Two major South Australian universities have launched a $45m fund to back health and biotech in the southern state, with the help of a group of private Chinese investors.

The Nanjing-backed fund is led by An LuFan, an executive director of leading Chinese drug development companies D&R Pharmaceuticals.

LuFan’s company contributes to more than 1,800 hospitals in China and has two research and development facilities and three manufacturing facilities.

South Australia’s government has backed the fund, with Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment David Ridgway saying yesterday the investment was a great example of private sector investment advancing health and biomedical research.

“The Marshall Liberal government welcomes private sector investment, it is further proof of business confidence in our state and it will create more jobs and boost the economy,” he said.

University of Adelaide innovation and commercial partnerships executive director Dr Stephen Rodda led the establishment of the fund, along with UniSA Ventures commercial manager Dr JC Tan.

Dr Rodda described the commercialisation fund as a “new, significant source of funding” and noted there weren’t many of its kind in Australia.

“Funding from traditional Commonwealth sources will only advance research to a point, but not so far as to demonstrate the commercial potential of a new innovation,” Dr Rodda said.

“This new fund will enable our research to be taken to the next level, creating opportunities for the state’s health and biotech industry.

“Importantly, this will in turn create healthcare outcomes for the community, particularly in the form of new drugs that otherwise would not have existed without such funding support.”

Dr Tan said the fund would allow Adelaide university and the state’s medical institutions to share South Australia’s innovations with the world.

UniSA Ventures chief executive officer Dr Viraj Perera predicted the fund would help break down barriers that prevent project teams from progressing their projects to a point where they became attractive for more funding support.

“The establishment of this fund is a notable milestone in strengthening our local investment landscape,” Dr Perera said.

“The fund (will) help advance a number of early-stage health technologies where funding is currently scarce.”

A $40m lion’s share of the fund will go towards projects with commercial potential, while the remaining $5m will go to early-stage projects at proof-of-concept stage.

Drug development and clinical diagnostics will be a key focus for supported projects.

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