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Collaboration is key to translating discoveries into reality

13 November 2020
Establishing mutual benefit between researchers and industry

Meet Dr Hui Xin Ong, the pharmacology research leader engaging with industry to fast track new medical products to the market.

Dr Hui Xin Ong in the lab

Dr Hui Xin Ong in the lab

Dr Hui Xin Ong, lecturer in pharmacology and research leader in the Faculty of Medicine and Health knows the challenges of translating discoveries into reality for the medical technology sector.

She established a spin-out pharmaceutical manufacturing facility, Ab initio Pharma, that provides research and development services and clinical therapeutics to academics and clinicians at a subsidised cost as well as to pharmaceutical companies. It translates early discoveries into clinical trials and ultimately commercial pharmaceutical products that will enhance Australia’s reputation in the sector.

“Dealing with industry has its advantages”, says Hui. “If you have the skills, they don’t hesitate to collaborate or fund your research because it helps them develop their product.” 

The advantages are numerous. Companies have access to specialised skills, knowledge and techniques, where collaboration on new ideas and research brings opportunities to leverage funds from the research funding schemes.

For medicine and health students, there are also benefits: “When the students are exposed to industry culture,” Hui adds, “they are better prepared after graduation.”

Recognising this gap, as co-director, she has developed an industry driven Master of Science in Medicine’s Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Development program providing essential skills for graduates.  

Hui is currently dealing with several different international and local companies. To gain access to industry, Hui is approached by companies who have read her publications, or she networks at conferences. This allows both parties to identify the mutual benefits. Industry-funded research replaces long conventional processes by shortening the pre-clinical phase which is time-consuming and expensive. This route fast tracks the product to the market.

Hui emphasises that it is important for researchers to understand how the industry operates – they are timeline driven and milestone oriented. Open communication, sharing of knowledge and upfront agreement to terms and conditions, are the keys to success.

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