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The rewards and challenges of biomedical start ups


13 February 2019 – The Peter Doherty Institute

Know your customer, secure your IP and build the right team were strong messages at the latest Melbourne Biomedical Precinct networking event, held in partnership with the BioMelbourne Network. The event, held at the Peter Doherty Institute, attracted an audience of around 200 people hungry to learn the secrets of successful biomedical start-ups.

Key note speaker Professor Mimi Tang, Scientific founder of Prota Therapeutics led the audience through her own experience. Professor Tang left a career spanning 25 years specialising in paediatric allergy healthcare and research to the very different world of venture capital and biotech start up in 2016.

“I really had to change the way I thought and look at this through the eyes of the investor,” Professor Tang said. “I am incredibly passionate about what I do and I know that patients are looking for a sustained long-term treatment, they don’t want to just manage their allergy with allergen avoidance and all the associated risks that come with this approach, they want remission and possible tolerance. This is a compelling proposition for both patient and investor.

“One of the best pieces of advice I can give anyone is to secure your IP early – it’s fundamental to your success as a start-up and that takes planning as well as patience. Having strong IP is what makes your work investable. You need to wait until you get the IP before you publish – publishing before securing protection for your work is a common mistake that is made by researchers. You also have to balance filing your IP as soon as possible with having sufficient data to support your IP.”

Dr Harris Eyre Chief Medical Officer of CNSdose and Dr Liz Williams the Co-founder, Director & Chief Executive Officer of Hemideina joined Professor Tang in a discussion moderated by Dr Krystal Evans, CEO BioMelbourne Network.

Getting the right support team in place is seen as critical to a start-up’s success.

“We worked really hard to get the right people on our board,” said Dr Williams. “Australia does not have an overabundance of specialists in biomedical start-ups, so the good people are in high demand. Using your networks, and groups such as the Melbourne Biomedical Precinct and the BioMelbourne Network can help you identify high calibre advisors.”

“You also need to leverage your connections with folks from diverse areas of expertise,” said Dr Eyre who moved to the US to take his company’s initial product through the commercialisation process. “Texas Medical Center is just like the Melbourne Biomedical Precinct, just on a larger scale. In these precincts you have plentiful access to patients, researchers, executives, investors, mentors and others who can help guide you.”

Alex Kamenev, Deputy Secretary, Precincts and Suburbs in the newly created Victorian Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions introduced the panel and highlighted the role that the Melbourne Biomedical Precinct plays in driving cultural change in the sector.

“Government recognises precincts as key to growth in jobs and investment in our state and we know that while we’ve always delivered incredible biomedical research, healthcare and education, we’ve been slower to embrace commercialisation,” he said.  “Now’s the time for the rubber to hit the road and make the most of what we have right here before us and change our thinking to be more commercially focused. It takes courage, like that we see in the panel members before us today to change the thinking and get even greater impact from both an economic, as well as a patient perspective”

The Collaborate+Connect+Commercialise networking series aims to connect industry and the biomedical sector to create greater commercial and patient impact.

Five Key Principles of Commercialisation

  • Identify an unmet need
  • Demonstrate proof of concept
  • Protect your discovery with IP
  • Establish strategic partners/investors
  • Create impact

Source: NHMRC –The How, What, When and How of Commercialisation

The challenges and rewards of a biomedical start-up – 13 Feb

Pink banner logo for the Melbourne Biomedical precinct networking series
Pink banner logo for the Melbourne Biomedical precinct networking series

One of the hardest parts of a start-up is getting started, so we’ve brought together three of Melbourne’s brightest biomedical entrepreneurs to share their experiences, tips and advice. Here’s your opportunity to hear from these entrepreneurs who have taken the journey from great idea to business reality.

Professor Mimi Tan, Dr Harris Eyre and Dr Liz Williams are all experts in their fields. They are also researchers who know that having an idea is one thing, translating that idea and building a sustainable and profitable business to deliver better patient outcomes takes resilience, strength and an overabundance of patience.

Alex Kamenev, Deputy Secretary, Precincts and Suburbs will facilitate a conversation with our guests.

