lies, in part, in Australia's funding infrastructure. This is characterised by a large and high-quality academic system that derives applied research support from numerous government incentives for seed funding without a critical mass of downstream venture capital or other financial support to fund continued growth. The unique challenges faced by Australian companies, such as visibility, distance to key markets and potential commercial collaborators and lack of development funding, have resulted in a number of strategies being implemented. These include efforts to raise money, often prematurely and very discounted, through public markets in Australia and/or partnerships around very early, very high-risk development-stage projects with US/European pharmaceutical or biotechnology companies. In addition, a recent strategy has been to merge with or acquire another Australian or overseas small company.
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