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Exciting to see Ondek is in track for human trials for its revolutionary childhood allergy therapeutic product Immbalance

Even Nobel Prize winners need to tap capital markets occasionally.

Australian physician Barry Marshall, who received the award in 2005 for discovering the bacteria Helicobacter pylori, has raised $3.59 million for his biotechnology company Ondek.

Dymocks Group chairman John Forsyth and Perth-based founder of construction and property company ABN Group, Dale Alcock, were among high-profile investors who tipped into the raise.

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Ondek, Mesoblast and Sirtex investors roll the biotech dice

Ondek’s Barry Marshall: “We want to reward our original loyal investors.” Picture: Aaron

AUSTRALIAN Nobel laureate Barry Marshall used to think two years was a long time in science.

In 1984, he was so eager to prove that a bacteria, helicobacter pylori, was the cause of peptic ulcers, he used himself as a guinea pig, swallowing the bacteria and making himself seriously ill. Since stepping from the lab into the board room, he’s learnt to be more patient.

In 2006, the Perth-based gastroenterologist founded Ondek, a biotech company that aims to use his Nobel prize-winning discovery to develop a range of therapeutics. These include a probiotic drink, with a non-harmful form of H. pylori, which can deliver medication to suppress allergies.

Marshall is 24 months away from what he sees as the “the sweet spot”, for his patient investors. If the probiotic drink passes final safety trials — he sees it as a potential “billion dollar product” — it will be on pharmacy shelves in 2016, about the same time the company will float. “At that time we want to reward our original loyal investors,” Marshall says. They should get their initial investment back but get to keep half of their original stake.”

Australia has a poor record of capitalising on its world-class scientific and medical research. It’s not for want of innovation, as Australian medical research is booming but turning bright ideas into commercial success has been difficult in the small Australian market. Local investors have found it hard to value the blue sky in start-up biotech companies. But there are an increasing number of Australian-based scientists seeking to change that picture. The Deal spoke with three Australian biotech companies at different points on the journey to turning their scientific discoveries into commercial realities.

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Article posted on The Australian by Adam Shand on 17th October 2014


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