Biotechnology in Australia: The Government's Vision




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Video title: Biotechnology in Australia: The Government's Vision
Released on: November 25, 2009. © PharmaVentures Ltd
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In this episode of PharmaTelevision News Review, Fintan Walton talks with The Hon Anthony Byrne MP, Parliamentary Secretary for Trade and Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister of the Australian government.

Filmed at AusBiotech 2009, they discuss:

• Australia's trading within biotechnology
• attracting pharmaceutical firms into Australia with tax incentives
• marrying up investors with Australian institutions
• why the Commercial Ready scheme was scrapped
• the Australian government's vision for biotechnology companies
Australia's trading within biotechnology and marrying up investors with Australian institutions
Fintan Walton:
Hello and welcome to Pharma television news review here in Melbourne Australia. On this show I Anthony Byrne who is the parliamentary secretary for trade and Parliamentary secretary to the Prime minister, welcome to show.
Anthony Byrne:
Thanks very much, thanks good to be here today.
Fintan Walton:
As a parliamentary secretary for trade your responsibility is obviously to make sure that the Australian economy moves in a positive way particularly from a trade perspective, so when it comes to Australiaand trying to attract businesses into Australia what's Australia actually doing?
Anthony Byrne:
It's (indiscernable) today for example with the program that Aus- Trade has co's jointly sponsored with the Victorian government that would overseas venture capitalists into meet with Australian companies in the area of Biotechnology and even just meeting with some of the panel of biotech people from and venture capitalists from America today, they are actually talking about looking at some Australian companies in providing funding, seed capital funding for some of the new projects that are coming online by Australian pharmaceutical companies. So I couldn't think of a more practical example particularly in the global financial climate where there has been a problem with venture capital being provided to startup biotechnology companies to actually have Aus-trade to the Australian government bringing companies over here to meet with Australian businesses and made this dealing, I have just been speaking to a couple of the biotechnology companies and they have said we have got three companies that we want to start looking at. So this is about building relationships and I think that's incredibly positive development and a great initiative for bio technology companies in Australia but also sort of the marriage with venture capitalists in America and biotechnology companies in Australia.
Fintan Walton:
So that brings US dollars, that brings US dollars into Australia?
Anthony Byrne:
It does.
Attracting pharmaceutical firms into Australia with tax incentives.
Fintan Walton:
But how would you attract pharmaceutical companies into Australia? How can you do that?
Anthony Byrne:
Well we do I mean we have been doing that through the new initiatives through the taxation, credits that the Federal governments announced post the other 2009 budget 2009-2010 budget. So what we will be doing for say startup companies for example that have turnover of less than $20 million that we are offering a 45% tax credit rebate. For companies with a sort of turnovers of over $20 million it's a 40 % tax credit, refund, rebate and then for international companies in this the interesting thing if they- they would get access to that same sort of taxation opportunity if they locate their R&D centers in Australia and its quite interesting particularly with the commercial Australia initiative which we is- we are gonna ask for just $200 million over the four years which is also gonna help marry Australian companies to some of the opportunities overseas. There is a basket of goods and opportunities that the Australian government are putting forward that are going to sort of be more attractive I think for overseas investors and so if I if I know I such a side what's also happening is that just the feedback the feedback that I got for companies on the floor of the discussion today is incredibly positive about Australia being a positive environment.
Fintan Walton:
So the tax credit the new tax credit system replaces the tax concession scheme?
Anthony Byrne:
It does.
Fintan Walton:
So what was wrong with the tax concession scheme?
Anthony Byrne:
Well without going to too much detail and without bagging the Federal government which I am not about here today it was deemed by lot of companies to be inefficient and not sort of really understood. But I think what we got to do is move forward from that and I think with the commercial Australia and also the tax credit scheme and some of the things we are doing here today, we are moving forward in a positive direction (indiscernable) and why we are doing that? if you look at Australian companies for example you look at the capitalization of Australian companies on the Australian stock exchange its $35 billion. Now that's an incredible impressive figure and there are probably lots of companies only of about 400 companies are doing the wings that are sort of looking at bringing products online and this is what a lot of these American companies have now started to do. So ask you about there was an old regime that was deemed