SWAT teams locking down the centre of San Francisco as the US Vice President addresses a crowd of biotech executives, the release of stellar CAR-T results that completely eradicated blood cancer in several patients, $1000 plus per night costs for two-star hotel rooms, 18-hour days of meetings and networking–such was the experience of Linear Clinical Research CEO Jayden Rogers at the J.P. Morgan Annual Healthcare Conference.
“It’s not until you step foot into the middle of the biggest biotech event in the world that you realise just how big this industry is,” said Mr Rogers.
Despite the prices, the glitz and glamour, it’s the breakthrough stories that really move you, recalled Mr Rogers. CAR-T revolutionising cancer, CRISPR gene editing, and more recently, mRNA showing how vaccines can be created in rapid time.
As WA’s only dedicated early phase clinical trial centre, Linear has been a regular attendee of many of the US’s leading biopharma conferences.
“When we first stepped foot there one of our main presentations was simply to show people where Perth and Australia are located,” said Mr Rogers.
Fast forward to 2021, and that is no longer an issue. With the devastation wreaked by COVID-19 throughout the US and Europe, the biopharma world has looked to places like Australia and
“We have this once in a lifetime opportunity to capitalise and stimulate an entire new sector in Australia,” said Mr Rogers.
Linear, who is at full capacity, is generating a global reputation for its world-leading early research capabilities.
Having worked with well known names such as Pfizer and AstraZeneca for many years, Linear’s early investment in digital technologies combined with WA’s COVID-19 response saw it accelerate out of the COVID-19 epidemic even stronger than it entered it.
This has resulted in an aggressive expansion plan to increase capacity two-to-three-fold, however Mr Rogers is calling for a government wide effort to capitalise on this opportunity.
Often looking to San Diego as inspiration and recently speaking with Western Australia’s Chief Scientist Peter Klinken, Mr Rogers said he marveled at how a city of similar size to Perth, that shares similar industry, lifestyle and weather was able to establish a leading biotech hub.
“San Diego is Perth’s sister city. Based on great academic institutions such as the University of California, Scripps Research and Salk Institute, San Diego has blossomed into the third largest biotechnology hub globally with over 3000 biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies located there. I see no reason why Perth can’t develop into a similar life science centre,” agreed Mr Klinken.
Just recently the Victorian Government announced it would spend $245million on top of $155million announced last year to develop their infectious disease networks.
“COVID-19 has demonstrated the remarkable benefits of investing in medical research,” said Mr Rogers.
Not only does it help fight the disease head on, but it also provides hope and supports extensive numbers of jobs, evident in Linear’s 28% headcount growth in 2020.
Mr Rogers, who is driving hard to expand, explains it is well recognised that we need to diversify the economy, and one of the highest potential areas is biotechnology.
WA has world class scientists and institutes such as Linear’s parent company Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research, however many great discoveries suffer in the valley of death.
Mr Rogers said this is when industry, venture capital and trial capabilities that Linear is looking to catalyse are needed.
“Whilst there is the potential to stimulate an entire new industry in WA, it’s the remarkable outcomes that we are seeing for patients that is truly mind blowing,” said Mr Rogers.
“Over the last five-to-six years we’ve witnessed remarkable breakthroughs, many of which are in cancer, of which Linear specialises in.”
Many people are now aware of immunotherapy as a treatment for cancer, with the 2018 Nobel Prize in Medicine going to its discoverer Jim Allison.
Linear was working on immunotherapy drugs long before they became available, which meant that Perth patients had access to these and in many cases dramatically changed people’s lives.
More recently, Linear has seen great success in the field of haematology, working closely with Blood Cancer Research WA founder Professor Chan Cheah.
A recent article in the world leading journal The Lancet, listed Linear and Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital as the fourth highest performing combination in the world just behind three of the world’s largest cancer hospitals all with annual budgets in excess of $1 billion dollars.
Professor Cheah, a Perth native, is another example of how WA can capture global expertise, having returned to Perth from the world’s largest cancer hospital MD Anderson in Texas.
Despite Linear’s success having grown from a humble start-up just over 10 years ago to becoming recognised as a global leader in early phase research, Mr Rogers thinks this is just a glimpse at the potential opportunity.
“We really live in one of the best places in the world, with amazing talent, amazing lifestyle and on the doorstep to the rapidly growing Asian markets,” said Mr Rogers.
“However, companies and government alike need to make the big bold investments now, to set up a future for ourselves and our children”.