The Australia government has re-established the Pharmaceutical Industry Strategy Group (PISG), which will be tasked with developing a Roadmap to increase investment in pharmaceutical R&D, clinical trials and manufacturing in the country over the next decade.

The Group, which will be headed by Dr Brian McNamee, chief executive of Australia’s largest pharmaceutical company CSL, will examine the drivers and barriers to attracting new, internationally competitive and sustainable manufacturing and R&D investment in the pharmacy sector, said Senator Kim Carr, Minister for Innovation, Industry and Science. The group will present the Minister with a draft report by September and final recommendations by the end of the year.

“The environment the pharmaceuticals industry operates in has changed dramatically over the last decade. We need a full and frank assessment of the opportunities and challenges facing the sector,” said Sen Carr. “Key industry and union leaders will work with the government to develop the strengths that Australia has already carved out in early-stage clinical trials and specialised manufacturing. It is imperative that industry, workers and government join together to create an operating environment where it makes good business sense for international firms to invest in Australia,” he added.

The move to re-convene the PISG was first announced in April, but its terms of reference, leaders and members have now been published. The move has been welcomed by Medicines Australia, which represents research-based drugmakers operating in the country and whose chief executive, Ian Chalmers, along with those of biotechnology industry association AusBiotech and the Generics Medicines Industry of Australia, will serve as members of the PISG. “This is an opportunity for the pharmaceuticals industry and the Government to put together a strategic plan for the development of the industry in Australia. We need to make Australia a globally competitive destination for future investment in R&D, clinical trials and manufacturing of innovate products,” said Mr Chalmers.

As members of the PISG, the industry leaders are expected to continue the calls for change which they first expressed in May in their submissions to the federal government’s Review of the National Innovation System. Medicines Australia’s response to the Review particularly urged the government to reduce the corporate tax rate from 30% to 20% over three years, in order to bring the nation someway into line with regional competitors such as India, China and South America.

"Strong action by overseas governments to attract investment dramatically increases the difficulties companies in Australia face in persuading global head offices to commit new investment here,” Mr Chalmers told ministers.

In AusBiotech’s submission to the review, chief executive Anna Lavelle stressed the need for biotechnology and emerging technologies to become a national priority for Australia. “There is also a clear need for a special focus on our position in the Asia-Pacific region when considering the direction of our national innovation system,” she stated.