The Hon Jaala Pulford MP – travel report – United States of America, 11 – 21 March 2022

MinisterThe Hon Jaala Pulford MP

Minister for Employment
Minister for Innovation, Medical Research and the Digital Economy
Minister for Small Business
Minister for Resources

Countries visitedUnited States of America
Date of travel11 to 21 March 2022 (inclusive)
No. of official travel days
(including day of departure and day of return)
11 days
Number of accompanying ministerial staff1
Accompanied by spouse in an official capacityNo
Funding for the overseas trip was paid by (list department/s or agency)Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions
Air fares (including taxes and fees)$53,497*
Accommodation (including taxes and fees)$10,644*
Other expenses (includes surface travel and travel allowances)$‭15,473‬‬‬‬*
Travel cost for minister and staff$79,614*

*The above costs are not final and complete

Purpose of travel

A key objective of the travel to the United States of America (USA) was to meet with Moderna to progress the establishment of a vaccine manufacturing facility in Victoria to support the pandemic response and generate skilled local jobs.

The visit also provided the opportunity to engage with health technology businesses and medical research organisations to learn from best practice and inform the implementation of the Health and Medical Research Strategy as well as promote Victorian start-up capabilities and progress investment opportunities.

In addition, meetings were held with business support networks and venture capital firms to reinforce Victoria’s position as a global investment destination.

Benefits of travel to the State of Victoria

Boston, USA

My travel to Boston included meetings with top biotech companies including Moderna, Pfizer, CSL/Seqirus and Ginkgo Bioworks. The benefits of my travel included:

  • Meeting with the senior leadership of Moderna USA including the President of Moderna, and visiting the Moderna production facility in Norwood, MA. This facilitated a detailed understanding of the design and operation of the mRNA vaccine facility to be built in Victoria. The discussions with Moderna leadership assisted with progression of the project in Victoria.
  • Meeting with senior leaders of Pfizer USA and progressing an agreement to increase global collaboration opportunities with Victorian researchers and industry. Discussing the first mRNA Victoria and Pfizer joint initiative of a symposium to present high-impact Australian mRNA and RNA research, paving the way for greater collaborations with Pfizer’s CTI and RNA Accelerator.
  • Strengthening the relationship with the CSL/Seqirus USA leadership team and undertaking a tour of their early research laboratory spaces at the CSL Cambridge Research and Development facility to gain an understanding of potential research opportunities in Self-Amplifying Messenger RNA (sa-mRNA) vaccine technologies between the CSL/Seqirus sites in Massachusetts and Victoria.
  • Progressing the establishment by Ginkgo Bioworks of their Australian office in Melbourne and discussing potential opportunities for expansion. This included undertaking a tour of the Ginkgo foundry and sequencing lab to better understand Ginkgo’s work in mRNA, agriculture, food, biosecurity, environmental remediation, and cell therapies and how this may benefit Victoria and Australia.
  • Promoting the Australian Institute of Infectious Diseases (AIID) and fostering collaboration between Ragon Institute and the AIID/Doherty Institute in relation to infectious disease priorities and prevention measures, including COVID-19 research. This included formalising an international fellowship between AIID/Doherty Institute and Ragon Institute.
  • I met with several Victorians who have successfully built a career in the United States (US) and are now in very senior positions in the life sciences sector, including the Executive Vice President and Global Chief Medical Officer from Boston Scientific and a leading Neuro Oncologist from the Dana Faber Cancer Institute, both of whom are supporting Victorians seeking to pursue commercial and career opportunities in the US.

San Francisco, USA

My travel to San Francisco involved engagement with venture capital firms, companies looking to invest and expand in Victoria and Victorian startups and tech founders to promote that the state is “open for business” and an ideal place for foreign direct investment. The benefits of my travel included:

