[ASC-media] Opportunities for agricultural biotech?

Niall Byrne niall at scienceinpublic.com.au
Sun Aug 6 07:34:53 CEST 2006



Last Wednesday evening Governor Professor David de Kretser AO handed
over his chairmanship of the BioMelbourne Network to Dr John Raff,
former CEO of Starpharma, one of the performers of Melbourne

"Melbourne is arguably Australia's science capital," the Governor says.
"Our medical research is particularly strong. But to harvest the
benefits of much of that research, we need a strong biotechnology
sector-companies that can turn our ideas into marketable products, and
in the process generate wealth 
and jobs in Melbourne."

That's why industry, academia, and government came together in 2001, to
create the BioMelbourne Network- to promote Melbourne as a hub of
biotechnology, and act as a gateway and network for everyone connected
with biotechnology.

The results speak for themselves. Today the Network has over 140 members
and has grown to be a self funded industry body.

"We've facilitated over 300 partnering meetings which have generated
over $210 million in deal flow, and our events have been attended by
over 9,000 
people," says Tim Murphy, the Network's CEO. "But there's much more to

"We need a strong commercial sector to deliver on the promise of
Melbourne's science," says the Governor. "Important challenges are: to
find more early 
stage funding-so small companies don't have to rush to an ASX listing;
and also to keep building strong links between the researchers and

We also need to get smarter at development funding according to John
"Finding the money to turn a $10 million business into a $100 million
business is a bottleneck for growth," he says. He also wants to see the
Network engage better with the agricultural sector.

"I see big opportunities in harnessing Victoria's leadership in
agriculture," says Raff. "We can create great wealth from new crops and
new value-added foods. But three things are standing in the way:

* we need a rational regulatory environment,

* we need Victoria's agricultural researchers to engage with industry-as
their medical colleagues already do. They need to collaborate with
not compete.

* and we need to bring Australian retailers along with us-giving new
Australian food products the shelf space they need to get started."

"The BioMelbourne Network has brought medical researchers and industry
closer together to solve similar issues. My first major challenge is to
do the same with agricultural biotechnology, and build on Victoria's
dual strengths in agriculture and science," says John Raff.

Media contact: Tim Murphy, Chief Executive Officer, 
tmurphy at biomelbourne.org, 03 9650 8800, (0417) 330 219

Background information

The BioMelbourne Network:

* attracted over 140 members across biotech company, academic and
services sectors

* grown to be a self funded independent industry body

* presented over 100 networking events with attendance of over 9,000

* facilitated over 300 partnering meetings which have generated over
$210million in deal flow
* Our biotech company members represent over 40% of the market
capitalisation of the ASX Health Care Index, our academic members
for more than 35% of NH&MRC funding and our business services firms are
the leaders in life sciences practice.

The biotechnology industry in Victoria

Victoria is home to:
* 130 biotech companies, with public company market capitalisation of
over $16billion and including Australia's largest biopharmaceutical
companies CSL 
Ltd and Mayne Pharma.

* Over 13,000 biotech, pharmaceutical and medical research employees

* international deals worth over $670 million have been signed between
Victorian and international biotech companies since 2004, including 
Australia's largest biotech deal worth over $280million between Cytopia
and Novartis [world's fourth largest biotech company]

John Raff, Dip. Ag. Sc., B.Sc., Ph.D.

John Raff is the Deputy Chairman and founder of Starpharma Holdings Ltd.
Previously, he was General Manager of the Biomolecular Research
Institute from 1990 to 1997. John Raff received a Ph.D. from Melbourne
University in 1982 for molecular biology studies on cell recognition
systems, under the 
supervision of Professor Adrienne Clarke. He is the co-founder, director
and major shareholder of a technology-based agricultural seed company
with subsidiary operations in India. John Raff is also founder and
investor in a number of start-up technology companies.

John retired from the role of Starpharma CEO in July this year. He had
been one of the longest serving biotech CEOs in Australia having been in
the role 
since the company was established. He has been the driving force in
taking Starpharma from a small start-up to a company with a developing
clinical pipeline of pharmaceutical products, and valuable equity in two
complementary businesses in US based DNT and Australian company Dimerix

Media contact: Tim Murphy, Chief Executive Officer, 

tmurphy at biomelbourne.org, 03 9650 8800, (0417) 330 219

Kind regards,


Niall Byrne

Science in Public
+61 3 5253 1391
niall at scienceinpublic.com

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