Australasian Biotechnology (backfiles)
AusBiotech
ISSN: 1036-7128
Vol. 10, Num. 2, 2000, pp. 23-25
Untitled Document

Australasian Biotechnology, Vol. 10 No. 2, 2000, pp. 23-25

ABA NEWS

Code Number: au00020

New ABA Email Discussion Group

Scott Carpenter has commenced a new list available to all members of the ABA. He will moderate the input to the discussion, and can be contacted at scott.carpenter@aventis.com.

We encourage all members to subscribe (free) to this list. It is a great source of summaries of recent biotech matters worldwide. It is also an opportunity for subscribers to take part in debates about biotechnology matters.

Our congratulations to Scott on a great start.

Extraordinary General Meeting

The ABA held an Extraordinary General Meeting on the evening of Thursday 13 April, 2000 at the Brewhouse, Abbotsford, Melbourne to vote on several changes to the ABA’s Memorandum of Association and Articles of Association of the Company. The meeting was attended by some 30 members. The proposed changes were all passed unanimously. The impact of the changes is principally to allow for a new class of membership - Institutional Membership. This allows for institutions to become members, in a similar way that companies can become corporate members.

Institution members will be publicly funded and privately funded research organizations, departments of universities and other tertiary institutions, government departments and instrumentalities, funding bodies, divisions of CSIRO and the like.

After the formal business of the EGM, the newly formed Victorian branch presented their ideas about activities for year 2000. This was followed by drinks and food generously supplied by CUB. We thank Dr Peter Rogers and his colleagues for hosting the meeting.

Annual General Meeting and Elections

A date of Wednesday 18 October 2000 has been selected by ABA Directors for the next AGM. It will be held in Melbourne.

Elections will take place this year for nine Directors to guide the ABA over the following two years. It is not known at this stage which Directors will be standing for re-election.

Nominations for Directors will be called about three months prior to 18 October.

Information Leaflet

The current leaflet is being revised and updated, and the new one is planned for release this year.

ABA Conference Program

Preliminary conference locations decided are:

Year 2001  specific topic Canberra
Year 2002 general conference Sydney
Year 2003  specific topic Melbourne

We hope to publish more details on the months in which these conferences will be held, and more detail on topics.

ABA Position/ Policy Papers

The Directors of the ABA, from time to time, prepare Position Papers on various aspects of biotechnology. http://www.aba.asn.au

The following position papers are available:

  • Submission on Gene Technology Regulation - February 1997
  • Needs of the Biotechnology Industry in Australia
  • Submission to the Mortimer Inquiry - April 1997
  • Submission to the Review of Business Taxation - April 1999
  • Submission to Inquiry into Primary Producer Access to Gene Technology - June 1999
  • Submission to Biotechnology Australia on the discussion paper “Developing Australia’s Biotechnology Future”
  • Australian Science Capability Review - A Submission from the Australian Biotechnology Association - December 1999
  • Inquiry into Access to Australia’s Biological Resources in Commonwealth Areas - March 2000
  • Submission to the Draft Gene Technology Bill 2000 - March 2000
  • Submission to the Draft EPBC Act Amendments - March 2000
LATEST POSITION PAPER

The most recent position paper released (dated 12 March 2000) is summarised below. We encourage readers to study the policy submissions and make comment to one of the Directors or to this magazine.

DRAFT EPBC ACT AMENDMENTS

The ABA forwards the following comments on behalf of its Directors and members:

