By Emma Koehn
Australian biotech companies are hoping proposed innovations to Australia’s clinical trials system will help foster a research boom in the years after the coronavirus pandemic.
The local life sciences sector is backing a number of recommendations to come out of a committee report into the approval processes for new drugs, released last month. These include the establishment of a clinical trials register and new fee structures for registering products.
The House of Representatives Committee has heard from a range of biotech companies over the past year about the challenges of bringing new therapies to market in Australia.
These included the need for a more streamlined process for finding and registering patients for clinical trials. The committee has recommended the country set up a national clinical trials register so that companies can more seamlessly connect with patients and patients have better oversight of research undertaken in Australia.
COVID-19 vaccine maker AstraZeneca has backed the suggestion, highlighting that Australia needs to adapt to the technological changes that are influencing how trials are conducted across the world.
“The knowledge generated through clinical trials not only benefits Australian patients, but adds to the body of evidence in improving healthcare globally. Embedding clinical trials in the Australian healthcare landscape is critical to a thriving research environment to allow Australian patients access to innovative and novel medicines and treatment options,” a spokeswoman said.
Meanwhile, Swiss healthcare giant Novartis said that developing national standards for e-consent and remote monitoring of trial patients would also bring more cutting-edge research to Australians.
“Australia is well-placed to take a global lead in leveraging digital platforms to make clinical trials more efficient. This will bring trials closer to patients – especially in remote, regional and rural locations,” a Novartis spokeswoman said.
Biotech leaders have told this masthead throughout this year that Australia should be working to position itself as a go-to hub for clinical trials and biotechnology development, and use this sector as a lever for economic growth into the coming years.
Chief executive of industry group AusBiotech, Lorraine Chiriou, said the group would continue to work with the government on any policies that would help smaller biotechs bring their products to market quicker.
AusBiotech has also backed calls from the inquiry for the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) to have more resources to make education tools for businesses and the public, and for an overhaul of the regulator’s website to make it easier to understand how drugs get approved.
“This is an area that we have been advocating for many years, and AusBiotech believes the TGA should be appropriately resourced through non industry-recovered funding to accomplish this necessary activity,” she said.
The committee’s report was handed down for consideration by the government at the end of November.