New research centre to help accelerate drug development

The Federal Government is providing $3.1 million over five years to set up a new research training centre at the University of Melbourne that will advance clinical trials and testing.

Through organ-on-a-chip and bioprinting enabling technologies, the ARC Training Centre for Personalised Therapeutics Technologies aims to improve selection of new medicines for progress to clinical trials and to develop opportunities for selecting personalised treatments.

Minister for Education, Dan Tehan, said the centre would develop new technologies that removed long-standing barriers to drug discovery and development.

“Organ-on-a-chip technology is making the development of life-saving drugs better and safer than ever before by replicating the function of organs, so researchers can test new drugs faster and in a personalised way,” Minister Tehan said.

“These centres will also turn research into commercial opportunities for Australian businesses, creating jobs and a stronger economy.”

The ARC Training Centre is a multidisciplinary collaboration between academic researchers and industry partners.

The joint venture brings together research nodes at the University of Melbourne; the University of Western Australia; Monash University; the CSIRO; the National University of Singapore; and 15 partner organisations, including several biotech companies.

Through this collaboration, the Centre also aims to train an expert workforce that will drive Australian innovation.

University of Melbourne Vice-Chancellor Duncan Maskell said the new Centre would play a key role in making life better for patients and help to deliver a healthier society.

“The Centre will concentrate on early testing of products through the development and adoption of new technologies for drug evaluation, one patient at a time. This will become increasingly important as medical research moves to a new era, where drug evaluation is refined by replacement technologies using human cells grown in microfluidic chips.

“By collaborating with industry and government, our researchers and investigators will contribute to the building of knowledge and new skills that will result in advanced and sophisticated capabilities,” Professor Maskell said.

The director of the new Training Centre is Alastair Stewart, from the University of Melbourne’s School of Biomedical Sciences. Professor Stewart said it was important to prepare early career researchers to advance personalised medicine technology in the post-genomics era.

“Another aspect to the Centre will be to facilitate Early Career Researchers to develop their entrepreneurial skills. We will provide students with experience in commercial settings, as well as access to industry-sourced mentorship. This program of work is an investment for the future,” Professor Stewart said.

The ARC Industrial Transformation Training Centres scheme fosters close partnerships between university-based researchers and other research end-users to provide innovative Higher Degree by Research (HDR) and postdoctoral training.

The Industrial Transformation Training Priorities are research areas identified by the ARC that are updated from round to round. The current Industrial Transformation Priorities are:

  • Advanced Manufacturing
  • Cyber Security
  • Food and Agribusiness
  • Medical Technologies and Pharmaceuticals
  • Mining Equipment, Technology and Services
  • Oil, Gas and Energy Resources.