The Hon. IAN MACDONALD: My question without notice is to the Treasurer, and Minister for State Development. Will the Treasurer update the House on the progress of the bio-business program for biotechnology research in New South Wales?
The Hon. MICHAEL EGAN: I advise the House that biotechnology is a very important industry for New South Wales. It aims to improve the quality of people's lives through scientific innovation. In New South Wales alone the business of biotechnology generates more than $2.5 billion in sales each year. It employs around 7,000 people and it exports more than $900 million in medicinal and pharmaceutical products and services each and every year. In fact, New South Wales is the base for some 40 per cent of biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies in Australia.
Biotechnology companies are currently working on projects to bring us a hypoglycaemia monitor that operates without the need to take blood—I am not quite sure how that would work but I am sure that the Hon. Dr Brian Pezzutti and the Hon. Dr Peter Wong would be able to tell us—a compact device to measure blood flow through the heart previously only possible by surgery, and the cloning of cells to produce antibodies to fight diseases such as cancer and arthritis. These companies have all received funding under the Commonwealth's Biotechnology Innovation Fund. They are now set to become a commercial reality thanks to business development assistance provided by the New South Wales Government's bio-business grants.
Seven companies across the State have received funding of up to $100,000 each. These include Uscom, a Coffs Harbour company working to commercialise its ultrasonic cardiac monitor. I am informed this is a device that can be strapped to the chest to detect irregularities in blood flow through the heart, an obvious improvement over the surgery doctors currently need to perform to look inside the heart. Another company is Proteome Systems at North Ryde, which is developing an improved test for the early detection of the banned endurance drug EPO. Another firm in Balmain, Vaporex, has developed a new method to reduce microbial spoilage and increase the shelf life of a range of foods. The food is exposed to a gas for a short time immediately before packaging.
Nine biotechnology companies in New South Wales have now secured Commonwealth funding and are eligible for bio-business funding. I point out to the House that this is a bigger figure than for any other State. I am very proud of our ongoing commitment to the biotechnology industry and I look forward to supporting more innovative companies to produce products that improve our health and quality of life and add to the availability of jobs in New South Wales.