  1. The proposed amendments appear to impose a regulatory burden for approval of release of GMOs which is significantly greater than that required for release of unmodified organisms, whether they result from traditional cross-breeding or are derived from the wild. This is unduly discriminatory against one area of technology. The ABA believes that all proposed releases should be rigorously assessed according to uniform criteria, regardless of their origin.
  2.  The proposed amendments establish an additional regulatory regime to that already set out in the Gene Technology Bill. The ABA believes that there should be a single regulatory system coordinated by a single agency, namely the Office of the Technology Regulator (OGTR).
  3. At present the amendments enable the Environment Minister (not the Department) to over-ride the OGTR. This opens the decision-making process to political influence as the Environment Minister can veto the OGTR decision. Involving two Departments in this way will encourage political conflicts and complicate the application of objective evaluations by OGTR. The ABA believes that the decision-making process on all gene technology releases should be consistent across government and should be independent of political influence.
  4. The amendments also require the OGTR to apply to Environment Australia so that the Environment Minister can decide which one of five possible assessments will be conducted. Each assessment has different data requirements and timeframes. This means the applicant can not predict how much a registration is going to cost, what data will be required or how long it might take to get approval. This is a significant extra regulatory burden which would act as a deterrent to commercialisation.

The ABA believes that clear guidelines should be developed so that industry can apply for an appropriate assessment type at the time of application. If such guidelines also give Environment Australia the right to overrule this, then an appeal mechanism should be established (with clear timelines for the appeal process) and should be independent of the applicant, Environment Australia and OGTR.

  1. Further, OGTR cannot conduct a preliminary assessment on behalf of Environment Australia and has no ability to set up classes of applications. Each application is assessed individually for its risk. Thus there is no capacity for the system to learn from past experience and all applicants must be treated as if theirs is the first assessment of its type. This is expensive and time consuming for applicants, particularly as Environment Australia will charge additional fees for these assessments.

The ABA believes that there needs to be scope to identify classes of applications once early experience with the Act provides the opportunity to assess risk more quickly. This will speed the regulatory processes and will reduce costs to industry.

  1. The EPBC Act also appears to give the Environment Ministry power to override the OGTR’s decision on what is considered confidential data. Thus while OGTR may accept an argument in favour of retaining confidentiality, Environment Australia may complete a separate assessment and reject these arguments.

The ABA believes that the decision-making process on all gene technology releases should be consistent across government. Lack of confidentiality, especially regarding the sites of field trials, is a deterrent to commercialisation. Releasing details of the site of trials exposes the site to vandalism and destruction of test organisms.

  1. 7. The amendments cover all releases, both contained and deliberate. Contained releases have lower levels of risk and should be covered by a regulatory process that is commensurate with risk. Such systems already operate successfully in quarantine and other areas. If these models are appropriate then they should be extended to gene technology as industry is already familiar with their operations.

The ABA believes that the regulatory requirements should align with actual levels of risk.

  1. The amendments provide for individual states and territories to have the option of refusing to allow the release of a particular GMO within their jurisdiction.

The ABA believes that this is prone to political pressure, and detracts from a consistent national regulatory regime. It would be preferable to allow the states and territories the opportunity to comment on a proposed release.

In addition to these specific points on the Bill, the ABA believes the Ministerial Council should be advised by the Chief Scientist, so as to avoid distortion of its considerations by political or non-science-based factors. Finally, the OGTR must have adequate funding to ensure that it operates efficiently and expeditiously.

In summary, the ABA wishes to see a consistent regulatory regime in place at the national level. This regulatory regime must also provide industry with clear guidance on costs and time-frames must be soundly based on scientific considerations, and must be free both of political interference and of the perception thereof.

Branch News

Victorian Branch

The newly-elected committee for the Victorian branch met on 12 April 2000. The committee consists of:

Scott Carpenter (chair)

David Pye (secretary)

Noelene Treloar (treasurer)

Other members are:

James Cherry

Tony Coulepis

Kathryn Harrison

Mark Hogarth

George Lovrecz

Mark Richardson

David Tribe

The committee decided to offer to assist the Victorian government on its emerging biotechnology strategy, and to develop enhanced networks of contacts in Victoria. It would also strive to increase membership.

Two workshops and an end of year function are being planned as the main activities for VABA members.

The committee has advocated to the ABA Directors the development of a state-by-state business plan for the ABA to fund a national ABA executive director.

New South Wales Branch

The New South Wales Branch of the ABA is organising a series of events designed to promote NSW biotechnology and to showcase biotechnology businesses in NSW. NSW has the largest number of biotechnology companies of any state in Australia. Approximately 41% of all Australian biotechnology companies are based in NSW (Australian Biotechnology Report 1999, Ernst and Young).