  • Professor Mimi Tang has more than 20 years’ experience in the investigation of basic immunological mechanisms underlying allergic disease pathogenesis, and correlation of mechanistic studies with clinical outcomes. As a physician and researcher specialising in the care of children with allergic disorders she is inventor, Founder and Chief Medical Officer at Prota Therapeutics, a clinical stage company developing the probiotic immunotherapy platform technology for the treatment of food allergies.
  • Dr Harris Eyre, MBBS, PhD, is a precision mental health executive. Harris is CMO of CNSdose a leading company specialising in advanced genetic testing to guide medication treatments.
  • Dr Liz Williams has a PhD in Chemistry from the University of Cambridge, and was awarded the BioMelbourne Network Emerging Woman in Leadership Award, 2018. She is the Co-founder, Director & Chief Executive Officer of Hemideina, a company revolutionizing hearing treatment with the Hera Wireless Implant – a miniature cochlear implant that removes the lifestyle restrictions of the current treatment.

Registration will commence at 4.45pm for a 5pm start.

The panel discussion will be followed by networking from 6pm. Refreshments will be provided.

The event will be held at our proud precinct partner, The Doherty Institute

Vaccines in the 21st Century – 14 Feb 2019

External photograph of the Doherty Building

On Thursday, 14 February, the Doherty Institute will host an all-day symposium on Vaccines in the 21st Century. Keynote speaker Professor Gagandeep Kang, Executive Director of the Translational Health Science and Technology Institute, India, will join a series of distinguished speakers from within the Institute and around Melbourne. Professor Kang will speak on The rotavirus vaccine story: developing and evaluating vaccines in India. The symposium will provide an overview on major vaccines that are recently licensed, in late stage development, or subject to ongoing research, for infectious diseases including rotavirus, influenza, pneumococcal pneumonia, malaria, tuberculosis and HIV.

This is a free event, but registration is essential. 

External photograph of the Doherty Building


Professor Kang received her training in medicine and microbiology at the Christian Medical College, Vellore, India where she is Professor of Microbiology. Currently she is on sabbatical as the Executive Director of the Translational Health Science Technology Institute for the Government of India. She works on enteric infections in children, particularly on transmission and immune responses, in order to design effective interventions.  Current studies include active hospital and community based surveillance and clinical trials of new and existing vaccines, with use of molecular based assays to study the diversity of pathogens and the immune response of children with viral and parasitic enteric infections.

The rotavirus vaccine story: developing and evaluating vaccines in India

India’s vaccine industry provides the majority of vaccines used in national immunization programs globally, and this is something to be proud of, but these vaccines were developed elsewhere and we compete with low prices and large volumes.  In 2016, a vaccine made in India and tested and developed mainly in India, was introduced into the national program. This is the oral rotavirus vaccine, derived from an Indian strain, and tested over two decades before finally being licensed and used for India’s children. Subsequently, a second vaccine was also developed in India and both vaccines are now pre-qualified and being tested in Africa.

However, oral rotavirus, polio and cholera vaccines are less immunogenic and less effective in children living in resource-poor regions of Africa and Asia. The lower efficacy of multiple oral vaccines in similar settings suggests there may be common mechanisms that limit immunity induced by oral vaccines in such environments. 

In studies on oral rotavirus vaccines (in India, we have investigated the role of maternal antibodies, the presence of bacterial and viral pathogens, the intestinal microbiota, intestinal inflammation and the systemic and mucosal immune response in children from lower socio-economic status families. The ability to apply new investigative approaches to carefully conducted clinical studies in resource-poor settings can provide new insights into the heterogeneous performance of oral vaccines.

This article is sourced from our proud precinct partner, the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity

Advanced Analysis of Linked Health Data Course – 11 – 15 Feb 2019

Logo for the WHO Collaborating Centre for Viral Hepatitis who are conducting the Link Health Data Course
World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Viral Hepatitis

The WHO Collaborating Centre for Viral Hepatitis are holding a week-long course on Advanced Analysis of Linked Health Data. The course will be delivered by Professor David Preen, Chair in Public Health at the School of Population and Global Health, The University of Western Australia.

