AustralianSuper members are helping make a difference to global health and quality of life by bringing important medical innovations to life. They’re also benefitting financially from the successful launch of Australian medical products around the world.

Australia is a global leader in medical research, and our largest manufacturing export industry is medicinal and pharmaceutical products – an industry that’s worth $4 billion a year to the Australian economy and employs more than 40,000 people.

And AustralianSuper is one of the largest Australian investors helping to transform medical research ideas into business, improving health and quality of life and growing our members’ retirement savings at the same time.

“AustralianSuper has been an early and enthusiastic supporter of the medical research industry”, says Terry Charalambous, Investment Manager at AustralianSuper.

“Through our investment partners, like the Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF), we have access to the work of more than 60 medical research institutes in Australia.”

“One of the advantages of our size and expertise is that members gain access to exciting opportunities at an early stage. This is a real bonus as it means we get to pick from the best investment opportunities, which have the greatest capacity to grow in value over time.”

Although investing in medical research innovations takes time to pay off, the rewards can be significant – making it an ideal investment for super.

Bringing the best ideas to life

Doctors, scientists and students in universities, research institutes and hospitals around the country are making medical discoveries every day that have the potential to change people’s lives.

Although the Australian government contributes around $9 billion a year to research and development, without the support of investors like AustralianSuper members, transforming those ideas into functioning businesses is difficult.

So what does it take to realise the ideas?

Well, understandably, it’s a long journey involving teams of medical researchers, clinical specialists, business managers and investors and government. Given its direct impact on people’s health, it’s not surprising that the industry is highly regulated with lots of checks and balances along the way.

Here’s how the process works:

  • Discovery phase
    Once an idea has been discovered, it’s tested to see if it can be developed into a product concept. The research behind the idea is proven and reviewed by medical researchers working in universities, research institutes or hospitals – this step can be funded by the government or industry.
  • Clinical development phase
    If an idea passes this test, it then goes into clinical development, which also requires money from investors or the government. This is where a drug, treatment or medical device is developed that can then be tested on real patients in clinical trials to prove its safe and effective.

  • Approval, registration and production stages
    Products that make it through this stage, then need approval from the relevant authority (like the FDA in the US) before they can be sold. A start-up company might be formed at this stage to manufacture and take the product to market.

According to Terry Charalambous, the benefits of investing are clear: “AustralianSuper invests at different stages of the process, taking its pick of the very best ideas and there are many opportunities to make profits along the way.”

“Once a product is brought to market, it is protected by patents (making it difficult to produce copies like in other industries), which is what makes it such an attractive investment.”

“One of the advantages of our size and expertise, is that members gain access to exciting opportunities at an early stage. This is a real bonus as it means we get to choose investment opportunities that have the greatest capacity to grow in value over time.”

MRCF breakthroughs

The MRCF develops technologies and innovations that help people with health conditions such as diabetes, cancer, and heart and genetic diseases.

Global Kinetics Corporation developed a wrist-worn device to help people with Parkinson’s manage their disease wherever they are. Sold in 17 countries and manufactured in Australia, this smartwatch looking device “can be the difference between being able to work and being confined to home,” said Chris Nave, Principal Executive at MRCF. “Patients that haven’t been able to go out on their own for two or three years are now back out shopping or playing tennis.”

Cardiora is a drug developed by cardiologists at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne for heart failure patients. People with this condition have trouble getting up and out of a chair and getting to the kettle, and can be in and out of hospital every few weeks for treatment. This new drug is in tablet form so patients can take it at home and stay out of hospital for longer.

Osprey Medical developed a medical device that reduces the amount of toxic dye going into people’s kidneys when they have an angiogram or stent put in. It has since been approved for sale by the FDA, the US government’s regulatory authority, and is now being rolled out to a potential total market in the US of over $1 billion.