Researchers cannot be expected to commercialise their innovations alone says leading IP lawyer and new MRCF Board member
May 11, 2021
Researchers cannot be expected to commercialise their inventions alone and their ability to access a skilled team in early-stage life science commercialisation dramatically boosts success, says one of Australia’s leading intellectual property and commercialisation lawyers, Kylie Diwell.
Ms Diwell, partner at MinterEllison, has been appointed to the Board of the Brandon Capital managed Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF), Australia’s largest life science investment fund with over $700 million under management.
With over 20 years’ experience advising research institutions and universities on a range of commercial and regulatory matters, Ms Diwell currently acts as a trusted advisor to many of Australia’s largest public universities and up until the end of last year she led MinterEllison’s national higher education practice for the previous decade.
During her time in research-start-up commercialisation, Ms Diwell has often seen researchers attempting to commercialise their inventions alone, which rarely works.
“Early-stage life science commercialisation is difficult. We know that, on average, only one in every 10 or so inventions is successfully commercialised, and there are many reasons for this. Researchers are brilliant at what they do, but taking an idea from the lab to market requires a very different and broad range of skills. Researchers cannot be expected to do it alone and successful commercialisation requires a team of people with skills in product development, regulatory pathways, finance, intellectual property and marketing, to name a few.
“Many of our universities and research institutions have recognised that a team approach to innovation breeds greater success and that’s why it is heartening to see accelerator and incubator programmes being set up to assist early-stage researchers to scale their ventures,” Ms Diwell continues.
“I have seen many start-ups spun out of universities and research institutes, and I am convinced that a team approach, with access to the right range of skills early on, is vital to success. I have experienced the unique role the MRCF plays in the early-stage innovation process – providing capital and commercialisation expertise – and I’m thrilled to be joining the Board of an organisation that is a leader in the successful commercialisation of promising Australian biomedical innovations.”
Despite the great hardships borne out of Covid-19, Ms Diwell welcomes a renewed focus on the importance of the health sector, as well as increased support for innovation industries, such as the Federal Government’s $1.5bn commitment to build modern manufacturing capabilities across key strategic areas, including biotech and healthcare.
“The renewed focus on innovation in the healthcare and biotech industries from the Federal Government is extremely positive,” Ms Diwell says.
“It’s a really exciting time to be in the innovation industries. Biotech is a sunrise industry in Australia and the buzz around translation is exciting to see. We are also seeing lots of excitement around renewables and green technology, which collectively offer an exciting future for our nation.”
Ms Diwell says that the academic merit system, which rewards researchers for publication in scientific journals rather than for commercialisation, is holding back research translation which is increasingly expected by government and the wider community.
“Publication in scientific journals is essential for researchers to attract their next allocation of government grant funding, the lifeblood of the Australian researcher, with much less attention being given to patenting or other protection of research outputs. While sharing research discoveries through scientific publications is, and should always remain, an important part of fundamental research, a greater focus on patent protection and commercialisation of applied research is needed.
“If the merit system was updated to further encourage academics to commercialise their research , not only would Australia increase its innovation output and return from research, but it would also result in the development of more world-class therapies that benefit all Australians,” Ms Diwell adds.
Chair of the MRCF Board and pioneer venture capitalist, Bill Ferris, says Ms Diwell’s first-hand experience in working with, and advising research institutes on commercial and regulatory matters, will be hugely beneficial to the MRCF board.
“Kylie has been working at the coalface of commercialising research, from a legal perspective, for 20 years so brings a wealth of knowledge on what works and what doesn’t,” Mr Ferris says. “She’s also a trusted advisor at a State and Federal Government level on strategic matters relating to research commercialisation. The experience Ms Diwell brings to the Board will be greatly valued.”
Dr Chris Nave, CEO of the MRCF adds that Ms Diwell’s expertise in intellectual property will be a welcome addition to the MRCF collaboration.
“Ms Diwell’s extensive knowledge surrounding intellectual property and commercialising research will be invaluable to the work of the MRCF at this particularly exciting time for the biotech sector,” Dr Nave says.
“Australia is one of the most successful research countries in the world and we really welcome the government’s renewed support for our innovation industries, most recently demonstrated through the Federal Government’s $1.5bn investment in developing modern manufacturing in Australia.”
“Australia still has some work to do to ensure we can keep late-stage biotech manufacturing from moving offshore. For example, we still have one of the highest tax rates globally on profits generated from intellectual property originating in Australia. Patent box incentives, like those seen in other advanced economies such as the UK, France and Switzerland, where income generated from intellectual property is taxed at a lower rate, would make Australia globally competitive and would encourage innovation companies to stay in Australia and manufacture their products here, creating jobs, income and industry growth,” Dr Nave continues.
Ms Diwell has been recognised for her expertise in Best Lawyers Australia in the areas of Intellectual Property (2016 – 2022), Government (2013 – 2022) and Education (2022).
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About the Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF) and Brandon Capital Partners
Brandon Capital Partners is a venture capital firm that manages the Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF), Australia and New Zealand’s largest life science investment fund, with more than $700 million under management. The MRCF is a unique collaboration between major Australian superannuation funds, the Australian and New Zealand governments, Australian state governments and more than 50 leading medical research institutes and research hospitals. The MRCF supports the development and commercialisation of early-stage biomedical discoveries associated with member research organisations, providing both capital and expertise to guide the successful development of new therapies. The MRCF has supported more than 46 start-up companies to date, most of which were founded by the MRCF.
For more information about the MRCF visit: https://www.mrcf.com.au/
For more information about Brandon Capital Partners visit: brandoncapital.mrcfplatform.com