Australian government invests AU$13m in medical technologies

The government is investing AU$13.3 million into three companies building solutions for people living with disabilities and chronic back pain.

The Australian government has announced that it is investing AU$13.3 million into medical technologies to help people living with severe mobility issues and chronic back pain.

The AU$500 million Biomedical Translation Fund (BTF) will invest AU$5 million into Rex Bionics for the development of a hands-free robotic device to assist in rehabilitation; AU$5 million into Charm Informatics for data aggregation and commercialisation services for smart medical device manufacturers; and AU$3.3 million into Saluda Medical for the development of neuromodulation technologies to help sufferers of chronic back pain.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said funds from the BTF -- a co-investment venture capital program in which government dollars are matched by private equity -- provides a bridge between the lab and patients.

"Australia is a world leader in health and medical research, but all too often, it takes many years and offshore investment to turn these discoveries into new and better options for patients," Hunt said in a statement.

"This vital funding will support researchers when they need it most -- for clinical testing, developing prototypes, and other requirements before a high-potential product or service can come on the market."

In welcoming the investment, Bill Ferris, chair of Innovation and Science Australia, said co-investments from superannuation funds such as Australian Super, Hostplus, Hesta, and Statewide Super, demonstrate "a new era for long-term institutional venture capital investment in health and medical research."

The first BTF investment of AU$10 million went to Prota Therapeutics for the development of a new treatment for peanut allergy in children.

In December, the Australian government and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) launched a AU$200 million fund, as part of its National Innovation and Science Agenda, to commercialise early-stage innovations from CSIRO, universities, and other publicly-funded research bodies.

The CSIRO Innovation Fund supports co-investment in new spin-out and startup companies, as well as small to medium-size enterprises looking to transform publicly-funded research into commercial products.

The Australian government said during the launch that it would inject AU$70 million into the joint public-private sector fund over the next 10 years, alongside AU$30 million of royalties from the CSIRO's Wi-Fi patent portfolio, and an additional AU$100 million from the private sector.

The government's AU$20 billion Medical Research Future Fund is similarly looking to translate research into results.

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