Dr Riya Palchaudhuri sees science as a way to improve the world and people’s lives, and that inspires her every day. This inspiration has guided a research journey centred on developing life-saving medical devices, taking opportunities toward actualising her work along the way, including participating in the BridgeTech Program.
Growing up in India, Riya knew no scientists or academics. “My path to where I ended up was very circuitous. I had my first taste of research as an intern at an Indian Biotech company, where I discovered that learning and doing experiments could be an actual job!” she said.
Riya completed a Masters of Applied Microbiology then worked as a biomedical scientist, which is where she fell in love with research. She was awarded a fully-funded scholarship to do a PhD on her dream project at the Burnet Institute in Melbourne. Now she’s working on biomarkers for infectious diseases and point-of-care diagnostic tests, and still having fun.
Riya’s PhD focused on sepsis – a clinical systemic inflammatory response syndrome that can occur in patients following infection or injury, with a high mortality rate. Her team realised that a rapid, low-cost diagnostic tool was needed to reduce the burden of sepsis globally. Riya identified novel aspects of the biology of a protein called CD64 and provided proof-of-concept data for its use with a neutrophil marker, to be used as an early point-of-care bedside test for accurately diagnosing sepsis.
The results of her work were verified when sepsis patients in an intensive care unit were diagnosed with 100% sensitivity and 94% specificity using her methodology. This intellectual property formed the basis of her research team’s international patent application and landed them several grants and accolades including a significant NHMRC project grant and Research Excellence Award for the highest ranked Development Grant Application.
“Our current focus with the sepsis project is to translate our innovative findings and take it to market by connecting with the right partners, early adopters and investors,” Riya said.
The pathway to commercialisation
Riya was appointed as Business Development Manager at Burnet Institute in 2020, putting her in an ideal position to help translate her team’s work to a product and into the hands of clinicians.
“I have enjoyed the opportunity to develop our diagnostic from a biological observation to proof-of-concept, and I am excited about clinical application of this technology,” Riya said.
Its application poses many innovative possibilities. “We’ve seen strong growth in point-of-care diagnostics over the past decade, with new technologies in development from wearables and non-invasive testing to mass spectrometry, sensors, paper- and smartphone-based approaches, nuclear magnetic resonance and digital microfluidics,” she said.
A boost from BridgeTech
Navigating the pathway to medtech commercialisation can be complicated and arduous. As someone who is relatively new in the world of Australian biotech, Riya decided to take part in the BridgeTech Program to become better informed about the commercialisation process to support her decision-making at work.
“The BridgeTech Program helped me to better understand the business of translating research, which has directly informed my work on diagnostic technology development projects in my current role.”
“I have led many contract negotiations for IP commercialisation, and found the course content was directly applicable to helping me in this aspect of my role as well,” she said
Riya also benefited from networking opportunities and from hearing the success stories of others through the program’s seminar series.
“I found the BridgeTech Program excellent for gaining insight into the commercial process and path to market for therapeutic and diagnostic technologies.
“It helped me establish connections and networking possibilities, and I found it excellent for establishing, growing and maintaining relationships with potential partners and investors,” she said.
A nation-wide network of medtech professionals
Each year 80 people from a diverse range of professions and institutions around Australia are selected to join the BridgeTech Program. Fully-funded by MTPConnect and a consortium of industry and university partners, BridgeTech program participants join one of the country’s most significant medtech professional networks. They participate in a series of events, activities and seminars, while undertaking self-paced, online training to develop a comprehensive understanding of the medtech commercialisation pathway.