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Proteomics International: saving lives through new predictive diagnostic tests

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Publication Date: 
November 2020
Case study from: Industry Innovation and Science Australia annual reports

Proteins are known as the ‘molecules of life’. They are vitally important in performing functions like muscle movement, immune defence and energy storage.

Proteomics International is a world leading medical technology company. They focus on the industrial scale study of proteins

In 2001, Dr Richard Lipscombe and his colleague founded Proteomics International. They are a medical technology company focused on the industrial scale study of the structure and function of proteins (known as proteomics).

Examples of proteins that are vital for survival are:

  • Insulin
  • Antibodies
  • the skin
  • growth hormones

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. It is now an ASX listed company with 25 employees and representation in five countries.

The company’s early focus was on analytical services building and developing new methods to analyse molecules. Their focus was to do this 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.

Dr Lipscombe states that his company has been part of the Research and Development Tax Incentive (RDTI) program since the beginning. The RDTI program has been instrumental in supporting their research.

Over the years, they have spent more than $8 million on research and development (R&D). Investment increased from $100,000 in the first year to $1.8 million in more recent years.

Dr Lipscombe says that the RDTI 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 to 10% of people have diabetes. Around 1 to 2 million people are affected. 1 in 3 adults suffering from diabetes already have chronic kidney disease.

“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 is disastrous.

Lab technicians looking at a computer.

Proteomics at work in their world leading medical technology lab, creating breakthroughs in Medical Technology through their industrial scale studies on proteins

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

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,” Dr Lipscombe said.

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

The RDTI encourages 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,” Dr Lipscombe said. “But if you got rid of it, then you force companies to look elsewhere.”

“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.” Dr Richard Lipscombe Managing Director, Proteomics International.

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