The course will run from 11-15 February 2019, and will comprise lectures and technical sessions. The course is suitable for individuals that have completed the Introductory Analysis of Linked Health Data course (or have equivalent knowledge) and who are proficient users of STATA, SPSS or SAS. Exercise solutions will be provided for all three packages.

Further information on the course is available here.

Tickets are $3090 per person and can be purchased here.

This course is run at the Doherty Institute

#TestFestVic – 30 November

Logo for the Test Fest Vic Hackathon

Calling all hackershipsters and hustlers! Enter #TestFestVic – a hackathon where participants have 2 days to create a digital-related invention (hardware or software project and prototype) to increase HIV testing in Victoria. To celebrate World AIDS Day on 1 December, the competition will be held from 30 November to 2 December and will feature presentations by world-leading HIV experts, as well as tech experts on the latest digital health innovations. The top teams will receive a total of $10,000 development grant and access to experts to assist you in taking your invention to market.

#TestFestVic is using 4 Personas, listed below, as the targets for this event. These 4 populations may be at risk of HIV but don’t usually access testing facilities or understand their risk of HIV (DHHS 2017).

  • Young women (<30 years) who study, travel or work abroad
  • International students
  • Community members with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds
  • Community members who identify with and travel to high endemic countries (i.e. Sub-Saharan Africa, South East Asia, Eastern European nations).

Further information can be found : https://www.testfestvictoria.com/

Register to participate, click #testfestvictoria

Dr Laura Mackay awarded $1.25 million 2019 Viertel Fellowship

Two smiling women scientists in white coats and safety glasses inspecting a vial containing a pink substance.

University of Melbourne Laboratory Head and Senior Lecturer at the Doherty Institute, Dr Laura Mackay, has been awarded a $1.25 million, five year Viertel Foundation Fellowship to further her research into co-opting the body’s existing immune cells to work against viruses and cancers.

The development of optimal immunotherapies against viruses and cancer requires the generation of an effective cellular immune response. While some immune cells patrol the blood, a unique subset of T-cells, called tissue-resident memory T-cells, exist in tissues of the body and are different to those ordinarily circulating in the blood.

These type of T-cells are ‘first responders’ against pathogens that are encountered at body surfaces and are critical to immune protection for pathogens such as influenza, herpes simplex virus, malaria, and even some tumours. Most recently, these T-cells were associated with significantly improved survival rates in patients with breast cancer and melanoma.

Dr Mackay and her team are looking at ways to boost the generation of these T-cells and enhance their ability to protect people from disease via a new program of T-cell based immunotherapies that can work with existing treatments and improve patient outcomes.

“It’s an honour and privilege to be awarded the 2019 Viertel Fellowship, the funds will go a long way in advancing my quest to harness the immune system to fight infection and cancer,” Dr Mackay said.

“Investing in medical research is paramount for scientists to make discoveries and to enhance treatments. This is a tremendous commitment by the Sylvia and Charles Viertel Charitable Foundation and one that I’m extremely appreciative of.”

Dr MacKay originally wanted to pursue a career as an artist, like her mother. But decided on getting a ‘sensible’ degree in science. She became very interested in immunology after suffering from glandular fever during her time at university.

“Being creative is a crucial skill as a scientist – innovative discoveries don’t happen unless you think outside the box,” Dr Mackay said.

Dr Mackay was one of three researchers awarded a prestigious Senior Medical Research Fellowship from the Viertel Foundation with South Australian Health and Medical Science Institute and Flinders University Associate Professor James Ward also receiving a Viertel Fellowship, and Monash University Dr Kim Jacobson named the Bellberry-Viertel Fellow.

Professor Peter Leedman, Chairman of the Viertel Foundation’s Medical Advisory Board, revealed that the 2018 candidates were a very strong and closely matched high quality field representing very different disciplines, making the decision of selecting three from the six finalists extremely difficult.

“We really saw the depth and breadth of scientific research in Australia and it was truly inspiring. Every candidate is worthy of support for their research into areas which will have a critical impact on advancing medical and health outcomes for Australians and internationally,” Professor Leedman said.

Dr Laura Mackay from the Doherty Institute awarded $1.25 million 2019 Viertel Fellowship.

Article sourced fromhttps://www.doherty.edu.au/