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PhD ADVICE FROM A BIOTECH VC!

May 6, 2016

Welcome to the spotlight on PhD realities. Last week I attended a seminar on the new Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF), presented by Melissa from Brandon Capital Partners. The MRCF is a unique investment collaboration between some Australian superannuation funds and partnering universities/medical research institutes, allowing funding and translation of medical research into commercial outcomes. 

 

Australia is one of the world leaders in biotechnology capabilities (ranked 4), however, is really poor at translating research innovation into economic development. A lot of funding is spent for research, however there is very little support for translation. Our innovation efficiency is terrible as there is little funding available to take discoveries from the laboratory to a product. 

 

As postgraduate students now, and the scientific leaders of the near future, it is essential we should also have bigger picture thinking of the long term vision for potential research findings. The outcomes of research should be more than just publishing a research paper (LOL), rather what applications could our research have.

 

Here are her critical points of advice for students and their research work/careers;

1] Think about what could be the outcomes of your research. If you are interested in translating research discoveries, then you have to be aware you are unable to publish your work. Intellectual property (IP) must be protected. Patent first, publish later.

 

However this posses an inherent dilemma for young research scientist, as publishing new research and winning grant funding is bread and butter... so what to do?

 

2] Get out there and seek some real world experience in science. Find out what goes on outside of your own laboratory environment to get a complete outlook of the science world. Engage in possible internships with the biotechnology industry. The more you know, the more you grow.

 

*EDIT*

Melissa was generous enough to read the article and also provide some valuable insight/feedback.

"The patent vs publish dilemma is a tricky one that is usually all about the timing. It depends on the technology too. In many cases, once a patent application is lodged, the researcher can publish the work because the invention has been protected and since the patent application will be published anyway, it might as well be published first in a peer-reviewed scientific journal and get a bit more kudos. I notice that grant applications include patent applications as part of track record, so I guess that’s something.

 

Your comment about being mindful of these things is spot on. I’ve seen situations where IP has been disclosed in a PhD thesis that was not embargoed and this disclosure prevented patenting and hence caused the loss of all value and the vaporisation of the chance to ever be of use to patients. Even presenting a poster at a local meeting is likely to be a disclosure, it doesn’t have to be an international publication. Unless the person hearing/reading the invention has signed an agreement to keep it secret, then it’s a disclosure. In many cases the story can be told without disclosing the most important IP. People can still follow data about Compound X rather than ethylmethylwhatever."

 

You can take it as insight, or you can take it as Just BS.

Kit.

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