Winners of 2019 Dean’s Innovation Grants announced

This was the second year the Dean’s Innovation Grants have been offered. Once again the seven entrants impressed the judges with the quality of their submissions and their potential application.

This year’s first prize went to Dr Linda Wakim for ‘A novel universal influenza virus vaccine that provides long term protection’ and second prize went to Dr Glen Carter for ‘Novel antimicrobials for the treatment of multidrug resistant priority pathogens’, both receiving $50 000. The honourable mention went to Dr Marios Koutsakos for ‘Developing a universal influenza B vaccine’.

Dr Shitij Kapur, Dr Linda Wakim and A/Dean Darren Kelly

Professor Shitij Kapur, Dr Linda Wakim and Professor Darren Kelly

“It is difficult to attract external funding for early stage product development”, says Dr Wakim. “This award provides us a way forward, a means to move our product to the next phase of development by allowing us to perform key proof-of-concept experiments.”

Early to mid-career researchers are encouraged to enter this award. Ultimately its aim is to boost the Faculty’s commercial pipeline for scientific discoveries. This is achieved by supporting the development of innovative projects towards a stage where they can attract further funding from government, industry or venture capital.

Prof Shitij Kapur and Dr Glen Carter

Professor Shitij Kapur and Dr Glen Carter

Dr Carter was delighted with the outcome, saying that “It’s a great forum to get your research heard by a lot of senior people within the Faculty. And you never know, you might end up winning”.

Each researcher was commended for their proposed solutions to real-world problems:

  • Dr Annabell Bachem for ‘Does the microbiota-derived metabolite butyrate improve adoptive T cell therapy?’
  • Dr Claudia Di Bella for ‘3D-OSTEO: biofabrication of a 3D ex-vivo organoid model of osteosarcoma’
  • Dr Chris French for ‘Making better pain, heart and epilepsy drugs’; and
  • Dr Eric Ji-Hoon Joo for ‘Our gut microbiome explains high epi-mutational rates in colorectal cancer’.

Dr Koutsakos, who received the honorable mention, recommends entering this award to other mid-career researchers, saying “Participating in this award and pitching the project makes you think about the science from the perspective of translation and commercialisation, which we don’t always do. It was a great learning experience!”

For more information about the Dean’s Innovation Grants contact Dr Premila Paiva, Senior Project Officer (Innovation and Enterprise).