One of the key challenges in the commercialisation process is
overcoming the 'commercialisation gap.' This refers to the
financing gap that exists when a technology has progressed beyond
the funding criteria of academic research funding agencies, such as
the National Health and Medical Research Council, but is too early
in its development to attract venture capital and other commercial
sources of funding.
Since 2008, Western Australia has been part of an initiative that commenced in Victoria and New South Wales, and now also includes Queensland, aimed at addressing the commercialisation gap. This initiative is the Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF), a $30 million fund formed from investments from two institutional investors and managed by Brandon Capital, an experienced biotechnology venture capital team. The MRCF provides its member institutes with access to risk-tolerant investment funds for proof-of-principle experiments as well as for the formation of new companies.
For institutes to become members, it also requires the financial support of the institute itself and the relevant State Government. From Western Australia, this Institute along with the WA Institute for Medical Research joined the MRCF and we are very grateful to the State Government, via the Department of Industry and Resources, for being supportive of this national initiative. Apart from the possibility of attracting investment funds for commercial initiatives, membership of this fund provides another avenue of interaction between medical research institutes across the country and from a Western Australian perspective helps to keep us involved in the national scene.
The Telethon Institute has generated 37 patent families since its inception. As part of the commercialisation process, a number have been either licensed or assigned to third parties and others have been discontinued when it's become clear that there will not be an economic commercial path.
A summary of the commercial opportunities and activities at the Telethon Institute is as follows:
Asthma and Allergy
Telethon Institute researchers, headed by Pat Holt, have
identified a suite of genes that could provide a method of
diagnosing and predicting the development of, and monitoring the
treatment of, an allergic disorder. Additionally, these genes
could provide a means to screen for potential agents to treat or
prevent an allergic disorder or may be targets for the development
of such agents.
Respiratory System Function
Airway function is the focus of an invention being developed by Peter Sly and others. The invention is a device to measure airway activity and its purpose will be to detect the early development, diagnose and monitor the treatment of respiratory disease. As an added feature, it is expected that the device will have application to infants, enabling measurement of respiratory activity without sedation.
The largest component of our commercialisation activities would be classified as contract research. Of particular note are the activities of the Vaccine Trials Group (VTG), which has grown in significance over recent years.
The VTG was established in 1999 as a collaborative venture involving the Telethon Institute, Princess Margaret Hospital for Children and The University of Western Australia School of Paediatrics and Child Health.
The VTG's role is to provide a coordinated approach to the development, delivery, assessment and promotion of vaccines and allergy treatments in the community. It is involved in epidemiological studies, clinical trials of new and existing vaccines and in basic laboratory research necessary to design new vaccines.
The pharmaceutical companies involved with the VTG include Glaxo, Aventis, CSL, PPD and Wyeth, amongst others.
Telethon Institute spin-out company Phylogica,
formed in 2001 and listed on the Australian Stock Exchange in March
2005, is focused on the discovery of new drug opportunities using
its patented peptide drug discovery engine, based on libraries of
The underlying technology aims at blocking the interaction of proteins that are involved in the disease pathway at the cellular level without disrupting the healthy interaction of other proteins.
The Telethon Institute's current shareholding is approximately 5 per cent.
Director of Finance and Business Development