The incubator was established this year with $40m ($29.3m) funding from the Federal Government’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF). Run by the Brandon Capital-managed Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF), the incubator wants to nurture up to 40 promising research discoveries and early clinical stage assets over the next three years.
Expressions of interest are now being sought for the first cohort, with the grants to be announced early next year. Small to medium size enterprises (SME) and life science researchers based at an Australian university or research institute are eligible to apply.
Opening up opportunities
Australia ranks highly globally for biomedical research: but the long-term timeframes and capital-intensive nature of biotech investment means commercialising discoveries has been challenging, notes the incubator.
Up until now, the life science investment community has only been involved in a limited number of investment-ready biomedical discoveries.
The biotech incubator wants to help change the shape of the industry in the country by building up the pipeline of promising projects, giving investors and projects ‘an entire orchard of opportunities’.
It is targeted at bridging a gap: from where traditional research funding ends, but before seed investment begins. While CUREator will provide grant funding, it says its focus will be on distributing it in the manner of venture capitalists - with clear milestones and deliverables.
CUREator’s funding will support projects for three years. However, the MRCF notes that ‘gaps, or even chasms, remain in terms of access to adequate capital for biotech translation’: wanting to see permanent access to this type of funding.
$60m available across clinical and pre-clinical streams
CUREator’s head of operations has just been announced as Dr. Simon Wilkins, who joins from the University of Melbourne where he was co-founder and director of Translating Research at Melbourne (TRAM). TRAM has now trained over 350 researchers, attracted over $6m in investment and accelerated the establishment of nine research-based start-ups.
“CUREator is for any biomedical researcher who has had that crucial ‘aha’ moment,” said Dr. Wilkins. “We classify this as the moment a researcher realises their discovery could change a disease state and make a real impact in the world.”
“Australia already produces some of the world’s leading biomedical research and we have a proven pedigree in clinical development, however, many promising discoveries are still not getting to the point where they can be developed into new drugs and therapies. We want to change this and give this field the runway and support here in Australia to go and capture global markets, just as our trailblazing tech companies have.”
CUREator will cover two streams of activity. The first stream of $20m will provide capital and hands-on expertise for least 25 promising preclinical biomedical technologies, helping them create a proof of concept and establishing them for further investment.
The second stream of $20m will provide capital to support further development of novel, clinical stage drug therapies to treat disease. Matching investment from the MRCF will be available in this stream.
After the incubator programme, companies may also be eligible for follow on investment from the MRCF’s $700m life sciences fund, the largest in Australia and New Zealand.
A webinar for potential CUREator applicants will be held tomorrow, November 17.