The power of industry partnerships

Nov 16 2018

The University of Newcastle has been named a leader in the higher education sector for successfully developing and driving industry collaborations that have provided significant benefits to Australian communities and beyond.

A project led by Professor Darren Shafren, from HMRI's Cancer and VIVA programs, was recognised for demonstrating high impact at the prestigious Business/Higher Education Round Table (BHERT) Awards held last night in Melbourne.

Now in its 20th year, the Awards reinforce the important role business and university partnerships play in driving innovation, research and teaching developments across the country.

Recognising one of the largest biotech transactions in Australian history, Professor Shafren received the Outstanding Collaboration in Research and Development Award for his investigational anti-cancer therapy, CAVATAK.

Professor Shafren’s ground-breaking discovery of using a virus associated with the common cold to infect and kill cancer cells was acquired earlier this year by pharmaceutical company Merck for AU$502 million. Now 20 years in the making following seed-funding from Greater Bank and with ongoing support from the Hunter Medical Research Institute, CAVATAK has progressed successfully with limited side effects through Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical trials in melanoma and other cancer indications.

Following successful trials as a standalone therapy, CAVATAK has also shown promise in trials in combination with one of MSD’s own immunotherapy which is already an approved drug in certain oncology settings.

University of Newcastle’s Acting Vice-Chancellor, Professor Kevin Hall, said the impact of the institution’s powerful industry partnerships extended across multiple fields. “Our national and international collaborations are helping to develop commercially viable solutions to challenges facing societies around the world,” Professor Hall said.

“These unique partnerships are also equipping the next generation of informed learners with the leadership and skills required to address future challenges as they arise.”

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