AusBioTech: Dr Anna Lavelle




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Video title: AusBioTech: Dr Anna Lavelle
Released on: December 08, 2010. © PharmaTelevision Ltd
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In this episode of PharmaTelevision News Review, Fintan Walton talks to Dr Anna Lavelle, CEO of AusBioTech.
Key issues facing AusBiotech
Fintan Walton:
Hello and welcome to PharmaTelevision News Review here at AusBiotech in Melbourne, in October 2010. On this show I have Anna Lavelle, who is CEO of AusBiotech, welcome to the show.
Anna Lavelle:
Thank you Fintan.
Fintan Walton:
It's good to meet you again Anna Lavelle, because every year I come here to talk about AusBiotech and things changed in Australia, things are changing as they always do. Anna for you and your organizations what are the key issues that is facing AusBiotech other than just simply you know the lack of capital and so forth, we will come on to that, what are the key issues?
Anna Lavelle:
So I know last year we focused on the lack of capital, because the global financial crisis was really hitting people everywhere, but certainly here in Australia and one of the frustrations here is of course that we have trillions of dollars in super innovation funds but they going into US venture funds versus Australian venture funds so you can imagine that the local companies here see that as an issue as well as that on the policy front you know we have concerns that outside of Australia, but certainly there's been some local activity on the gene patent area and also on taxation the credit refundable credit that we've been trying to negotiate with the federal government for the last two-years now.
Role of AusBiotech in tax credit program
Fintan Walton:
So trying to shift policies is an important role for any organization on particularly on the tax credits I mean that's R&D tax credit, because that's you know fundamentally important obviously to companies that are innovative or still somewhat away from revenue, what have you done and where are you now in the process of making sure you can get to that goal that you've set yourselves?
Anna Lavelle:
Okay, the two-years ago the '08 May budget for the labor government did away with Commercial Ready, which was a very important fundamental program for our industry was a dollar match program and there was an enormous reaction. So we set about campaign, a campaign that set it up for the next federal budgets such that there was some sort of replacement for that money and we wanted three things. We wanted more money into venture capital funds, we wanted a replacement for com ready and we also wanted taxational form, and we in fact won those arguments there was 64 million put into venture capital funds, there was a replacement for Commercial Ready it's called Commercialization Australia, it's in our view not as good as Commercial Ready, but certainly a significant improvement on zero. And in terms of the tax credit the government has in fact accepted the argument and have put forward legislation now at the moment that stuck in the (indiscernable), because the opposition have decided to oppose it to not support this legislation and as you probably heard we've had an interesting election here federal election recently were for the first time since the Second World War we have a minority government, so the labor party supports the tax credit, reform and also The Green Party did support this although now they have the balance of power they are using their muscle to negotiate some changes. So it's going through that process now and we are watching very, very closely, because we see it as the correct policy for Australia and yes there is some drafting issues, but there for me minor compared to the principle which will give our companies that are trading in loss 45 cents for every dollar they spend on R&D, which is fantastic.
Fintan Walton:
Right, and is normal in other territories, in other countries, it gets that sort of level of tax credit?
Anna Lavelle:
Yes, that's true.
Fintan Walton:
So it's important for a country which has a proven track record innovation to make sure the environment is correct, so that's what AusBiotech needs to do?
Anna Lavelle:
Yes, exactly right.
The gene patent issue
Fintan Walton:
So just briefly go back to this other issue that you've talked which was a patent issue the gene patent issue, we don't need to go into much detail there, but there is a fight it's not just an Australian fight it's a fight elsewhere as well?
Anna Lavelle:
That's correct, aside from money IP protection is the rock bed of biotechnology, if you can't protect your discovery and develop that with some you know lack of exposure to challenge then really it doesn't justify the commercial investment, so there is a group of people not only here but in the US that are arguing that naturally occurring molecules be they DNA, proteins or whatever are not be eligible to be patented and certainly here the cancer council has put up a number of recommendations to the Australian senate and they have suggested things along those lines, and we are deeply concerned it would impact plant, patents, animal patents and human patents and also the claim is that even if the DNA is isolated and is changing it's form like it's a chimera it still should not be able to be patented and of course that is just an unsubstantiated and unsustainable situation for biotech.
Participation of Overseas investors and companies at conference
Fintan Walton:
Okay, lets just move to in fact yesterday, because lets go back to money again that old issue, but every year you try and get those many investors from overseas with investors here in Australia and you have a number of companies present to those investors, how did yesterday go?
