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$9 million cash injection for two victorian biotech companies

23 November 2015, Melbourne, Victoria – Two new Victorian medical technology companies have been awarded $9 million in venture capital funding to develop novel treatments for heart failure and peanut allergies.

The companies, Cardiora Pty Ltd and Aravax Pty Ltd -- spun out of the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute and Alfred Health and Monash University respectively – have secured vital venture capital support from the Brandon Capital managed Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF), which has State Government backing and was established in 2007 to promote the creation of early stage medical technology companies.

Under the latest funding program Cardiora will today officially receive up to $4.15 million to immediately pursue development of CRD-102, a new oral medicine for the treatment of end stage heart failure. Early studies indicate the drug is a potential new therapy to ease debilitating symptoms including shortness of breath, fluid build up and exercise intolerance.

The drug has been entirely developed in Australia but will now be the focus of international clinical trials.

In addition, Aravax has secured a $4.85 million investment to fast track clinical development of a safe and effective vaccine for peanut allergies. Spearheading this program will be globally regarded allergy researcher Professor Robyn O’Hehir whose novel allergen immunotherapy approach has been used to create an international company now worth around $1.6 billion.

MRCF Investment Manager and now Aravax Director, Dr Chris Smith, said peanut allergies could be life threatening, particularly in children.

“Establishing Aravax means that we are able to harness Professor O’Hehir’s research output with Australian investment funds and keep Aravax in Australia,” he said. “These funds allow us to capitalise on this country’s excellent expertise and infrastructure for conducting early stage clinical trials.”

MCRF Investment Manager and new Cardiora Director Dr Ingmar Wahlqvist said there was a clear unmet medical need for new therapies to help patients suffering heart failure.

“Early trials of Cardiora’s CRD-102 have produced highly encouraging results with the drug showing great potential as a new agent to improve the quality of life for millions of heart failure patients around the world,” he said.

“A new treatment for heart failure will potentially lower the economic burden of hospital admissions associated with this group of patients. It will be a win for patients, a win for the healthcare system and a win for government funders.”

MRCF Principal Executive Dr Chris Nave said Australia is ranked in the top four countries globally for biotechnology infrastructure and capability, citing Cardiora and Aravax as “excellent examples” of home grown medical research.

”This investment is a terrific example of how partnering great technologies with capital and the right expertise can facilitate the translation of Australian medical research,” he said.

“At a time when we are seeking to create sustainable jobs and income for the future, I believe the biotech sector warrants considered attention from government.

“Successful biotechnology ultimately requires smart manufacturing to make the new drug, vaccine or medical device. But it is manufacturing protected by patents and strict international regulations which protect it from lower cost economies duplicating products and undercutting on price. It is therefore, a manufacturing industry that can remain competitive for the long term. We need to look at ways to stop our home grown medical innovations from leaving our shores and this is where government can play a vital role.”

To date, the MRCF has invested in 25 start-up companies that are developing and commercialising Australian medical innovations. Notable investments include Spinifex Pharmaceuticals, which was recently sold to Novartis for over US$700 million; and Fibrotech, which was recently sold to Shire for US$557 million.

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