By Greg Rudd
Regenerative medicine is poised to create a new era of healthcare focused on prevention, personalization, and patient-centred care – and its potential alone should be a call to action for Australia. We are in the perfect position to make our mark and put this country at the forefront of the healthcare industry.
Regenerative medicine harnesses the natural capacity of our cells to repair and restore health and support well-being – ultimately the future of medicine.
But in the world’s fastest-growing health sphere, Australia is up against savvy and driven global competitors in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Japan.
Regenerative medicine links the medical technology, biotechnology and pharmaceutical sectors – all multi-billion-dollar industries in their own right – but combined, improved patient outcomes and economic growth will follow.
The global regenerative medicine market was worth around AU$18.2 billion last year, and is expected to grow to $120 billion by 2035. If Australia can access just a five per cent share of the market, it has been estimated it would be worth $6 billion in annual revenue and create 6000 new jobs. With our world-class universities and research institutions, Australia has the potential to become a leader in this space and ramp up its medical sector as a driver of economic growth.
Research and development is crucial to regenerative medicine, highlighting the cutting-edge research that our country’s scientists are capable of producing. Accelerating R&D will attract international investment, and cement Australia’s position as an advanced knowledge-based economy that can compete on the world stage.
Regenerative medicine will also reduce the cost of disease – increasingly prevalent in Australia’s ageing population. By promoting the regeneration of damaged tissue (including bone) and organs, it can help treat debilitating chronic conditions like diabetes, neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s, and expensive surgeries like bone replacements.
Specific branches of regenerative medicine involve cutting edge technology such as 3D-printed bioresorbable implants, constructed using materials that can be safely broken down by the body over time. These devices fill an unmet need in that they offer a permanent surgical solution, i.e. they eliminate the need for additional surgeries to remove the hardware which often does not survive the full life of the patient. Surgeons are looking for sustainable options to extend the life of implanted devices e.g., total knee or total hip replacements and what can result is reduced patient recovery time and costs.
Osteopore Limited (OSX.AX) facilitates regenerative medicine with their bioresorbable implants first available in Australia in 2020 and used in several world-first surgeries including a shin bone defect which became the longest segment (36cm) of load bearing bone ever successfully reconstructed globally, and a skull defect after trauma.
Like any new technology, educating surgeons, the medical community and the general public to the existence and benefits of that technology is a major step on the journey to widespread use. Osteopore is tackling this through the building of strategic partnerships and communications campaigns. Patients have already taken remarkable steps through the skill and initiative of pioneering surgeons like Brisbane’s Dr Michael Wagels, who performed the world-fist surgeries.
The leaders in the regenerative medicine space to date are China and Japan. They have cut the cost of producing stem cells, tissue, and other products with restorative biological properties and as a result are attracting greater capital and forming more new companies than Australia.
In 2014 Japan became the world’s first country to adopt an expedited approval system specifically for regenerative medical products and to allow outsourced cell culturing. Australian policymakers and regulators can learn from Japan by putting in place clear market-access pathways aligned to global markets. Fortunately, our regulatory approval processes via the Therapeutic Goods Administration are highly regarded internationally.
However, there are also approval delays by regulatory agencies because many regenerative medicine device companies use laboratory glassware to incubate cells. Osteopore is leading the charge here, using the patient as the incubator – the natural way the body repairs and regenerates organs. This gave the company an advantage over the lab-based manufacturing process, which in turn enabled the company to produce the first regenerative medical device to be approved in the US and Europe.
About the author: Greg Rudd is a well-known Australian lobbyist and business consultant and a key member of medical technology company Osteopore Limited (OSX.AX)’s corporate advisory panel. This is an opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of this publication.
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