Australia’s medical technology manufacturing industry is forging ahead as new COVID-19 strains and “sovereign need” point the way. Melbourne based BRC Group is reading the signs on the technical-medical manufacturing future, making big investments in the design and manufacture of a range of specialised products. The group owns several medical device businesses, operating them out of its Port Melbourne sites. At the outset of the pandemic, BRC’s 3DMEDiTech business pivoted to meet a huge demand in COVID-19 testing kits.

Working in co-operation with the Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, 3DMEDi-Tech went from design to production of 5000 test kits a week, before quickly scaling up to 80,000. By the end of June 2021 3DMEDiTech will have produced more than three million test kits. Chair and part-owner of BRC, Paul Docherty, told The Australian the issue of new strains of COVID-19 which have hampered returned traveller quarantine and seen a spike in new cases overseas demonstrated the need for onshore manufacturing.

“When you think about the strains it’s critical to understand Australia made the decision to continue with the gold standard of testing — PCR,” he said. Mr Docherty said a key strength of the medical manufacturing industry in the years ahead would be its flexibility, both for fighting viral outbreaks and broader applications. “The flexibility we’ve been on about, it’s in the personalised medical devices industry, we’ve really worked hard to create that industry,” he said.“It tells us we’ve got a whole lot of really good smart people here, we can do it onshore, we’ve just got to build that capability.”

In addition to its testing and medical components business, BRC operates two other device businesses from its hi-tech manufacturing facility, one which makes 3D printed teeth aligners and another which designs devices for children with cerebral palsy, or plagiocephaly. Mr Docherty said BRC was looking to triple its current staff of 50 in the next 12-18 months. He said recent successes of med-tech businesses listing on the market encouraged him to consider listing parts of the BRC’s stable. “Something on our radar is listing, perhaps we’ll list the entities that come out of the 3DMEDi-Tech business,” he said.

Another Melbourne based med-tech business, Trajan Scientific and Medical, is setting its sights on new business arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. The business has seen annual revenues near $80m, with almost 90 per cent from overseas. The business sells kits to determine whether a person’s immune system has responded to the COVID-19 virus or vaccine. The technology will help address new strains and contribute to determining how long immunity remains in place for those who have been infected or inoculated. With more than 450 staff across Europe, Australia, the US and Asia, Trajan’s surge points to broader growth across the medical technology market.

DAVID ROSS,  The Australian, 17th May 2021, https://www.theaustralian.com.au/