From Discovery to Product, Policy and Practice

Posted on: Saturday, 23 July 2016 at 7:21:14 PM

From Discovery to Product, Policy and Practice

 Article from AICC(WA) and Western Australian Health Translational Network (WAHTN) Annual Event: Medical Research in the 21st century - the challenges and opportunities of health and medical research in Australia, presented by Professor Anne Kelso AO, Chief Executive Officer, NHMRC - National Health and Medical Research Council, Thursday 21 July 2016

 

 From L to R - Mr John Cluer, Chief Executive, Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce (WA), Professor Peter Klinken, Chief Scientist, Office of Science, Government of Western Australia, Professor Fiona Stanley AC, Founding Director and Patron, Telethon Kids Institute, Professor Anne Kelso AO, Chief Executive Officer, NHMRC – National Health and Medical Research Council, Honourable Malcolm McCusker AC CVO QC CitWA, Chair of the Executive Board, WA Health Translation Network (WAHTN), Honourable John Day MLA, Minister for Health, Culture and the Arts, Government of Western Australia, Professor Lyn Beazley AO, FTSE CIE, Sir Walter Murdoch Distinguished Professor of Science, Murdoch University and Professor John Challis, Executive Director, WA Health Translation Network (WAHTN)

 

It was both timely and inspiring to see 200 of Western Australia’s leading businesspeople in the area of Medical Research engage in Professor Anne Kelso’s presentation about the future of Australian Medical Research.  Timely because the NHMRC has released a public consultation paper about the Structural Review of NHMRC’s Grant Program, and inspiring because of the recognition and importance that Australia dedicates to National Health and Medical Research.

The AICC(WA) provides thought leadership and extends opportunity through bilateral trade to Israel, which boasts a business ecosystem that combines a stunning culture of innovation with a global concentration of Research and Development.  Through models of academic commercialisation and Venture Capitalisation, medical technology advancements are one of the key drivers of Israel’s knowledge economy. 

AICC(WA) Chief Executive, Mr John Cluer, cited Israel’s accomplishments as the world leader in granted patents per capita in the medical device industry, and as the second leading publisher of stem cell research in absolute  numbers.  Mr Cluer invited participation in the forthcoming Health and Medical Research Delegation to Israel, being led by Professor Peter Leedman in early December.  

The delegation was further endorsed by Professor Rukshen Weerasooriya, who previously attended an AICC(WA) Medical delegation, and noted how the experience assisted not only to bolster his clinical research in cardiology, but also assisted with the process of commercialisation and engagement with engineers for further product development. 

One of many futuristic examples was shared of Israeli medical technology, showing that medical holograms are no longer science fiction.  Israel’s breakthroughs and imaginative applications in medicine have revolutionised medical diagnosis, surgical procedures, healthcare, rehabilitation, and the pharmaceutical industry.  A more substantive video presentation was displayed that provides contemporary examples of Israeli medical science.

 

 

Honourable Malcolm McCusker AC CVO QC CitWA, Chair of the Executive Board, WA Health Translation Network (WAHTN)

The Western Australian Health Translation Network (WAHTN) brings together Western Australia’s major hospitals, medical research institutes and five universities to capitalise on the substantial State investment in new facilities for health research, patient care and population well-being.  Chair of the Executive Board Mr Malcolm McCusker AC CVO Q, introduced Professor Kelso and paid tribute to the health and medical dignitaries supporting the event.  He further noted the critical role played by Government funding agencies to support medical research grants.

 

Professor Kelso opened her address by posing four key questions critical to current medical research in Australia;

  • What causes Alzheimer’s disease and how can we prevent it?
  • How can we halt the obesity epidemic?
  • How can we prevent the next infectious disease pandemic?
  • How can we overcome the disparities in health between indigenous and non-indigenous populations?

 

Professor Anne Kelso AO, Chief Executive Officer, NHMRC – National Health and Medical Research Council

Professor Kelso proceeded to discuss the “research pipeline” that takes research from the point of discovery to “product, policy and practice”.  Elements of the research cycle include;

 Understanding causes

  • Developing diagnostic tests
  • Developing vaccines, drugs and therapies
  • Developing interventions
  • Testing
  • Implement into policy and practice
  • Work with patients and community
  • Monitor, evaluate and improve

She further talked about some of the focus areas for new medical research including nanotechnology and robotics, stem cell research and gene editing.  She noted these were incredibly powerful technological developments, some of which bring forward ethical considerations.  Citing the example of mandatory folate fortification of bread as a good example of preventative research, there is statistical evidence showing a decline in the prevalence of Neural Tube Defects.

