On 28th Nov 2012, Senator Evans announced, on behalf of the Australian government, the National Research Investment Plan.
Does this represent getting the ball rolling?
The plan states a commitment to “deliver a strong, cohesive research fabric”. I sincerely hope this means there will be renewed focus on developing a stronger “research and commercialisation ecosystem” than what we have today in Australia. If so, then this provides hope that we may be able to attract back to Australia and also retain, more of the experience necessary to help the nation better captialise on our world-class science.
And then there is the Strategic Review of Health and Medical Research in Australia, with the McKeon Review being finalised this month.
Will either of these reviews improve Australia’s biotech ecosystem?
I hope so.
Is there enough recognition that a key training ground for developing and commercializing medicines is the Biotech and Pharmaceutical industry? Some skills can only be obtained by “doing”.
Encouraging cross sector collaboration is key. Breaking down silos between academia, clinical practice and industry and encouraging easier movement of professionals across the sectors.
This works at a student and also senior practitioner level. One barrier to fluid movement across the industry and academic interface is the old “publish or perish” mentality. A greater awareness that “impact” and “creating value for society” is not only measured in terms of publications and grants.
An excellent example is the Monash University and Gates Inhaled Oxytocin program.This collaboration brings in the best and brightest, irrespective of sector, to be focused on finding a solution to the critical issue of postpartum hemorrhage.
Creating a new medicine is never a slam dunk. We wish it was. This means academic investigators engaged in such programs, based on the old “publish or perish” mentality risk their publication records whilst pursuing these potentially life changing areas. Should they be trading off career versus impact to society?
Extend this argument now to innovators who have left to academic environments to work on life changing medicines in biotech and Pharma.
We need the Australian research ecosystem to encourage, not discourage cross-sector collaboration. I hope the outcome of the reviews above address this mind-set.