by this government to not be as effective as it could be, we have streamlined that, made it less cumbersome more easily understood and we are also then putting our money where our mouth is by sort of sponsoring conferences like today to marry investors with Australian companies are not very (indiscernable) of some of the work that we do we have got the some of the best scientists in the world. We have got some of the best institutions research institutions in the world. Now where we have been lacking I think is actually being providing the opportunities to bring those ideas from the pipeline and for example there are 160 drugs that are in the pipeline at the present period of time and what we wanna do is help bring those drugs that could be curing cancer, that could be curing schizophrenia , that could be curing depression on stream in Australia.
Fintan Walton:
So if a pharmaceutical company wants to do their clinical development here in Australia they would be they would be eligible to this tax credit scheme?
Anthony Byrne:
My understanding is if they established an R&D facility in Australia they would be.
Why the Commercial Ready scheme was scrapped
Fintan Walton:
Okay. Now the other thing that the biotech industry talks about and we are taking it back about a year ago when the commercial ready scheme was came to a halt. why was that? why did why was that scheme scrapped?
Anthony Byrne:
I think again I think when the Australian government looked at how they could stream line the system and make it more efficient I think the basket of initiatives that they have announced at the present period of time are ones that are deemed to be more effective in terms of stimulating research. That wasn't a decision that was just taken in isolation and again this is not about me going and criticizing the former government we are not about that, we faced an enormous global financial crisis, government has got through that and you talk about and we have to be prudent in terms of our management of the budget to do that and that was part of the process. So effectively I think what we have done is that we created a sound footing and people just coming over from America that I have been talking to them effectively being saying your economy is doing incredibly well, that's one of the reasons why they are here looking at us, we've got a sound platform. We have got great research institutions. We have got world leading scientists. We have a got a program that from what I understand is getting strong feedback and positive feedback from the companies that are here.
Fintan Walton:
Do you, do you now look back and say we made a mistake not in scrapping at but the timing of scrapping it ? Wasn't it better to re introduce new, a new scheme or a new efficient system whatever rather than just scrap it and wait for a review afterwards?
Anthony Byrne:
It's not that for me yeah it's not that for me to comment about the timing of scrapping or otherwise of the scheme, well I can give you the feedback about is the fact that in talking to companies that I spoke today what they were talking about the exciting opportunities offered by commercial Australiaby the tax credit refunds, by the conferences that's being conducted today and I think they are looking forward, we are not looking back at where or not the timing of the scheme was the scrapping of what was wrong or the right time but we could argue we could argue about whether or not we should be withdrawing the stimulus package, that's a pointless argument. The fact is that we have announced these initiatives that have been well received and we are gonna make sure they are executed to deliver good outcomes of developing biotechnology companies.
The Australian government's vision for biotechnology companies
Fintan Walton:
What is the Australian government's vision for biotechnology here in Australia?
Anthony Byrne:
Well if you look at it we are one the sixth largest biotechnology hubs in the world. We are right on the doorstep of one of the greatest movements in human and economic history ever in terms of being on the doorstep of the Asia pacific. This is gonna be the Asia pacific centric. If you look at an agreement what you are talking about trade versus the hands for free trade agreement we are talking about a $3.2 trillion income, 600 million people and that's where the growth is going to be in economies like that and I think that's one of the reasons why some of the American companies are coming here is to look at that as a leverage point and a springboard into this market, we are right on the doorstep however it's going to be happening over the next 20 to 25 years.
Fintan Walton:
Your honor Anthony Byrne thank you very much indeed for coming on the show.
Anthony Byrne:
Thank you very much good to see you.
Anthony Byrne
Parliamentary Secretary for Trade and Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister
Anthony Byrne is the Federal Member for the Holt electorate in the House of Representatives in the Australian Parliament, Parliamentary Secretary for Trade and Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister. Anthony Byrne has served on a number of parliamentary committees, including the Joint Parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Trade Committee and the Joint Statutory Committee on Intelligence and Security. Prior to entering Parliament, Anthony Byrne was Chief Executive Officer of a mental health foundation and an adviser to Senator Jacinta Collins.
Australian government