Researcher setting up experiment in complex machine

Company Profile

Company: Proteomics International

Sector: Medical Technology

Location: Perth

Profile: Proteomics International is providing bioanalytical services to pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies and conducting ground-breaking research developing new diagnostics tests and discovering drugs that will benefit people around the world.

Why R&D was needed

The identification of the human DNA sequence through the Human Genome Project in the early 2000s was a breakthrough moment for many scientific disciplines. Founder and Managing Director of Proteomics International Richard Lipscombe says it gave scientists and academics “a set of instructions, a recipe book, but in biology you need to understand what those instructions actually do.”

In 2001, he and his colleague founded Proteomics International, a medical technology company focused on the industrial scale study of the structure and function of proteins (known as proteomics).1 Insulin, antibodies, the skin and growth hormones are all examples of different proteins that are vital for survival. Proteomics is aimed at mapping the structure and function of proteins and understanding changes over time.

Proteomics International has grown from a small business of two employees to an Australian stock exchange listed company with 25 employees and representation in five countries. The company's R&D activities can be grouped into three interrelated areas.

The company's early focus was on analytical services building and developing new methods to analyse molecules for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to validate drugs' mechanism of action. Proteomics International was the world's first facility to receive the highest and globally recognised accreditation for proteomics.

Another part of the company's business is developing diagnostic tests through the identification of biomarkers ('biological fingerprints'). By comparing differences in the protein make-up of people with and without a particular disease, the company has developed a technology to create new diagnostic tests to predict those diseases.2 The company is close to bringing a new test to market that will enable the diagnosis of kidney disease in diabetics long before the first clinical symptoms appear. The same technology is also relevant for other areas, such as identifying parasites in animals or optimizing crop yields by improving resistance to disease.

Proteomics International is also active in the area of drug discovery, researching the potential use of venom obtained from poisonous species as painkillers and tranquilizers. But more research is needed to see the full potential of the company's R&D and the impact it will have on developing new life-saving drugs

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The work would have happened much slower if we hadn't had that RDTI funding. The products that we develop just wouldn't be where they are now, they would be years behind.
— Richard Lispscombe, Founder and Managing Director, Proteomics International

How the Research and Development Tax Incentive Helps

Dr Lipscombe states that his company has been part of the RDTI program since the beginning and that it has been instrumental in supporting their research. Over the years, they have spent more than $8 million on R&D with investment having increased from $100,000 in the first year to $1.8 million last year.

Dr Lipscombe says that the incentive program provided the company with reliable funds that accelerated their research and realised new products: He also stresses the importance of the RDTI supported research for the Australian society and people globally.

He explains that in Australia, 5-10% of people have diabetes, around 1-2 million people are affected. One in three adults suffering from diabetes already have chronic kidney disease and “once your kidneys fail, the outcomes are dialysis, kidney transplant or death, there is no coming back from severe kidney disease.”

The impact on society and the healthcare system are disastrous.

Proteomics International's newly developed diagnostic test is able to predict 85-90% of those at kidney disease risk, making it possible to treat the disease early on to avoid severe consequences like dialysis.
— Richard Lispscombe, Founder and Managing Director, Proteomics International

In the future, the company is planning to continue the development of diagnostic tests to address unmet needs in medicine and agriculture.

The agriculture sector has large growth potential for the company. By identifying infections affecting crop growth and analysing the protein make-up of more resistant crops, it is possible to grow their traits into the next generation of crops and improve yield resistance.

Over the years, Proteomics International has been partnering with many research facilities and universities across Australia. Collaborations have facilitated knowledge sharing and creation of intellectual property, not only beneficial for the company's projects but also those of universities and other partners.

Dr Lipscombe thinks his company's research is positively impacting the STEM sector in Australia by creating attractive employment prospects for highly skilled workers:

“Because of the extra funds that we've got from things like the R&D Tax Incentive, we can employ people and bring them to Australia or bring them back if they have been overseas.”

The company was also able to sponsor PhD students that later found employment with the company.

Dr Lipscombe says supporting research and new ideas within Australia is of high importance, especially so as to ensure the country will benefit from exports and have access to products early on.

“If inventions happen overseas it will take longer for them to come back to Australia, so any benefits of a diagnostic test will come here but this will be years later than if it was created in Australia,” he says.

The R&D Tax Incentive entices companies to have their operations in Australia rather than relocating overseas:

“In a global environment where there are incentives around the world to do research in different places, you have to be competitive and this is a very competitive scheme. But if you got rid of it, then you force companies to look elsewhere.”

In addition to the potential environmental, commercial and research benefits, the company's R&D is also benefitting Australia in other ways.

For example, it collaborates on two to three academic projects at any given time, keeping cutting-edge knowledge and manufacturing processes within Australia.

“If the RDTI scheme didn't exist we'd most likely relocate as it would be cheaper. This is good for Australia,” Dr. Lipscombe says.

RDTI Impact Facts

  • Over $8 million invested in R&D in the past, funds from the RDTI are reinvested into further R&D
  • Growth in R&D from $100,000 per annum to $1.8 million
  • Helped establish the company with the world's first facility to receive the highest and globally recognised accreditation for proteomics
  • Has accelerated development of a new diagnostic test for diabetic kidney disease that has potential to save lives all over the world and reduce the burden on the health system
  • Discovery of new drugs b y means of Australia's biodiversity
  • Potential to increase domestic crop yields
  • Creation of intellectual property and knowledge sharing through collaboration with universities and research facilities
  • Supported company's growth from two employees to a multinational company with 25 employee

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