Grant boost for medical research

01/11/2016 - 14:54

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It’s hoped a recent federal grant may go some way to highlighting the high-quality research undertaken in WA.

Grant boost for medical research
Carolyn Williams and Charlie Bass want to get medical and pharmaceutical discoveries out of the lab and into the real world. Photo: Attila Csaszar

It’s hoped a recent federal grant may go some way to highlighting the high-quality research undertaken in WA.

A local consortium has won a $150,000 grant to help with the commercialisation of pharmaceutical and medical technologies.

The grant is a small share of more than $7 million allocated by the federal government to 14 groups nationwide for a two-year period.

The program is operated through the Department of Industry’s Medical Technologies and Pharmaceuticals Growth Centre, one of five centres established under the 2014 Industry Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda.

Only one of those 14 consortia has a Western Australian component – the bid led by the Centre for Entrepreneurial Research and Innovation, which includes four WA universities plus a number of private businesses and research institutes (see table).

In total, the WA consortium is comprised of 19 organisations, 15 of which are based in the state.

Ceri chairman Charlie Bass said the funding would be used to establish a formalised structure for the group, with the plan to provide training for commercialisation of research.

That would take innovators through proof of concept and help new startups get patents, for example.

“What (the) growth centre is all about is to help getting medical technology and pharmaceutical discoveries virtually accelerated out of the lab, out into the real world,” Mr Bass told Business News.

“To get this matched funding, (the project) needs to be a collaboration between the research organisations and what’s considered ‘industry’.

“So Ceri, we’re not a research organisation, we’re not aligned with government or the university, we’re considered ‘industry’.

“On top of that, there are several other companies here in WA that have joined in.”

The first funding allocation, which was matched by Ceri, will go into setting up the organisation for the next six months.

“After we have the bigger structure done, formalised agreements, how we do our accounting, insurance, all that kind of stuff in place, then we go in for much larger chunks of funding to actually turn the program on over a two-year period,” Mr Bass said.

Ceri chief executive Carolyn Williams said there had been 38 applications for funding nationally.

She said the Ceri bid had been led in conjunction with Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research head of molecular endocrinology and pharmacology, Kevin Pfleger.

Dr Williams said associate professor Pfleger had been instrumental in getting funding for the venture, which might otherwise have gone entirely to interstate applicants.

“The funding is really only for a short period of time,” she said.

“The growth centre is working with us very closely, they love the program.

“They’ve gone back to the other applicants and said ‘really, this is the model we want you to be working with’.

“They’re very supportive of what we’re trying to achieve.”

State of success

Associate professor Pfleger told Business News more needed to be done to highlight some of the great research undertaken in WA.

“We have a combination of world-class research in this state with a very innovative entrepreneurial spirit,” associate professor Pfleger said.

He referenced the recent WA Industry and Export Awards as an example, where three consortium members had won awards.

“(In WA) people may consider that all we do is mining, but in fact we (biotech) stole the show in some respects,” associate professor Pfleger said.

“We had Proteomics International Laboratories win the overall export award, and Proteomics is part of our consortium.

“We have actually amazing research and translation happening here.

“One of the problems is that people don’t know enough about what we do in WA.

“We as a sector need to make sure people are aware of what we’re doing.”

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