The Emergence of Australian Regenerative Medicine

Pictured: Participants in a session on a 'Research & Innovation at University of Toronto' given by Vice President, Research and Innovation, University of Toronto Vivek Goel. Photo by Sebastian Eggert a Summer by Design participant.

As home to one of the world's first human stem cell trials, Australia is respected around the world for its contributions in the regenerative medicine sector.

The Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM) Australia is working to ensure our researchers can leverage our expertise to secure an even more prominent share of the global regenerative medicine market, which industry experts predict will be worth AU$120 billion by 2035. [1]

Regenerative medicine aims to harness the power of cells, biomaterials and molecules to repair, treat, regenerate or replace diseased cells, tissues and organs. Australia has been a pioneer in the field, a point highlighted in AusBiotech's Regenerative Medicine Advisory Group [2] report of October 2017. Figure 1 shows our history and achievements, starting in the late 1980's when the second ever peripheral blood apheresis and stem cell transplant was developed, through to 2006 when the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre commenced CAR-T clinical trials.

Figure 1: Australian research milestones in the regenerative medicine sector

To further progress Australia’s emergence in the regenerative medicine sector, CCRM Australia created its seven-month training and mentoring program Summer by Design. This program offered participants an international experience with 27 candidates attending from Canada, UK, Sweden, Netherlands as well as Germany.

Each participant had opportunities to share their research, meet with members of Medicine by Design and commercial representatives such as BlueRock Therapeutics, and other faculty researchers. Through these interactions the Australian representatives gained unique insights about different research strengths and capabilities from all over the world.

CCRM Australia Training Program Coordinator Erick Villaceran says the program will benefit the mentees by providing them with skills to accelerate their research.

“The opportunity provided by CCRM Australia provides excellent value for professional development that I wish had been as prevalent during my time as a science student,” Mr Villaceran said.

“Young and budding researchers interested to translate and commercialise their research should make it a priority to network and have a lens into industry early in their careers.”

A representative of the Summer by Design program Sebastian Eggert from the Queensland University of Technology says he was able to seed the beginnings of an international collaboration with some of the other delegates and he is better able to develop an informed commercial strategy for his own research.

“Summer by Design draws people from various areas around regenerative medicine applications,” Mr Eggert commented.

“The collaboration with the experts together in one workshop over two weeks results in an inspiring time, leading to great discussions and very valuable insights in translational research and commercialisation in regenerative medicine.”

CCRM Australia has five participants from Queensland, Victoria and South Australia in a partnership with the Industry Mentoring Network in STEM (IMNIS) as part of the IMNIS International Mentoring Program.

IMNIS is well-known in the MTP sector for its impact in securing the mentorship of 200 PhD students in five states across Australia with 17 organisations helping to narrow the cultural gap between industry and academia.

The jointly-delivered program offers participants an international perspective on commercialising science as well as extensive resources to understand the global markets in regenerative medicine. It also gives the participants a mentor from either the US or the UK an international travel award to meet their mentor at a scientific conference and/or to have a site visit at their company.

Dr Marguerite Evans-Galea, Executive Director of IMNIS has immense experience in administrating an award-winning mentoring program, and says it has enormous potential to foster collaboration.

“This industry mentoring program provides an excellent networking opportunity that will assist in developing the next generation of regenerative medicine professionals,” Dr Evans-Galea added.

“With the mentors being part of leading regenerative medicine centres and organisations, we are excited to see what this initiative will produce.”

This pilot program combines the IMNIS’s experience with the international focus and commercial emphasis that CCRM Australia brings. According to CCRM Australia it is a first in Australia to provide an international mentoring program that is focused on the business of regenerative medicine, giving participants an understanding of career opportunities outside of academia.

For more information on this training program, visit CCRM Australia.

[1] Response to the House of Lords Inquiry 'Life Sciences and the Industrial Strategy'. September 2017, Catapult Cell and Gene Therapy, UK, sourced on October 16 2018

[2] Regenerative Medicine Advisory Group, sourced on 9 October 2018