The fellowship for meaningful career shifts

Dr Daniel Martinez-Marquez’s Bridge and BridgeTech Industry Fellowship became the catalyst for a major career change from research to industry. Now he is realising his ambition of bringing quality-assured medtech solutions into the hands of patients and clinicians.

With an extensive academic background in biomedical engineering and engineering project management, combined with university-based experience in research risk assessment roles, Daniel was positioned to see the need for quality assurance in medtech products that also meet user needs.

“Products should be designed from the beginning around quality standards and regulations, to speed up the whole research-to-market process in the long run, minimising costs and time. Companies often focus first on product development and leave everything related to quality standards to the end,” Daniel explains.

He wanted to learn how to implement quality management systems (QMS) in line with ISO certification, specifically for medical device companies. “I wanted this experience so I could move into a role where I really help biomedical companies and university researchers develop and commercialise better medical products and services.”

As a participant in the BridgeTech Program, Daniel met the leadership team of Brisbane biotech company, Akunah, at the program’s 2021 Symposium event. The Akunah team were presenting their technology at the event. Making the most of the networking opportunity the Symposium offered, Daniel and Akunah’s senior biomedical engineer, Sha Pather, struck up a conversation. They identified the fellowship program as a way to facilitate Daniel helping Akunah to establish quality assurance processes. At the time, Akunah were at the point of setting up these processes to meet medical device regulatory requirements and their customers’ needs.

Following the event, Daniel and Sha developed a program of activities where Daniel could get the experience he had been seeking while helping Akunah to meet their requirements. He successfully proposed this program in his fellowship application and was awarded $10k, which he used to support himself during a six-week industry placement at Akunah.

When Daniel started his fellowship, Akunah’s QMS was in its early development stage. This meant he could learn from start to finish about the complex regulatory requirements involved, while he built and prepared Akunah’s QMS for ISO certification. “This was invaluable experience that allowed me to work on each stage of the process,” he said.

But Daniel wasn’t left to his own devices to figure it out. His program was designed to include one-on-one training with Sha to help him understand the standards and processes. Sha also spent time briefing Daniel on Akunah’s requirements for efficiency in the systems – what works for them and what doesn’t, and how to navigate procedures.

The best part about Daniel’s fellowship was that it led to a full-time position as Akunah’s Quality Assurance Manager, where he is now continuing this important project. But he said that the fellowship experience itself was worthwhile on its own.

“One of the main benefits of the fellowship was being immersed in a start-up biomedical company and getting to see how it works. My PhD focused on tissue engineering and customised 3D-printed bone implants. Akunah is a software medical device company. So, I jumped into a completely new field with this fellowship.

“It gave me insights into how the digital revolution will take a big part in the next generation of disruptive medical devices in the form of software,” Daniel said.

Daniel experienced how software medical devices are developed through a complex process that requires input from different development teams who specialise in different fields.

“Akunah works in close collaboration with surgeons to ensure that their needs and wants are met, to ensure the market acceptance of their product. This was an important observation for me.

“For a researcher, it is quite easy to stay in academia. But that creates a risk that the knowledge will die in research articles without actually reaching the public in the form of new products and solutions,” Daniel said.

The benefits of the program were mutually beneficial for Daniel and for Akunah.

“It was really clear to see the high value of the Fellowship through our experience with Daniel. As a young company we need to engage with like-minded people who are passionate in achieving our vision,” Sha said.

“The fellowship allowed us to work with Daniel and realise his tremendous capability at Akunah. He now holds a valuable position within the company which is direct testament to the value of Bridgetech and the fellowship program,” Sha added.

Apply for the Bridge and BridgeTech Industry Fellowships Program

The Bridge and BridgeTech Industry Fellowships Program is an industry placement program focused on training Australia’s medical technology, biotechnology, pharmaceutical and digital health sectors.

The program is funded by MTPConnect’s $32 million Researcher Exchange and Development within Industry (REDI) initiative, made possible by the Medical Research Future Fund, providing industry experiences and skills development for early and mid-career researchers, clinicians and innovators to develop an industry ready workforce keeping pace with the demands of a rapidly changing sector.

The Bridge Program and BridgeTech Program, facilitated by QUT on behalf of a consortium of industry partners, have been selected to form part of the REDI initiative from 2020 to 2024.

Applications are open

Daniel was one of 10 BridgeTech Program participants to receive a fellowship in 2021.

The 2022 application round is now open. There are ten fellowships available for both programs, valued at $10k each. If you are a current or past participant of the Bridge Program or BridgeTech Program, read more about the fellowship and apply before May 30, 2022.

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