One of the key themes associated with Professor Kelso’s address was the evolvement of Medical Research from what was historically an individual focus through to what is now a team or collaborative process.  She remarked that “Scientists don’t work alone”.  By functioning in large national and international teams, and applying a multidisciplinary focus, the process of medical research is greatly advanced.  Professor Kelso further noted the collaborative models within Israel as effective examples to emulate.  Research Cities and virtual networks also comprise examples of partnership.

The five elements of development that are most important to the future of Australian medical research are in Professor Kelso’s view the research pipeline, collaboration and integration, people and skills, platforms and data, and consumer/community engagement.  She elaborated on each of these, noting workforce flexibility and diversity and global mobility as vital dynamics.  She also commented that the collection, linkage and monitoring of information was becoming far more sophisticated, and that the Internet of Things comprising of individual health nodes was a revolutionary change that provides new data to support health research.

Concluding her speech, Professor Kelso noted that increased life expectancy in Australia is enough alone as a success story in the processes of research and implementation, a combination over time of public health interventions, individual choice (shift of attitude), individual prophylaxis, and individual treatment.  Returning to her initial four questions, she noted the answers sat within a mixture of approaches to research, and a combination of integrating both new discoveries with the enhancement of existing knowledge.  Above all, the research processes must cover the spectrum of activity, from research through to treatment, and optimise opportunities for collaboration.

 

 Professor Peter Klinken, Chief Scientist, Office of Science, Government of Western Australia and Professor Anne Kelso AO, Chief Executive Officer, NHMRC – National Health and Medical Research Council

Professor Kelso engaged in Q&A facilitated by Chief Scientist of WA, Professor Peter Klinken.  The discussion focussed on the NHMRC review process, and models currently out for consultation.  Dr Fiona Stanley enquired about international collaboration and climate change, where it was acknowledged by Professor Kelso that all elements of current Australian research activity are touched by these important issues.  The discussion concluded with commentary on career options for medical research, and the various grant funding models that are complimented by industry engagement.

A vote of thanks by Professor John Challis, Executive Director WAHTN, affirmed that a new pathway for medical research in Australia placed its focus in the realm of community, and accorded great appreciation to Professor Kelso for her leadership in supporting health and medical research and delivering new medical research opportunities for Australia.

  

Professor John Challis, Executive Director, WA Health Translation Network (WAHTN)

 

From L to R - Professor John Challis, Executive Director, WA Health Translation Network (WAHTN), Professor Anne Kelso AO, Chief Executive Officer, NHMRC – National Health and Medical Research Council and Professor Peter Klinken, Chief Scientist, Office of Science, Government of Western Australia

 

Professor Anne Kelso AO

Professor Kelso has been CEO of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), the Australian Government’s medical research funding agency, since April 2015.

Following her PhD at the University of Melbourne, Professor Kelso undertook research in the field of immunology, first in Switzerland and then at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne and the Queensland Institute of Medical Research in Brisbane. From 2000 until 2006, she was also Director/CEO of the Cooperative Research Centre for Vaccine Technology. She then returned to Melbourne as Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza from 2007 until she took up her role with NHMRC. Professor Kelso has served on many boards and advisory committees for research institutions, the Australian Government and WHO, including the Board of the Telethon Kids Institute from 2008 until 2015. She was appointed Officer in the Order of Australia in June 2007 for service to science.

 

Honourable John Day MLA, Minister for Health, Culture and the Arts, Government of Western Australia

 

Clockwise from top left - Dr Michael Quinlan, Board Member, McCusker Alzheimer's Research Foundation, Mr Maurice Swanson, Chief Executive, Heart Foundation WA, Mr Charlie Bass, Executive Chairman, Founder and Chairman, The Bass Group /CERI, Professor John Finlay-Jones, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Edith Cowan University, Mr Steve Arnott, Chief Executive Officer, WANRI -  Western Australian Neuroscience Research Institute and Professor Fiona Stanley AC, Founding Director and Patron, Telethon Kids Institute

 

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