by clicking the arrows at the side of the page, or by using the toolbar.
by clicking anywhere on the page.
by dragging the page around when zoomed in.
by clicking anywhere on the page when zoomed in.
web sites or send emails by clicking on hyperlinks.
Bio Technology : July 2009
AusBioFEATURE Biotechnology in Australia – Quo Vadis? By Dr Peter French, Fermiscan Pty Ltd In January 1999, I wrote FASTS’ (Federation of Australian Science and Technology Societies) first Occasional Paper, ‘Biotechnology in Australia’, as the FASTS Board Member representing the biological sciences cluster. Ten years on, it is worthwhile briefly reviewing that document, and to reflect on the road that Australian biotechnology has travelled over that time. Firstly, let’s look at the things that are different. The emphasis in my Paper was on gene technology and on bioinformatics as leading technologies that would likely to be the nucleus of a dynamic biotechnology industry. As I look at it today there is no doubt that the most successful Australian technologies in the sector over the last ten years have been in the medical devices area (ResMed, Cochlear) and in vaccines (Gardasil being the stand out). The impact of gene technology has been less of a success commercially than I anticipated ten years ago. However, the success of the medical device area has seen an increase in the numbers of companies that have been established to compete in this field, with mixed success. Another key area that has blossomed in the Australian biotechnology field, which I didn’t mention in my paper, is diagnostics. As the population ages, diseases such as breast cancer, prostate cancer, ovarian cancer and Alzheimer’s are becoming increasingly prevalent in the community. Reduction in the mortality of disease as a result of early diagnosis has been demonstrated in breast cancer because this disease is one of the few with a well-developed population screening program. Most other diseases for which no causative agent is known, do not have effective population screening technologies, and so several companies have been launched on promising IP for biomarkers that may have the potential to be used to detect disease early. However, despite significant local and international effort, serum biomarkers for most cancers are not specific or accurate enough to date. This has resulted in exploration of other, novel diagnostic assays, including testing breath for exhaled volatiles associated with cancer, and, as in the company I work for, (Fermiscan) examining the structure of hair using synchrotron-generated x-ray diffraction to test for breast cancer. Such technologies indicate a diversification away from the traditional focus of biotechnology, namely genomics and proteomics, to a wider and more mature view of what constitutes the field. 24 Australasian BioTechnology Volume 19 • Number 2 • July 2009