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Medtech, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals

Combine our advanced manufacturing capability with our expertise in medical technology, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals and the result is world-leading medical products – from drugs, biologics and vaccines to innovative devices and diagnostics.

We’re in the world top 20 for medtech patents and our booming medical devices export industry was worth more than A$2.6 billion in 2018.

Australia’s strengths include:

  • drug and vaccine development
  • personalised medicine
  • immunotherapies
  • medicines manufacture
  • bionic devices
  • implantables
  • nanotechnology 
  • wearable devices
  • digital smart devices
  • digital therapeutics
  • 3D-printed body parts.

There are more than 2650 home grown and international companies working in our medical technology, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals sectors, including global powerhouses like CSL, Resmed, Cochlear and Nanosonics, and newer players like Vaxxas, Synchron, Global Kinetics Corporation and OncoRes Medical.

Top Australian innovations 

  • CPAP – a successful, non-invasive breathing support device – invented in 1981 and used by patients during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • EVestG – a diagnostic tool that detects mental and neurological illnesses
  • GARDASIL® – the HPV vaccine that is significantly lowering the risk of HPV-related cancers for women and men around the world
  • Electronic pacemaker
  • Ultrasound for pregnancy
  • Bionic ear – the cochlear implant is one of the earliest examples of improving wellbeing through digital technology
  • Spray-on skin
  • Prevention of spina bifida with folate
  • Penthrox® inhaler (green whistle) – a pain relief inhaler used in trauma and emergency settings

Our thriving life sciences ecosystem

Our world-class universities are at the global forefront of research in clinical medicine, and we’re consistently ranked among Nature Index’s top 10 contributors to life sciences research globally.

Our world leading medical research institutes include the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne, Queensland’s Translational Research Institute, the South Australia Health and Medical Research Institute, the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research in Perth and the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney.

Industry accelerators and incubators are attached to many of our leading universities. They drive innovation, halving development times and accelerating growth.

There are more than 30 medtech incubators and accelerators in Australia, helping to grow small and medium-sized companies. Examples include:

To this list Australia will soon add the A$50 million BioMedTech Incubator, which will nurture Australian SMEs undertaking early-stage medical research.

We also have health innovation hubs throughout Australia, including the Melbourne Biomedical Precinct, the Adelaide BioMed City, the QEII Medical Centre in Western Australia and in Sydney, the Macquarie Park Innovation District and Westmead Health Precinct.

Regenerative Medicine in focus

Australia has a strong and active Regenerative Medicine (RM) industry ecosystem, with internationally recognised basic and translational research, clinical trials framework and clinical centres. There are more than 30 companies in Australia developing products, and more than 30 clinical trials in progress. The sector comprises 1200 researchers across 12 universities and 45 medical research centres.

Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, ranks in the top 1% of the world’s scientific institutions in 15 of 22 research fields. It plays a major role in our biosciences sector, with R&D spanning precision health, genetics, disease control, plant and animal sciences, bio systems and diagnostics. One of the world's largest mission-driven multidisciplinary science and research organisations, its facilities include:

Australia is home to several comprehensive cancer care centres that are pioneering genome research, including the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Victoria and the Kinghorn Cancer Centre at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in NSW. There is also Australian Genomics , a national collaboration supporting the translation of genomic research into clinical practice. All have a history of international collaboration.

Australia is a receptive market for the development of genomics and precision medicine:

  • 75% of Australians would be willing to use genetic testing to identify the most effective drug to treat their disease.
  • 95% are willing for their results to be used to improve treatments for future patients.

In 2020, Australian Genomics received a A$5 million grant through the Medical Research Future Fund to expand its research network to deliver ultra-rapid testing to more than 240 critically ill children over three years – supporting rapid diagnosis and better clinical care.

Case studies

 

The ResApp on a smartphone

 

Booming biotech

Our pioneering biotech industry is underpinned by CSL, which began in 1916 as an Australian government body focussed on vaccine manufacture and is now a leading multinational and key site for the manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines.

Australia’s vaccine manufacturing capability will soon be expanded further with the establishment of a new Moderna mRNA vaccine manufacturing facility in Victoria – the multinational’s first in the Southern Hemisphere.

Other important biotechnology companies in Australia include Johnson & Johnson, Gilead Sciences and Sonic Healthcare. The industry body, AusBiotech, represents a network of more than 3,000 members. Over the next decade, the biotechnology sector is expected to contribute more than A$8 billion in gross value added and $12 billion in manufacturing exports.

  • Market capitalisation of ASX listed biotech companies has grown 37% over the last three years, rising from about A$170 billion in 2019 to around A$233 billion in 2022.
  • Capital raised by ASX-listed biotech companies in 2021 hit a record high A$8 billion, indicating investors’ support and recognition of the industry’s future growth
  • The Australian biotechnology sector has grown by 60% since 2017
  • The sector is comprised of 2,654 organisations, including companies, research institutes and industry
  • Almost 263,700 people are employed in Australia’s biotech sector

Source: Australian Biotechnology Sector Snapshot 2022

 

Success stories

Zachary M Smith - Medtech
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From left: QUT Vice Chancellor Professor Margaret Sheil, Stryker Chair and CEO Kevin Lobo, Queensland Minister for Health, Yvette D’Ath, and UQ Vice Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry.
From left: QUT Vice Chancellor Professor Margaret Sheil, Stryker Chair and CEO Kevin Lobo, Queensland Minister for Health, Yvette D’Ath, and UQ Vice Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry.
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