  • Meeting with Five9, a SaaS company to express the support of the Victorian Government as it establishes its APAC headquarters and R&D hub in Victoria. The discussion was also around opportunities to expand Five9’s growth opportunities in Victoria.
  • Meeting with SVG Ventures CEO and founder to reaffirm the Victorian Government’s support for SVG Ventures as it launches its THRIVE Corporate Innovation Program and fund in Victoria. SVG Ventures will kick-start the ag-tech sector in Victoria and Australia through the acceleration of 50 startups.
  • Reaffirming with Accel that Victoria is “open for business” and a great city for foreign investment. This included discussions focussed on challenges that international funds face when investing in Australia. An offer was also made to host Accel during its visit to Victoria.
  • Meeting with Vista and discussing their recent visit to Australia, Vista’s portfolio companies in Australia and opportunities and challenges for investment here in a post-COVID environment. Vista plan to visit Australia again in the third quarter of 2022 to assess the Australian market for acquisitions and opportunities to expand its existing portfolio companies.
  • Meeting with InterVenn Bioscience to discuss their recent R&D investment and establishment of an office in Melbourne.
  • Undertaking a meeting with J&J Innovation Centre along with a tour of the J&J Labs, where startups are offered dedicated lab space, specialised equipment, office and collaboration space to develop pharmaceuticals, medical devices, consumer health and health data science products. Discussions focussed on strategies for closing the gender gap in female-founded and led startups and mitigating the challenges facing indigenous healthcare. Topics of mutual interest for a collaborative Quick Fire challenge were proposed and will be followed up.
  • Meeting with CEO and founder of Impossible Foods to discuss the company’s recent launch in Australia and future expansion plans in the APAC region. The company is focussing on building its client base and brand awareness as the leader in plant-based meat alternatives.
  • Meeting with Victorian startups and tech founders to discuss opportunities for promoting Victoria in the US. Conversation centred around challenges startups face, reaffirming Victoria’s reputation as a strong technology destination in the APAC region, and utilising university alumni networks to expand Victoria’s reach in the US.
  • Finally, the Renaissance Centre provided a briefing on the programs and training courses the centre offers women in small businesses, as well as the outcomes of the research its undertaken on the impact of COVID on women in the workforce. The Renaissance Centre supports women founders with training, skill-building and raising capital. There are several areas of mutual interest and opportunities for information exchange and collaboration between Small Business Victoria and the Renaissance Centre.

Next Steps / Follow Up

Boston, USA

The Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions (DJPR), through mRNA Victoria, will continue investment and project discussions with the companies visited to further develop the opportunities and outcomes identified during my official travel program.

I announced during the visit a joint symposium with Pfizer. This event will be hosted in June 2022 and will be a two-day virtual event. I will open the program from Melbourne, in partnership with the New York City based Senior Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer of Pfizer.

During my discussions with Ginkgo Bioworks, we explored a visit by Ginkgo’s leadership team to Victoria for an official opening of their new office in 2022. In addition, it was discussed that mRNA Victoria and Ginkgo Bioworks will be prioritising opportunities generated during my meeting with Ginkgo in Boston.

I announced an international exchange fellowship between the Doherty Institute and Ragon Institute. This will be a two-year program that will foster a deeper connection between two world-leading infectious disease medical research institutes. A memorandum of understanding will be exchanged by both institutes and a minimum of two fellows a year will be supported.

San Francisco, USA

I offered my support, to assist Five9 with the challenges of recruiting suitably high qualified staff in Victoria given skill shortages, including through accessing the Digital Jobs program.

The CEO and founder of SVG Ventures visited Melbourne in April 2022 to attend a range of meetings as part of a bespoke visit program put together by the Victorian Government Trade and Investment (VGTI) office Americas and Invest Victoria. I introduced the CEO to Minister for Agriculture and hosted a dinner for SVG Ventures with key agriculture and agri-tech stakeholders while in Melbourne.

The VGTI Americas and Invest Victoria will continue to work with Vista Equity Partners to grow its Victorian portfolio.

InterVenn Biosciences has announced that they will establish a major R&D hub in Melbourne to undertake oncology research.

DJPR will work with J&J Innovation Centre to develop a proposal for a collaborative Quick Fire Challenge. J&J Venture Investments will also be connected with the CEO Breakthrough Fund to explore opportunities for joint ventures.

DJPR will work with Invest Victoria to support building Impossible Food’s brand awareness in Victoria. The department will support Impossible Foods to showcase its products at the Grand Prix and work with the VGTI Americas and Invest Victoria to devise a strategy to build Impossible Food’s footprint in Victoria.

From my meeting with Victorian startups and tech founders, we will continue to seek ambassadors for Victoria through the university alumni in the US. Attendees of the meeting have committed their support to the development of the VGTI Americas trade team.

There is an opportunity for DJPR and the Renaissance Centre to exchange information on several issues of mutual interest. The Renaissance Centre will be connected with Small Business Victoria to further this discussion. I also offered for the CEO of the Renaissance Centre to be part of a Women in Leadership event in Victoria in 2022, should the CEO plan a visit here.

Page last updated: 29 June 2022