New centre to drive biopharmaceutical research

The next generation of biopharmaceuticals to treat diseases and save and change lives could be developed through a new $10 million research hub launched at The University of Queensland.

The Australian Research Council Training Centre for Biopharmaceutical Innovation, led by UQ’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, blends research excellence with industry partner experience and know-how.

Centre Director Professor Stephen Mahler said the research facility would draw on strong industry support to train the next generation of scientists and make leading discoveries in biopharmaceutical development.

“We are actively working together – industry and academia – because it’s in everyone’s best interest to secure Australia’s future in the biopharmaceutical revolution,” Professor Mahler said.

“The centre will support up to 14 PhD students and five postdoctoral researchers working on projects with industry partners, with each student embedded in their partner organisation for a year during their project.

“It’s vital that these students gain industry exposure early so they can put their best foot forward once they graduate.”

Biopharmaceuticals are drugs made by living cells, for treatment of a variety of human diseases including cancer, arthritis and infection.

The new centre collaborates with the AIBN-based National Biologics Facility, and with industry partners including CSL Limited, GE Healthcare, the Australian Red Cross Blood Service and Patheon Biologics Australia Pty Ltd.

Australian Red Cross Blood Service Research and Development Director Professor David Irving said collaboration with the centre would help develop innovative methods of care for donors and patients.

“The research projects give the Blood Service the opportunity to explore new research at the interface of the blood sector and the biopharmaceutical industry,” Professor Irving said.

“The outcomes will be new or improved blood-based tests and treatments to benefit patients, along with opportunities for our leading-edge research staff to develop their capabilities in translational research.”

CSL Limited Chief Scientific Officer and Research and Development Director Professor Andrew Cuthbertson said the centre capitalised on Australia’s strength in the biomedical field.

“We believe Australia’s medical research community is world-class and a rich source of potential new discoveries to address the world’s unmet medical needs,” Professor Cuthbertson said.

“The centre aims to produce a pool of industry-ready scientists who will help contribute to novel, life-saving, life changing medicines for patients around the world.”

General Manager Pharma Services at Patheon Biologics – part of Therm Fisher Scientific – Dr Kym Baker said the centre’s research would build on industry’s extensive experience of preclinical development through to commercial manufacturing of biopharmaceuticals.

“There is a need for us to work more collaboratively together as an industry and it is great to see the centre brings together academia and industry to not only further advance how we manufacture biopharmaceuticals, but also result in the training and growth of our future workforce for the sector,” Dr Baker said.

GE Healthcare Research Leader for Australia and New Zealand Dr Tim O’Meara said the project would act as a platform to assist the company successfully transition towards sustainable healthcare systems.

“As a major technology developer and supplier for the biopharmaceutical industry we are delighted to be part of this program that ensures our brightest minds get an opportunity to learn on the latest technology, in a unique environment and solve problems that impact on the productivity of the nation,” Dr O’Meara said.

The centre was one of six industrial transformation centres announced by the ARC in 2016.

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