Blog: MTPConnect GMs 're-program' their brains and hearts in Adelaide

17 March 2017

MTPConnect General Manager International & Government, Dr Sandhya Tewari, shares thrills from her exciting and fruitful visit to our South Australian Hub at Flinders University with General Manager Stakeholder Engagement, Dr Alfredo Martinez-Coll.

As we got off the taxi, we saw this huge sign in front of an almost kilometre square area that said ‘MAB’ and I excitedly nudged Alfredo and said – we are at the right place. I know that SA was a manufacturing hub for biopharmaceuticals, but even I was blown away with this size of what I assumed was a manufacturing plant for Monoclonal Antibodies (MABs as I was taught at Uni).

It was only much later that we discovered that MAB meant the ‘Main Assembly Building’ of the Mitsubishi manufacturing plant in Tonsley.

And what a transformation it has undergone! An indoor forest has been developed right in the middle of the enormous undercover shed that seems to stretch on into the horizon. “Plug and play” pods allow companies like MicroX and Hydrix to quickly and easily enter the hub space, developing state of the art medtech products with the Siemens building not far away. Cafes and shared open spaces are scattered throughout, creating an extremely inviting atmosphere.

The MTPConnect Adelaide hub is housed in the Flinders University Medical Device Research Institute (MDRI) building – a very funky building with the coolest toys and spaces you can imagine. Much to the amusement of some of the residents of the building (including Karen Reynolds, the Director of MDRI), Alfredo and I walked around taking pictures and posing around cool gadgets. Of course, I had to try on a pair of goggles that can change your body clock to prevent jetlag and assist shift workers to better cope with the time changes. I also couldn’t resist posing in front of the self-driving autonomous vehicle, and an incredible glass heart model.

Though staff were amused by our inquisitive nature and zeal for selfies, we couldn’t get access to enter or even peep into a lab that had the curtains drawn with a sign saying “Confidential work being carried on.” The lab is undertaking work as part of a project under the Medical Device Partnering Program (MDPP); a very successful model and recipient of an MTPConnect Project Fund Program grant to expand the program nationally.

No wonder that Health Industries South Australia is having great successes in attracting MTP businesses to set up shop in this unique hub. The people at the Department of State Development (DSD) are executing well thought out and targeted policies and programs to support the MTP sector, including the Premier’s Research Industry Fund, a voucher program and an early commercialisation fund and a $50 million VC Fund.

Our trip was jam packed with meetings, including catching up with Chris Harnett from the Entrepreneurs’ Program to discuss how we collaborate to support South Australian medtech and pharma SMEs; with Sherry Kothari, CEO & Managing Director of the Cell Therapy Manufacturing CRC, and the team at LBT Innovations to discuss their potential CRC-P applications and how MTPConnect can help; and with Judy Halliday – Director, Industry Development for TechInSA, to learn about their $4 million South Australian Early Commercialisation Fund (across all technology areas, including medtech/pharma), helping companies from across Australia to partner with SA companies and take advantage of this wonderful program.

I just can’t wait to go back to Adelaide on March 30th, when I will be presenting at the MDPP Show me the Money showcase of medtech funding and support programs, to provide an overview of the MTPConnect Project Funds. Yes, can’t wait for the opportunity to pick up our office keys from the concierge and start playing with the cool toys. Hopefully, I will manage to peep into the “secret lab” this time.

And next time I disembark from the taxi, my brain will not continue to insist that MAB can only stand for Monoclonal Antibodies.