New Industry Alliance Focused on Biotechnology Future

Oct 16 2015

HMRI Director Michael Nilsson with HunterNet Vice-Chair Michael Sharpe

With the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding this afternoon, the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) and industry co-operative HunterNet have formed a united front to encourage the growth of medical manufacturing and health investment potential within the region.

HMRI Director Professor Michael Nilsson and HunterNet Vice Chairman Michael Sharpe sealed the inaugural agreement in an official function at the HMRI Building.

It coincided with a formal visit by the Ambassador of Sweden Pär Ahlberger and a Swedish health delegation, as Hunter researchers work closely with Swedish biotech companies, medical research institutes and government representatives to extend the reach of HMRI’s research programs globally (see background below).

“Through our alliance with HunterNet, researchers will be able to create more of these type of international arrangements,” Professor Nilsson said. “This initiative is really about the future as it marks a new level of cooperation between our institute and local industries.

“HMRI has increasingly become pro-business in its thinking because there are great opportunities for knowledge sharing. With a world-class environment for smart people to work in, we can create both a healthier and wealthier future for this community.”

The MoU aims to spur new collaborations through research investment, advanced manufacturing technologies and the exchange of technical information, with HMRI and HunterNet sharing a strategic vision to establish a biotech cluster for pharmaceuticals, medical devices and healthcare delivery in the Hunter New England Health region.

Mr Sharpe said that formalising linkages and fostering new synergies between researchers and advanced manufacturers was a logical next step in the evolution of the Hunter’s industry base.

“We are extremely excited to sign a collaboration agreement with our friends at HMRI. Over the past few years we have witnessed an accelerated transition of businesses moving into advanced manufacturing processes and technologies, particularly in the medical sector,” Mr Sharpe said.

“We know the region possesses the capabilities – now it’s time we match these capabilities with the needs of Hunter researchers to support their delivery of ‘world’s best’ medical solutions.”

Professor Nilsson added that University of Newcastle and HNEH researchers, supported by HMRI, were increasingly looking outside the square for technologies that can be translated to the medical sphere.

“The MoU provides a mechanism, right on our doorstep, to underpin and accelerate new developments that will ultimately help grow the local economy,” he said. “It’s a significant point of difference for our institute.”


Swedish health delegation

Swedish Ambassador Pär Ahlberger’s Hunter visit is part of a ministerial delegation to Australia focusing on building translational health and medical research relationships.

HMRI and its partners and researchers have multiple collaborations underway with biotech firms and research institutes in Sweden, including Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute and the University of Gothenburg. There is also an exchange program for researchers and students.

Sweden is regarded as one of Europe’s leading medical research nations, with a history dating back to 1477 and a strong base for drug and device development. Pharmaceutical giants AstraZeneca and Pfizer-Pharmacia, along with many small biotechnology companies, all conduct their own research alongside the university networks.

HMRI Director Professor Michael Nilsson, a Conjoint Professor of Neurological Rehabilitation at the University of Gothenburg, and HMRI Health Economist Andrew Searles presented a workshop in Canberra this week, outlining HMRI’s ground-breaking model of translation.

“The Ambassador wants to learn more about our environment in the Hunter and outline more ways to support and progress these linkages with Sweden,” Professor Nilsson said.

“Our respiratory, cancer and stroke groups are already working very closely with their counterparts in Sweden to develop new treatments and therapies and there are many more opportunities like these across the research spectrum.”

Accompanying the Swedish delegation is Professor Göran Roos, Director of Innovation Performance Australia and a pioneer of modern intellectual capital for science, along with representatives from AstraZeneca and IMIX.

The group will tour the HMRI Building before visiting the Newcastle Institute for Energy & Resources facility at Shortland. Talks are also planned with the Lord Mayor of Newcastle Cr Nuatali Nelmes and University of Newcastle Vice Chancellor Professor Caroline McMillen.

* HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.