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bright future predicted for australian biotech

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    Bright future predicted for Australian biotech


    Michael Rowland

    EMMA ALBERICI: A leading figure in the US biotechnology sector believes Australia's biotech industry is poised to boom.

    James Nolan is the chief executive of the Connecticut-based Institutes for Pharmaceutical Discovery, a company that conducts wide-ranging medical research.

    Mr Nolan believes Australia's growing reputation as a scientific centre of excellence will help ease investor nervousness about biotech stocks.

    Michael Rowland reports.

    MICHAEL ROWLAND: Diabetes is a disease reaching epidemic proportions.

    Research into ways of preventing and treating the illness has grown into a multibillion-dollar industry.

    JAMES NOLAN, CEO, IPD: As the companies -- the large pharmaceutical companies -- have gotten larger and larger, their needs have gotten greater and greater for newer discoveries.

    MICHAEL ROWLAND: And that's where James Nolan, as the head of the US Institutes of Pharmaceutical Discoveries, steps in.

    The drug giants fund his company to conduct the research that may produce the next big medical breakthrough.

    JAMES NOLAN: I like to tell people we're pipeline insurance.

    Our goal is to help them with the research pipelines.

    MICHAEL ROWLAND: During his visit to Australia, Mr Nolan is catching up with one of this country's leading diabetes researchers, Paul Zimmet.

    Professor Zimmet's International Diabetes Institute also has strong corporate relationships, in particular with leading biotech company AGT Biosciences, formerly known as Autogen.

    PAUL ZIMMET, INTERNATIONAL DIABETES INSTITUTE: We've been with them from the start looking for genes for obesity and diabetes, which are probably the two commonest diseases in society now.

    MICHAEL ROWLAND: Both men agree -- the outlook for the Australian biotechnology sector is very promising.

    JAMES NOLAN: Australia's got a tremendous infrastructure in their educational system for scientists.

    And you have then a tremendous exporter of quality scientists to other countries.

    MICHAEL ROWLAND: While local biotech companies may be producing world-leading research, many still struggle to attract investor attention -- a legacy of the dotcom implosion of a few years ago.

    It's a dilemma many in the sector find immensely frustrating.

    PAUL ZIMMET: I think one of the major problems is, that most of our major broking houses do not have people who understand the biotechnology industry -- there are only a few advisers who specialise in that area.

    MICHAEL ROWLAND: The resurgence of the biotech sector may change this very quickly.

    Michael Rowland, Business Breakfast.

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