"We want to provide companies with a competitive advantage," said Associate Professor Michelle McIntosh from the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences. "The benefit to us is that it's going to provide a unique opportunity for students to gain industry experience, and the benefit to companies is that the university offers an agile and experienced team that can help understand a problem and provide a solution to that problem."
Success would lead to job growth, creating positions that the 1,000 undergraduate and 200 masters and doctorate students from Monash's Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences could fill. It would also help keep medical innovation in Australia, instead of sending new discoveries to be developed or manufactured elsewhere, as often happened in the past, McIntosh says.
Building on history of innovation in Victoria
The idea for the new Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre grew out of longstanding collaboration between GlaxoSmithKline Australia and the University, that has led GSK to investing more than A$110 million in Victoria.
The Medicines Manufacturing Innovations Centre will be based on the Monash Parkville campus and will capitalise on Victoria's rich pool of resources, including universities, research hospitals and manufacturers, McIntosh says.
Melbourne has long contributed to biomedical innovation, including John Cade's discovery of lithium as a mood stabiliser in the 1940s, work on the Bionic Ear in the 1970s and more recent advances in cancer treatment, stem cell research and antiviral drugs.
The Victorian Government will provide A$4 million of a total A$10 million in funding for the centre over four years. The remainder will come from participating firms.
Solutions for a complex, changing industry
University researchers and pharmaceutical company employees will work together to meet the immense challenges of manufacturing drugs. Pharmaceutical products require strict adherence to regulations and processes to ensure quality and consistency.
In addition, emerging low-cost competitors put pressure on large, longstanding pharmaceutical manufacturers to find more affordable ways to expand their product lines. Monash is working to help pharmaceutical companies cope with the new competition at every stage of the drug development process. In June, Monash and the University of Melbourne announced Biocurate, a joint venture that leverages commercialisation skills and funding to shepherd new drugs through the "Valley of Death" that prevents many promising innovations from ever leaving the lab.
The Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre will provide support for drugs at later stages of development. For example, the Centre will help companies develop new formulations of existing drugs. Most drugs come in tablet or capsule form, and companies may need assistance to create generic, inhalable, injectable or transdermal versions. Monash has researchers who focus on figuring out how to do just that, and they will share their knowledge with pharmaceutical firms.
"The Centre is an interface for engagement between academia and industry," McIntosh says.
"This Centre in particular is really focused on the latter stage of scaling up a concept of manufacturing and a product that has already met the regulatory requirements."