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Queensland's Biotech scale-up manufacturing facility on track for success

22 March, 2006

The Queensland Government has moved a step closer to establishing a scale-up manufacturing facility that will allow biotechnology breakthroughs discovered in Australia to stay within Australia.

Queensland Government

Speaking at the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry in Munich, Germany, Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development, Trade, Innovation and Finance Anna Bligh announced that the new facility would be officially called BioPharmaceuticals Australia (BPA).

"This Government is investing $7 million in BioPharmaceuticals Australia, which will be nationally networked and built in partnership with industry and public institutions," the Deputy Premier said.

"The fully-functioning scale-up manufacturing facility will make small quantities of drugs for testing in pre-clinical and clinical trials, allowing our talented biotechnology companies to conduct more of their R&D within our borders.

"There's a real need for a truly national facility like BPA in Australia. Existing domestic facilities are running to capacity and it's estimated that Australian biotech companies are forced to spend as much as $60 million a year on off-shore scale-up manufacturing services.

"BPA will become the nation's first dedicated contract manufacturing organisation to make drugs and therapeutics to international standards for the purpose of pre-clinical and clinical trials and so it will be perfectly placed to capitalise on the increasing demand for the service among both Australian and international companies."

Bligh said BPA will forge links with Australian industry partners offering complementary skills and capability.

The Deputy Premier said Australia's biotech industry, and Queensland companies in particular, have a strong track record of discovering therapeutic breakthroughs.

The University of Queensland has developed the first vaccine for cervical cancer, which has the potential to save 70% of the 275,000 lives lost to the disease each year around the world.

"UQ's cervical cancer vaccine is just one of the Queensland-made compounds that are currently the subject of clinical trials, along with Progen Industries' anti-cancer drug PI-88 and Xenome's Xen2174 pain reliever.

"These are the sorts of potentially revolutionary drugs that could be made at BPA, filling a gaping hole in this nation's ability to take compounds from the lab bench through the clinical trials process, ready for market."

The BPA facility has received widespread support from Australian and international biotech companies.

Prof Peter Gray, Director of the Australian Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN), said BPA was an essential initiative which will allow Australian biotechnology companies to capture the maximum benefits from their significant investments in research and development.

"AIBN is looking forward to working closely with BPA in servicing the Australian biotechnology industry, particularly in the areas of cell-line development, scale-up and bioprocess development, and in the production and characterisation of the large, complex proteins which are so important as the new generation of therapeutics.'

As part of her trade mission to the USA and Europe, Bligh visited the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry, which carries out sophisticated biomedicine research using the latest molecular-biological techniques.

There she discussed partnership opportunities between the Queensland and Bavarian biotech industries.

"Biotechnology is a global business and it is vital to build strong alliances to raise the visibility, profile and impact of our industry," Bligh said.

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