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Australia boosts pharma and biotech funding

The Australian government has made available an additional USD 23.2m in funding for six pharmaceutical and biotech companies to assist with their R&D programmes

The Australian government has made available an additional AUD 28m (USD 23.2m) in funding for six pharmaceutical and biotech companies to assist with their R&D programmes.

The Pharmaceutical Partnerships Programme (P3) was created to encourage innovative R&D and promote the development of partnerships with international firms.

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and J&J/ Janssen-Cilag, as well as domestic firms Progen Pharmaceuticals, Vital Health Sciences, Peptech and Tissue Therapies will each get AUD 0.50 (an increase of AUD 0.30 in the previous P3 rounds) for each additional dollar they spend over a base level portfolio of eligible R&D activities (capped at USD 8.3m).

The pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry is also positioned to benefit from recent changes to the 175 per cent R&D tax concession announced at the beginning of May. The amendments permit companies to claim for R&D projects undertaken in Australia independent of intellectual property rights location.

P3 grant winners included:

* Johnson & Johnson Research and Janssen-Cilag won AUD 4.2m (USD 3..5m) for anti-HIV cell-delivered gene transfer product and phase I, II and III research in neurosciences, oncology, haematology, infectious diseases, cardiovascular disorders and immunology.

* GSK was awarded AUD 7.6m (USD 6.3m) for Alzheimer's disease, neuropathic pain, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hepatitis B, neurology, immunology, migraine, asthma and respiratory medicine, and oncology and rheumatology.

* Peptech received AUD 6.6m (USD 5.5m) for antibody and peptide-based human therapeutic products to treat cancer and inflammatory diseases.

* Progen Pharmaceuticals won AUD 4.6m (USD 3.8m) for development of novel compounds as therapeutics (including anti-angiogenic compound PI-88) for the treatment of cancer and other serious diseases.

* Tissue Therapies received AUD 1.9m (USD 1.6m) for bio-pharmaceutical manufacturing projects for clinical trials; development of new wound-healing products and new therapies for cancer metastasis and atherosclerosis.

* Phosphagenics subsidiary, Vital Health Sciences, was awarded AUD 3.2m (USD 2.7m) to develop proprietary drug delivery technology for the transdermal and oral delivery of drugs, as well as proprietary lead compounds for treating atherosclerosis/metabolic syndrome and cancer.

A Business Monitor International (BMI) report revealed that demographic factors in Australia will drive the growth of CNS, cardiovascular and metabolic therapeutic areas, although the demand will be increasingly met by imports. BMI expected growth in the pharmaceuticals market in FY06 at around six per cent, exceeding a value of USD 11.4bn in 2010.

While Australia tops BMI's Business Environment Rankings for Asia, it has been listed on the PhRMA's 2006 "priority watch list" due to allegations of a lack of patent and data protection for ethical pharmaceuticals, as well as "discriminatory pricing and reimbursement policies" for novel medicines. Negotiations over Australia's free trade agreement (FTA) with the US are under way, with the Australian government recently agreeing to consider US demands, which include eliminating certain important provisions regarding generics.

9th May 2007


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