“Biotechnology at the Park”

The NSW Branch of the ABA organised an evening to showcase two dynamic biotechnology companies located at the Australian Technology Park, Sydney.

The companies are eBioinformatics Pty Ltd, and Johnson & Johnson Research Pty Ltd.

Western Australian Branch

A Seminar on Developments in Medical Biotechnology in WA was held on Tuesday, 11 April, 2000 at the Western Australian Institute for Medical Research.

Speakers were:

Professor Glenn Begley, the new Director of WAIMR, who spoke on “Problems in the clinical development of hemopoietic cytokines” and his plans for other developments in biotechnology in WAIMR.

Dr Guan Tay, CY O’Connor ERADE Village, who talked of “New technologies to lower the cost of matching tissues for transplant”.

Refreshments were sponsored by Wray and Associates.

Canberra Region Branch

The Canberra region branch held an informal members only dinner on 19 April to get to know each other and to talk about what the ABA can do for members in the region.

Canberra members also set a meeting among the research institutions based in Canberra on 20 April to discuss the planned establishment of a biotech Honours prize for students at Canberra-based universities. This is modelled on a prize that has been run successfully in the Queensland Branch for some years. We expect the inaugural award to be given at the end of this year.

The branch is also considering a number of options for working more closely with the ACT government and will be putting a firm proposal forward shortly.

The May meeting is planned to be a budget briefing one.

ABA Website Gains International Recognition

ISI, the leading US database company, which produces the well known Current Contents series, has recently launched a new database called ‘Current Web Contacts’. ISI have selected the ABA website (www.aba.asn.au) for inclusion in its new database because “you are publishing important, high-quality material on the web”.

Current Web Contents (www.isinet.com/products/webselect/ webselect,html) is a new section.

Current Contents Connect ™ (http://www.isinet.com/products/cc/ccc.html)

We invite readers to visit the new ISI database.

ABA 2000 - Our Next National Conference

Don’t forget, the ABA’s national conference ABA 2000 is fast approaching. Sponsorship and trade displays are filling rapidly. The Brisbane organising committee has developed an excellent program of speakers and round-tables, and is trying some innovative approaches at the conference. Queensland is promoting biotech very strongly (Peter Beattie, the Queensland Premier, even attended the US Bio 2000 mega conference held recently). This air of excitement in Queensland about the prospects for biotechnology are bound to make this a conference you can’t afford to miss. Conference brochures are available from the organisers or from the ABA national office. Registration can also be done via the conference’s website (www.aba2000.im.com.au)

ABA 2000 - 15th Australasian Biotechnology Conference

2-6 July, 2000

Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre

Contact: Intermedia Convention & Event Management, PO Box 1280, Milton, Qld 4064 Tel: +61 (07) 3858 5486; Fax: +61 (07) 3858 5511; Email: aba2000@im.com.au

More Leaflets on the Way

The ABA, in conjunction with the Department of Industry, Science and Resources, is expanding its very popular series of educational leaflets on different aspects of biotechnology by a further five leaflets. These are expected to be released mid-2000.

Leaflets in the ABA leaflet series are available free from the ABA national office in printed form, or can be viewed on the ABA website (www.aba.asn.au).

They can be reproduced without permission for use in educational institutions world-wide. ABA’s earlier leaflets have been widely used and admired across the world by educational bodies, and are a part of many curricula.

Yeast Conference on “Straddie” - a Forerunner to ABA 2000

Yeast Products & Discoveries (YPD) is the title of a weekend specialist conference being held at the Couran Cove Resort on Stradbroke Island near Brisbane. The conference runs from Thursday evening, 29 June through to Sunday morning, 2 July. An exciting program is being organised for Australia’s yeastie beasties by Ragini Wheatcroft and Ian MacCreadie and their organising committee.

Contact: Ragini Wheatcroft Tel: (03) 9662 7378; Email: Ragini.Wheatcroft@molsci.csiro.au

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