Are we falling behind on medical innovation?

Australia could be a world leader in medical innovation but risk aversion and parochialism are holding the industry back, a leading venture capitalist will argue at a public debate at the UNSW next week.

Australia could be a world leader in medical innovation but commercial risk aversion and parochialism are holding the industry back, a leading venture capitalist will argue at a public lecture and debate at the University of New South Wales next week (Monday, 31 August).

How to be a successful medical entrepreneur is the topic of the Faculty of Medicine 2009 Dean's Lecture Series - Medical inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs: challenges in a global market.

Breakthroughs such as the Cochlear ear implant and the cervical cancer vaccine show that Australia can lead the world in medical research. But we lack a culture of entrepreneurship and risk-taking needed to become an engine of medical innovation, according to Boston-based Australian physician and entrepreneur Dr Paul J Kelly.

Dr Kelly is Executive Director of OneVentures, an Australian venture capital firm focusing on investing in the clean technology and life science sectors. He has more than 15 years experience in commercialising these technologies in Australia, Europe and North America.

"In Australia, the fear of failure often outstrips the desire to make something work and make a difference," he says. "But it's not just about innovation. Australians also need to think globally and push their ideas out into the world."

Also addressing the conference are NSW Cancer Researcher of the Year, UNSW Professor Phil Hogg; and Chief Executive of Cochlear Limited and Chairman of Research Australia, Dr Chris Roberts.

Dr Roberts, whose "bionic" ear implant is one of Australia's most successful medical exports, will argue Australia does have what it takes in medical innovation. "Australia has been successful at commercialising medical devices - Cochlear and ResMed are but two examples. However, any advantages can be quickly lost without support," he says.

Professor Hogg, who recently developed a drug to improve the survival chances of cancer patients, will argue Australia routinely fails to support early clinical development of new drugs and therapies.

"Why don't we have a world-class, home-grown pharmaceutical industry? It's the biggest hole in Australia's health and medical research effort."

What: Free public lecture and debate, moderated by Austrade chief economist Tim Harcourt.
When: 31 August, drinks 6pm, lecture 7pm- 8.30pm
Where: Leighton Hall, John Niland Scientia Building, UNSW Kensington Campus

RSVP essential: For more information go to the website.

Media contact: Steve Offner | 02 9385 8107 | s.offner@unsw.edu.au