Message from Professor Darren Kelly, Associate Dean Innovation and Enterprise

While Australia ranks in the top 10 per capita for research output, the nation is only ranked in the top 50 for translating this research into health outcomes.

We are doing our bit to improve this ranking through our innovation and enterprise strategy, which is aligned with the Faculty’s five-year Strategic Plan: Beyond 2018.

Our strategy and associated actions aim to improve industry engagement and research innovation and translation, thereby resulting in successful commercial relationships, a highly-specialised workforce and meaningful health outcomes for our community.

It is encouraging to see that, working closely with our colleagues in BD&I, we have seen a significant increase in translational revenue from the last 5 years (Fig 1). We are continuing to enhance the opportunities for MDHS researchers to achieve translational success.

Darren Kelly

Prof. Darren Kelly

In this new quarterly newsletter, I hope to bring updates on initiatives designed to support our staff and students in developing entrepreneurship skills through mentoring and participation in incubator programs. We have increased our support for the translation of research and are now offering proof-of-concept support for early stage projects. The aim is to generate and identify the projects that are of value to external industries, educate and build a workforce, change culture by valuing commercial activities and ultimately driving impact for clinicians and patients.

Working closely with the Business Development and Innovation team, we established the Dean’s Innovation Grants in 2018 and have now awarded two $50,000 grants for the best early stage innovative projects within the Faculty. The inaugural winner Associate Professor Laura Downie – who was recognised for her point-of-care device to diagnose dry eye disease – is featured as the ‘Inventor in focus’ in this newsletter.

We have also established SPARK Melbourne, a program designed to accelerate research translation based on the successful Stanford SPARK program. In 2019, this program supported six teams working on translational research projects with four new teams added to the cohort this year. To learn more about recent SPARK Melbourne activities, please read on below.

In other news, RIC proof of concept funds ($100K each) have been awarded to Associate Professor Roy Judge (Melbourne Dental School) to match funding received via the MRFF Biomedical Translation Bridge program to support a first-in-human dental implant-related clinical trial. Professors Dale Godfrey and Joseph Torresi (Microbiology and Immunology) also received funds to support the development of a self-adjuvanted VLP-based pan-coronavirus vaccine that will now be tested for efficacy against SARS, MERS and COVID-19.

I’m also pleased to announce that two projects were selected to receive funding by BioCurate, a muscular dystrophy gene therapy program led by Dr Kate Murphy and Prof Gordon Lynch (Department of Physiology) and an epilepsy drug discovery program led by Dr Chris Reid (Department of Medicine, Austin Health).Growth in translational revenue over 5 years

Fig 1: Growth in translational revenue over the past 5 years