BioCurate sparks university medical research partnership

You know that line of wisdom: two heads are better than one. In the case of BioCurate, it’s more like two universities are better than one. This sparkling, new star in the universe of biotech research and development is the sum of the two medical research behemoths of the University of Melbourne and Monash University. The lustre it exudes is already reaching far.

Commercialising pharmaceutical research is an expensive business and BioCurate has some serious support with an injection of A$25 million from each university and a A$10 million boost from the Victorian Government to lead research outcomes from both universities towards commercialisation.

Combine this with the sharing of minds and work of these two great universities, it’s no surprise BioCurate is already turning heads globally. And for CEO Dr Glenn Begley, it’s a partnership made in heaven.

“It’s a great opportunity,” he says. “For two universities to come together like this, two rivals as it were, is unusual.”

Despite the rarity, Begley says it makes perfect strategic sense: “Despite a fine record of discovery research in the area of medical research, neither university has, on its own, been able to fully translate these gains in ways that best benefit the community.”

Right balance

Begley admits that developing a new drug is difficult, a challenge he calls “harder than landing a man on moon.”

This is mostly due to the fact that academic environments are not always suited to getting great medical developments commercialised, or into the hands of health professionals to help the sick.

He would know. A long career in the US and in Europe working at high levels with both big pharmaceutical companies and with biotech start-ups has given Glenn a well-rounded knowledge of how the industry works and of how to succeed.

Getting him back to Australia and to his home state—where he studied and cut his teeth in this field—was quite a coup for BioCurate.

The lure, he says, was BioCurate’s combination of top drawer academic research and a well-defined commercial path, managed by an integrated yet independent business model.

It’s a path universities often struggle to navigate on their own.

“From the academic angle,” Begley says, “stages of development can be pretty repetitious and mundane. But, these stages are critically important.”

Commercial perspective

A long term foresight also helps. According to Begley, “There’s no prescribed exit formula other than to make our developments attractive to other parties and to transition a drug to turn it into a product.”

For him, it’s all about transitioning the drugs from the labs into the actual treatment areas.

The role of the Victorian Government in the establishment of BioCurate has been central. A process formed over the years has managed to overcome the competitiveness that may have existed between the University of Melbourne and Monash University in the interests of the Victorian community and well beyond.

The effort has clearly been worth it. The new venture has turned heads not only for its potential, but for the way it has overcome competitive or silo thinking to reach for a larger goal.

One to keep an eye on

“Globally, Victoria is already a major player in the field of medical research,” says Begley.

“When you combine Melbourne and Monash, they would already be in the top 10 in many biotech related areas. They have a first class reputation. To capitalise on that would be wonderful.”

Begley is also keen to applaud those responsible for the creation of BioCurate, saying they deserve credit for their outside-the-box approach.

“This sets up Victoria to be a truly major player in biotech, globally,” he says. “Victoria is truly leading the way.”