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UniQuest Pty Limited, The University of Queensland's (UQ) main commercialisation company, congratulates Professor Mark Kendall and his Nanopatch research team at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology on being awarded the overall prize and Manufacturing and High-tech Design category winner of The Australian's inaugural Innovation Challenge.
The revolutionary vaccine delivery technology is one of three UQ research-based innovations associated with UniQuest to have been selected in the short-list of 35 Professional Category finalists for the $75,000 awards program.
UniQuest Managing Director, David Henderson, said the awards capped off a year of significant milestones for the Nanopatch research and commercialisation teams, including winning the Eureka Prize for Research by an Interdisciplinary Team.
"In August Vaxxas Pty Ltd, the start-up company established to commercialise the Nanopatch technology, secured a A$15 million investment from a syndicate of Australian and international venture capital funds," Mr Henderson explained.
"The deal was one of Australia's largest first round start-up investments in a university technology, the first investment for syndicate members OneVentures, Brandon Capital and the Medical Research Commercialisation Fund in Queensland, and the first investment in Australia for US-based Healthcare Ventures.
"Winning The Australian's inaugural Innovation Challenge is a further endorsement of the value our universities are contributing, not only to the national innovation economy and reputation, but also to the health of communities all around the world."
Smaller than a postage stamp and working via the skin, the Nanopatch is expected to change the way vaccines are delivered in the future, particularly in developing countries. As well as potentially eliminating pain associated with injection and refrigeration requirements, and reducing the cost of many syringe-delivered vaccines, the Nanopatch has the potential to dramatically improve patient convenience, reduce the complications associated with needle phobia, and address key global health issues of needle stick injuries and cross contamination.
Another vaccine breakthrough to make the finals in the Health category is being developed by Professor Ranjeny Thomas and her team at the UQ Diamantina Institute. Caused by immune system dysfunction, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) affects millions of people worldwide, destroying joints and causing cardiovascular complications that can reduce life spans by 10 years. Professor Ranjeny's innovation targets the underlying cause of the disease, rather than the symptoms, potentially avoiding common side effects of existing immunosuppressant drug therapies, such as infection susceptibility.
In the Environment category, Dr Laurence Rossato and her research team in UQ's Centre for Mined Land Rehabilitation received recognition when their technology for promoting vegetation growth at mine sites contaminated by heavy metals was selected as a finalist. This innovation also recently won a 2011 Australia Mining Prospect Award for Excellence in Environmental Management.
Mr Henderson said the publicity arising from awards programs like the Innovation Challenge can be helpful in attracting commercial partners for university research projects.
"Australians are always very proud of ‘home-grown' inventions, whether they are borne from a backyard shed or discovered in our world-class scientific research facilities. We're proud to have helped the researchers develop their ideas to the point where they can be recognised as new products offering both a financial and a societal return on investment."
About 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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