The CSIRO says red tape is holding back Australia’s medical technology and pharmaceutical industry.

The top science body has produced the Medical Technologies and Pharmaceuticals (MTP) Roadmap to guide the future of the $4.4-billion industry.

The global MTP industry is on the cusp of enormous growth as a range of next-gen technologies - like gene-editing, 3D-printing, nano-scale devices and crowd- and cloud-based research – start to play a transformative role.

While Australia certainly punches above its weight in medical and pharmaceutical research, when it comes to further trials and commercial development, the experts say they are heavily restrained.

CSIRO health and biosecurity director Rob Grenfell says; “Australia rates very high on innovation and discovery and sadly we're almost on the bottom of the developed world with regards to translation of that into commercial success”.

“To give you an example, we have recently licensed a bowel cancer sensing test, which of course is very, very accurate for detecting recurrent bowel cancer,” he told the ABC.

“We've managed to license this in the US and it's being now marketed through the largest pathology company in the world, yet we're still taking it through the pathways of our own regulatory system.”

To change this, the CSIRO is calling for close cooperation between federal and state governments over health policies and regulations, as well as cooperation with research facilities and private industries to further support innovation and growth.

The roadmap details steps including setting up a coherent and uniform regulatory and health framework across all states, supporting private industry in its pursuit of MTP innovations, ensuring our future workforce has the STEM education and skills to work in this field, and ensuring a commercial focus so that research is targeted at outcomes with potential high commercial value.

To realise the full potential of the MTP sector, CSIRO wants:

  • A nimble regulatory framework that addresses core issues
  • A pipeline of professionals with experience in medical science as well as retraining programs for those with limited experience or STEM education
  • Supporting research institutions focusing on innovative research with commercial applications
  • Providing a range of support to start-ups and small businesses involved in MTP product development while attracting global MTP corporations to set up research and development arms in Australia.