Developed at the University of Tasmania (UTAS) by Professor Emily Hilder and her research team at the Australian Centre for Research on Separation Science (ACROSS), the MilliSpotTM technology extends the use of traditional paper-based materials for storing small quantities of blood and other samples involved (primarily) in pharmaceutical drug development. The MilliSpotTM materials provide a two to three times more sensitive response than can be achieved from paper.
The research team is working with UTAS commercialisation partner UniQuest Pty Limited to prepare the technology for a global market launch. An internationally-recognised patent application will boost the value of the technology for potential investors.
The International Preliminary Report on Patentability (IPRP) follows another recent commercialisation milestone for the innovation: a $49,680 Skills and Knowledge grant from Commercialisation Australia to define the capital requirements for manufacturing scale-up versions of a product based on the technology.
Dr Robin Fieldhouse, a UniQuest Manager of Innovation and Commercial Development based at UTAS, said the two achievements were positive ‘de-risking’ markers that potential investors would recognise as enhancing the value this innovation could bring to global health care.
“The IPRP report confirmed the originality of the polymer materials used to separate specified drugs from the blood within the storage medium, resulting in more precise analyses from simplified procedures, and the engineering consultancy funded by the grant revealed some very attractive methods of manufacture at meaningful scales,” Dr Fieldhouse explained.
“These milestones mean we can offer commercial partners a particularly viable and exciting opportunity. It’s a ground floor entry to introducing an analytical materials technology that could help the pharmaceutical industry maximise a whole new range of operational and cost-saving benefits.
“There are also several other sizeable and attractive markets for MilliSpotTM-derived laboratory consumable products, including neo-natal screening heel prick tests, more advanced diagnostics, environmental monitoring and even military usage,” Dr Fieldhouse said.
Currently, UniQuest is engaging with prospective industry partners with a view to forming a start-up company that will develop MilliSpotTM into customer-ready products for the multi-billion dollar preclinical drug development market.
UniQuest Managing Director, David Henderson, said an IPRP assists Australian university research-based innovations looking to partner with investors and biotechnology companies overseas, particularly, as in the case with MilliSpot, if it offers a clear report.
“This is an endorsement of the contribution Australian universities can and are making to the global knowledge bank,” Mr Henderson said.
The MilliSpotTM technology’s patent status is one of several project milestones UniQuest will be promoting at the invitation-only JP Morgan Global Healthcare Conference in San Francisco this week. The four-day conference is one of the industry’s largest and features presentations by some 300 private and public companies.
UniQuest Pty Limited
Established by The University of Queensland in 1984, UniQuest is widely recognised as one of Australia’s largest and most successful university commercialisation groups, benchmarking in the top tier of technology transfer worldwide. From an intellectual property portfolio of 1,500+ patents it has created over 60 companies, and since 2000 UniQuest and its start-ups have raised more than $400 million to take university technologies to market. Annual sales of products using UQ technology and licensed by UniQuest are running at $3 billion. UniQuest now commercialises innovations developed at The University of Queensland and its commercialisation partner institutions: the University of Wollongong, University of Technology Sydney, James Cook University, University of Tasmania, Mater Medical Research Institute, and Queensland Health. UniQuest also provides access to an expansive and exclusive network of independent academics to tailor a consulting or project R&D solution to meet the diverse needs of industry and government, facilitating some 500 consulting, expert opinion, testing, and contract research services each year.
UniQuest is also a leading Australasian provider of international development assistance recognised for excellence in technical leadership, management and research. Working with agencies such as AusAID, NZAID, the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank, UniQuest has developed and implemented more than 400 projects in 46 countries throughout the Pacific, South-East Asia, the Indian sub-continent and Africa.
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Australian Centre for Research on Separation Science (ACROSS)
ACROSS was established in 2001 and is a strategic agreement between key researchers at the University of Tasmania, RMIT University and the University of Western Sydney to form a consortium of Australian researchers working in separation science. This consortium aims to maintain an outstanding level of international renown in research on separation science in Australia; coalesce and enhance Australian research on separation science into an organised structure operating with a coordinated research plan which addresses and exploits the most exciting and innovative themes in modern separation science; and provide enabling research and research training of the highest quality which supports and advances all major areas of Australian science. ACROSS offers an organisational and resource base through which these individual researchers can work in a coordinated and synergistic manner under a series of structured and interlocking research programs. Research in ACROSS has been structured into focused programs to provide both fundamental and applied research outcomes in separation science. ACROSS draws together multi-site, internationally prominent and genuinely collaborative research teams, having complementary skills and synergistic resource-base expertise, and committed to focused programs of national significance.