BridgeTech Program alumnus, Dr Sasi Kandasamy, and his employer and the program’s consortium partner, Vaxxas, can attest to the value of connecting research with industry, and collaboration as crucial on the pathway to commercialisation success.
Vaxxas, a biotechnology company focused on enhancing the performance of vaccines, has a goal to replace needle and syringe as the default method of supplying vaccinations to people. It has developed incredible Micro-projection Array Patch (MAP) technology that uses a patch to deliver vaccine to the immune cells immediately below the skin surface.
When Vaxxas first branched out from its university origins in 2011 with a staff of academics, it quickly became apparent that collaborations between academia and industry were key to success on the commercialisation pathway, and began to employ staff from industry. “Collaborations were important to us back then as they are now. We have a lot of industry, academic and individual collaborations. Being a small company, you can’t really get the reach that you need without collaborating with many people and organisations,” said Vaxxas’ Head of Medical Device and Process Engineering, Mike Junger.
Vaxxas became a BridgeTech Program consortium partner in 2020, joining a select group of global technology companies and universities that help inform and guide the program from an industry perspective. Vaxxas has not only added to the industry consortium the unique perspective of a young, successful academic spin-out, but also provides BridgeTech Program participants with direct insights into this success. Vaxxas has delivered presentations and hosted an industry placement in their Brisbane laboratory as part of the new BridgeTech Industry Fellowships scheme. All the while building their own networks throughout BridgeTech’s nation-wide participant and alumni groups.
Equal parts research and industry know-how
Sasi Kandasamy, a regular presenter at BridgeTech Program seminars, joined Vaxxas in 2013 as someone who has been on both sides of the collaboration fence. He has followed a successful trajectory from research to industry, and is now playing a key role in ensuring Vaxxas’ commercialisation success.
Sasi’s transition from academia to industry leadership happened in parallel to Vaxxas’ commercialisation journey of its MAP product. His journey began with a PhD in advanced materials and nanotechnology before postdoctoral work in acoustic devices for pulmonary drug delivery, bionic eye, microfluidics, quantum computing and microsensors. Later as a senior manager at the Melbourne Centre for Nanofabrication, Sasi focused on client relationship management and engagement across universities, local and global SME’s and government.
This strong R&D background in advanced materials, nanotechnology systems and processes, and an appetite for providing end-to-end product development solutions set Sasi up as the ideal candidate for working on Vaxxas’ core technology.
“My challenge at Vaxxas has been to come up with innovative, cutting-edge processes for manufacturing the patch. It’s been the perfect opportunity to use my skills and background in semiconductor-based technology, adapting them to the development of medtech devices.
“Post development of the product, the next big challenge has been to translate and scale up the technology, translating it from the laboratory to manufacturing, while meeting quality and regulatory requirements”.
A boost towards success
After hearing about the BridgeTech Program through work, Sasi decided to apply. At the time he was Senior Medical Device Engineer at Vaxxas. “I wanted to push my thinking from R&D and research translation further towards a commercialisation focus, and the BridgeTech Program helped me do that,” he said.
The program’s module focusing on regulatory legal requirements particularly helped Sasi to understand research commercialisation planning, and to develop regulatory and entrepreneurial knowledge to optimise commercialisation outcomes at work. “Developing skills in these areas helped me to transition from a technical role to a management role. The BridgeTech Program provided a framework and a point of reference from which I was able to articulate the unique values that I can offer, and that helped me to advance to team leader of the MAP project.”
It takes a network
Vaxxas’ continued strategic focus on establishing networks and collaboration through Australia’s medtech sector led them to join the BridgeTech industry consortium, and in turn has opened up connections with global partners and with Australia’s up-and-coming medtech scientists and entrepreneurs alike.
“The development of an advanced technology platform like ours has presented some challenges. With our collaboration across both universities and industries, we brought together the range of expertise and insight to provide solutions and advance the technology,” said Dr. Angus Forster, Vaxxas’ Chief Development and Operations Officer.
“Being a BridgeTech Program industry consortium member has allowed us to rapidly integrate and interact with one of Australia’s most significant medtech communities, and has provided a unique opportunity to grow our networks while guiding the next generation of ideas and inventions in the medtech space,” he added.
Over the past ten years Vaxxas has developed from a start-up into a fully-fledged biotechnology company, now at the point of looking at scale-up feasibility and end-to-end manufacturability for its MAP product. At the same time Sasi has grown professionally and personally, taking many opportunities to gain experience across different aspects of medtech product development complemented by training, including through the BridgeTech Program.
Sasi said that the program provided him with a clear pathway to understand the steps involved from basic research to research commercialisation. “But just as importantly, it has offered networking opportunities at seminars and events where I’ve met clinicians and listened to a range of perspectives on unmet medical needs, which has been invaluable,” he 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.