Anna Lavelle:
Was great, it was so, so good I was very impressed, very excited. We had a 150 investors, bona fide investors all vetted from 99 separate investor organizations from Angels through to investment bankers, VCs, PharmaVentures everybody was there and 30% were offshore investors which was also terrific, and we presented 39 Australian companies in one day. And the investors really like it because it's efficient it means they can see a large number of companies in a very short period of time, it gives them an opportunity now at the conference to follow-up with the companies that were interested in through our business matching program and it works very, very efficiently for them and also for our Australian companies, so I am very happy.
Fintan Walton:
Right, and that's basically what's important for this sort of convention is to be able to get overseas people to come here as well, but I mean it's nevertheless and that's obviously a good day yesterday the industry is still having it tough?
Anna Lavelle:
Yes absolutely, and we see that the business matching has grown in popularity since we started it as of this morning were 3000 invitations send to the delegates here for business matching, so that tells you the people are looking for partners, they are looking to show the people what they are doing, they are looking for money and they are doing it very assertively.
AusBiotech's perspective:Future of biotech in Australia
Fintan Walton:
Right, and also you know one of the key things here in Australia is that Australia has got a strong history in biotechnology, it goes back to the very early days of biotechnology in the 1980s some people would say that to some extent the industry has matured to a greater extent, so for you as a CEO of AusBiotech looking at where you see your industry in Australia going? What are the key issues?
Anna Lavelle:
I think that at the moment the key message for overseas investors and partners is there is very good value for money here in Australia, there is nothing wrong with the quality excellent quality some very material managers that have been in place now for over a decade and have learnt how to run an SME and have that experience and bear those scars and that's very expensive education. So we do have the science, we do have the people, we do have the IP protection, we have the stability here, we also have a very, very good economy here that's withered the global financial crisis way better than most of rest of the world, we have full employment, we have you know very low inflation rate and good GDP, so it's a good place to do business. The issue is that some people that are looking for partners aren't necessarily aware of these features about Australia, so the important thing for us is to educate people that they need to take the time to have a look at what's available here and there probably proper benefit from that experience.
Fintan Walton:
Anna Lavelle, thank you very much indeed for coming on the show.
Anna Lavelle:
Thank you Fintan.
Fintan Walton
Dr Fintan Walton is the Founder and CEO of PharmaVentures . After completing his doctoral research on the genetics of cell proliferation at the University of Michigan(US)and Trinity College (Dublin, Ireland), Dr Walton gained broad commercial experience in biotechnology in management positions at Bass and Celltech plc (1982-1992).
Anna Lavelle
Chief Executive Officer
Anna Lavelle was appointed inaugural CEO and Executive Director of AusBiotech in June 2005. She is also a member of the Pharmaceutical Industry Council. Previously Dr Anna Lavelle joined the Australian Red Cross Blood Service (ARCBS) in 1998 as Director responsible for Strategic Planning and Business Development. In 2002, Dr Anna Lavelle was appointed Director of Intellectual Capital, in which role she was responsible for management of the national research and development programme. Before joining ARCBS, Dr Anna Lavelle had commenced employment as an academic at Monash University, Melbourne, after having gained her PhD in Genetics from the University of Melbourne.
PharmaVentures
PharmaVentures is a corporate finance and transactions advisory firm that has served hundreds of clients worldwide in relation to their strategic deal making in the pharmaceutical, life science and healthcare sectors. Our key offerings include: Transactions / deal negotiations; Product / technology valuations; Deal term advice; Due diligence & expert reports; Strategy formulation; Alliance management; and Expert opinion for litigation/arbitration cases. PharmaVentures provides the global expertise to ensure our clients generate the highest possible return on investment from all their deal making activities. We have experience of all therapeutic areas and can offer advice on both product and technology commercialisation.
AusBiotech
AusBiotech is Australia's biotechnology industry organization, which represents over 3,000 members, covering the human health, agricultural, medical device, bioinformatics, environmental and industrial sectors in biotechnology. AusBiotech is dedicated to the development, growth and prosperity of the Australian biotechnology industry, by providing initiatives to drive sustainability and growth, outreach and access to markets, and representation and support for members nationally and around the world. AusBiotech has representation in each Australian state providing a national network to support members and promote the commercialization of Australian bioscience in the national and international marketplaces. The structure is a not-for-profit limited guarantee company managed by a Board elected by members in line with its constitution. AusBiotech membership base includes biotechnology companies, ranging from start-ups to mature multinationals, research institutes and universities, specialist service professionals, corporate, institutional, individual and student members from Australia and overseas. In assessing the current needs and issues faced by Australia's core biotechnology companies, AusBiotech's Strategic Business Plan addresses the requirements to build a favorable environment to enable companies to grow, help them globalize and position Australia as a significant biotechnology industry for increasing international investment and interest.