While the pandemic continues to disrupt the world, one Melbourne company is triumphing. Inventing new technologies, creating solutions, jobs and returning manufacturing to Australia – all while helping combat COVID.
Investment incubator fund, BRC is backing Australian businesses to help future-proof the local economy in the event of another COVID, SARS-2 or the next airborne pathogen outbreak. The BRC Group develops and grows businesses with global potential, amplifying local innovation, producing local manufacturing, and creating new jobs.
One thriving business backed by BRC is Port Melbourne-based 3DMEDiTech, which uses 3D printing to mass manufacture personalised medical devices, and is most recently behind MEDiSwab, a world-first COVID testing swab.
Currently, most of the globe’s gold standard diagnostic COVID testing is done via uncomfortable and invasive nasal swabbing. The 3D printed MEDiSwab comes in two versions, an ultra-fine nasal swab considered the gold standard for sample collection and diagnostic viral testing, and most recently a newly designed saliva swab used in broader COVID (and SARS) surveillance testing.
Both 3DMEDiTech’s MEDiSwab’s are patented, world-first designs and testing and the resultant academic papers1 show they are more comfortable than conventional nasal swabs. The saliva MEDiSwab, used for surveillance testing, will more comfortably and accurately help Australians to get back to a more normal existence as testing continues across the community.
The MEDiSwab products were designed and developed entirely in Australia where they are also manufactured. Customers already include the Federal Government and various State Governments who purchased over two millionnasal swab testing kits, saliva swabs and saliva testing kits. Orders of saliva testing kits are growing from various State Governments and private pathology labs to underpin ongoing surveillance testing which will increase as borders reopen.
In February 2021, 80,000 MEDiSwabs were deployed during the Australian Open. During that time, organisers used the MEDiSwab saliva swab to screen all players and support staff daily for COVID. England’s £201.7 billion National Health Service and numerous other countries have also shown interest in this world-first Victorian technology.
“At the height of the pandemic, there were concerns with both the shortages and the efficacy of some of the COVID-testing swabs,” says pioneering Australian entrepreneur Paul Docherty, who founded 3DMEDiTech in 2016. “So, we partnered with a number of academic and medical institutions to develop a solution – and we ended up creating two!”
The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity (Doherty Institute) has validated the swabs and will publish that data and the recommended use of the swabs once it has gone through the academic peer-review process.
3DMEDiTech’s Port Melbourne advanced manufacturing facility is amongst the most advanced in the world and has created more than 50 new collar jobs, despite – but, ironically, also because of – the pandemic.
Since the start of the pandemic, 3DMediTech has doubled its capacity and is rapidly expanding its footprint. The continued expansion of the facility fits directly into the Victorian and Federal Government’s plan to increase the advanced manufacturing capability of Australia, particularly in the field of MedTech.
“Australia needs the flexibility to secure our own critical medical supplies if global supply is blocked. 3DMEDiTech’s ability to flex production to produce a range of critical medical supplies can protect Australia when the next outbreak occurs. But to offer large scale protection and flexibility we need more funding to pandemic proof Australia’s critical medical supply chain,” Mr Docherty said.
Docherty, a staunch proponent of Australian-made technologies and businesses, is also the co-Founder of lauded investment incubator fund, BRC which has both managed and funded 3DMEDiTech and it’s already maturing MedTech offshoots SmileStyler and Serkel. 3DMEDiTech has established itself as the leading MedTech company for personalised medical devices, in Australia.
BRC’s impressive, ever-growing stable includes, among other businesses, a range of successful Australian-born companies and technologies including:
SmileStyler, the world’s first 100% digital clear aligner
SERKEL, which produces 3D printed helmets for babies with Plagiocephaly (a misshapen or uneven head) and foot orthotics for children with Cerebral Palsy
HOOD, which uses state-of-the-art artificial intelligence to help households move premises more efficiently and effectively.
Premium Food Group, their food services company breaking ground in the supply of indigenous food products through its rapidly expanding food services network.
BRC already has plans to take all of these businesses global,but intends to ensure the manufacturing and IP remains in Australia.
“There are a plenty of smarts in Australia,” says Docherty, “BRC’s mission is to shine a light on the many world-class business ideas and technologies being developed here, to help them grow into the Australian market and beyond globally.
“We’re about keeping the IP and manufacturing in Australia rather than just having all the research done here and then our brilliant IP sold or shipped offshore, as happens all too often,” he said.
“We’re also a company that has navigated many challenges and the bureaucracy that often comes with business and highly regulated industries. We don’t just sit back and wait for things to happen. We’re agile and nimble, and we have been able to work with the right people to achieve record time approvals,” he added.
This lifelong passion for Australian-made businesses led Docherty to his latest venture, Trepang Foods which is a partnership with Black Duck Foods, an Indigenous social enterprise using traditional food growing processes that care for Country and return economic benefits directly to Indigenous communities.
This venture aligns perfectly with Docherty’s other passion: purpose-driven business.
“Many business owners believe they can only do good once they’ve done well, but it’s vitally important to view the business you are building through a purpose driven lens so that you can do good within the industry and more broadly the community you engage with – but doing commercially well and having a purpose driven business that serves its community isn’t a mutually exclusive exercise, we are finding our businesses and our incubator is performing far better and faster as a result.” says Docherty.
“BRC is proof this philosophy works. Every one of our businesses is purpose-driven and offers benefit to the broader community it is a part of. We meet good people doing good things and we invest in them, because it is inevitable with our experience and guidance that they will end up doing well commercially.
“I’ve seen that to be true of every business BRC has ever worked on and, frankly, it doesn’t get better than that in life, does it?”
“Our business incubator and growth fund, including all of our manufacturing facilities, are all located right here in Australia,” says Docherty. “It’s particularly important in the medical space that as we put all the R&D and money into this world-class, life-saving technology, that we manufacture it here, otherwise we lose the ability to manage the price, create jobs and contribute to the economy – in turn losing all of the IP we have spent so long creating.”
Docherty is also the Regional Chair of YPO Australia and New Zealand which serves to provide education and support to a strong network of business leaders. Docherty is also the Chair of the Melbourne Rebels which plays in the Super Rugby Competition and has had strong involvement in the community game for decades.