Australian Biomedical Innovation Celebrated Globally as an Example of Collaboration

20 July 2018

Pictured: Professor Michael Wallach and Liz Johnstone from SPARK Global's 2017 Bioinnovation course in Tokyo.

Australian biomedical innovation training programs have been recognised on a global stage, with Team Australia invited by the founders of the Stanford SPARK program gathered in Berlin, Germany for the SPARK Global meeting.

On the weekend of the 21st and 22nd of July, senior executives from the SPARK biomedical innovation programs around the world will gather in Berlin, Germany, for the annual SPARK Global meeting. SPARK Global is a network of like-minded translational scientists in academia that collaboratively address global health challenges, regardless of their geographical locations.

Accelerating Australia’s and University of Technology Sydney’s Prof Michael Wallach, has been recognised on the world stage for his work in Australian biomedical innovation, being invited to present at this prestigious global event. For many years, Prof Wallach has been the driving force behind SPARK programs in Australia, tirelessly growing SPARK Sydney and supporting other SPARK programs across Australia and the world. During his presentation, Prof Wallach will demonstrate the unique model behind the success of the Australian SPARK programs (SPARK Oceania, collectively) as a prime example of efficient and effective collaboration between different organisations across a region.

Michael’s passion for facilitating the translation of research in universities into real world patient benefits also led him to his role as the Course Director for the SPARK Biomedical Innovation and Entrepreneurship course; a short, two-week program running alongside the SPARK Global meeting annually.

The BioInnovation course takes collaboration to a new level by bringing together researchers and innovators from around the world to innovate on global healthcare issues.

“It has been very exciting seeing SPARK programs develop in Sydney (UTS, Univ. of Sydney & Macquarie Univ.), at Monash University starting last year and more recently at the University of Melbourne," says Prof Wallach.

"Working closely with Professor Daria Mochly-Rosen and Prof. Kevin Grimes from Stanford University, School of Medicine (the Directors of SPARK Stanford) to bring SPARK to Australia has been an amazing experience and a great honour for me.

“The philosophy of SPARK Australia is to focus primarily on the benefit for the patient and this has definitely contributed to the success of all of the projects participating in the program.”

SPARK Oceania currently encompasses SPARK Sydney and SPARK Monash, with plans for a national expansion. Both programs are based on the highly successful Stanford University SPARK program that has been running at the Stanford School of Medicine for the past twleve years.

While the Stanford program focuses primarily on drug development and pharmaceutical projects, SPARK Sydney and SPARK Monash also support the design of medical devices and diagnostics. Participants are mentored and trained by experts in the field over a two-year period and receive seed funding to give their solutions the best possible chance to benefit patients in the clinic.

Projects that have gone through the Australian SPARK programs include manufacturing technologies, wearable sensors and treatment for mesothelioma (cancer caused by asbestos).

Since the inception of SPARK Sydney by Prof Michael Wallach in 2014, the program has been a beacon of collaboration in NSW. While officially led by the University of Technology Sydney, it is jointly hosted by the Kolling Institute and works closely with the University of Sydney and Macquarie University. Michael has also been heavily involved with the setup of SPARK Monash through the Monash Institute of Medical Engineering (MIME), established in 2017 and led by MIME’s Deputy Director Laurence Meagher. Furthermore, SPARK Melbourne is currently being developed with his assistance by the University of Melbourne led by Georgia von Guttner (Lead and Business Development Director, Innovation Precinct Partnerships & Tenancy), with strong support from Head of the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Professor Daniel Hoyer. Laurence, Georgia and Daniel will also be attending the SPARK Global Meeting in Berlin to showcase the depth of commitment from Australia.

SPARK Sydney, SPARK Monash and the upcoming SPARK Melbourne are all supported by Accelerating Australia, a national biomedical consortium of 33 research organisations, companies and healthcare providers led by the WA-based Centre for Entrepreneurial Research and Innovation (CERI). Accelerating Australia’s funding is matched dollar by dollar by the Industry Growth Centre MTPConnect.

Chair of Accelerating Australia, A/Prof Kevin Pfleger, who will join the proceedings in Berlin, says the opportunity will promote "Australian biomedical innovation."

“It’s exciting to see Australian biomedical innovation being recognised and contributing internationally through its key role in SPARK Global, particularly through Michael’s leadership," says Prof Pfleger.

"There are incredible biomedical innovations happening across Australia and we have so many highly skilled, passionate people.

"By connecting them and working together, we can fast track the translation of new medical devices, pharmaceuticals, diagnostics and biologics and ensure that our patients will be able to benefit from the latest advancements.”

Accelerating Australia is a national consortium that supports biomedical entrepreneurship and translation of medical research through experiential entrepreneurial courses (including SPARK Sydney, SPARK Monash, SPARK Melbourne, Perth Biodesign, Adelaide Biodesign and CERI courses), brokerage and early stage commercialisation support services.