A fully-funded industry placement to boost drug development expertise

Dr Frances Byrne is one of ten 2020 Bridge Program participants across Australia to be awarded a $10,000 fellowship, landing her in an industry-based placement with Yuhan ANZ where she is boosting her experience in drug licensing, discovery and development.

Dr Byrne is a lecturer and cancer researcher at the School of Biotechnology & Biomolecular Sciences at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), where she is investigating new ways to kill cancer cells by targeting their metabolic vulnerabilities.

She has discovered a 1,4-Naphthoquinone (referred to as BH10) that is toxic to a broad range of cancer cell types with lower toxicity to non-cancerous cells.

“I’ve recently been working with a medicinal chemist at UNSW to develop next generation, novel derivatives of BH10 (the molecule structures are not in the public domain) and we have seen improved pharmacokinetic properties,” she said.

Dr Byrne was part of the Bridge Program when she applied and was awarded with the Bridge and BridgeTech Industry Fellowship.

“The Bridge Program was a fantastic opportunity to learn from industry leaders and regulatory bodies about fundamental aspects of the commercialisation process.

“It was through the program that I was fortunate to receive the fellowship, which has allowed me to undertake an internship at Yuhan ANZ,” she said.

Dr Byrne’s fellowship so far has involved online learning and a three-day internship based at the Australia and New Zealand regional headquarters for South Korea’s largest pharmaceutical company.

She travelled to Adelaide and learned directly from head of Yuhan ANZ’s Dr Lee Farrand about the company, the diseases they are interested in developing drugs for, licencing agreements they have with other companies, and what makes a good candidate for potential in-licensing.

Dr Byrne and fellow award recipients had the opportunity to tour the biotech hub of Thebarton, visiting Agilex Biolabs, Avance Clinical, and BiomeBank.

“I really enjoyed meeting everyone at these companies and found it particularly interesting to learn about the services Avance Clinical, a contract research organisation, provide.

“I was also fascinated by the work being done at BiomeBank to develop FMT therapies to treat GI diseases, and how much you can get paid to go to the loo!” she said.

One of the most valuable outcomes of the internship experience was the feedback that Dr Byrne received on her current project and can apply to her work moving forward.

“I learned about what controls are important for preclinical studies so that the data obtained from these studies would be attractive to potential industry partners.

“I also learned about what types of cancer models might be best to use going forward in my research, and what level of anti-cancer efficacy I would need to achieve for a company (like Yuhan) to be interested in funding the development of my drugs in the future,” she said.

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.

Apply for the Bridge and BridgeTech Industry Fellowships Program

The 2021 fellowship application round is now open. There are ten fellowships available for each program. If you are a current or past participant of the Bridge Program or BridgeTech Program, read more about the fellowship and apply before May 23, 2021.

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