AITHM's Dr Sandip Kamath recently undertook an internship with MCRF. He took some time to tell us a little more about his experiences.
What was your intention to go for the MRCF internship?
My research focus is on allergic diseases that involves developing improved diagnostic platforms and protein- or peptide- based therapeutic candidates for pre-clinical evaluation. Working in a research application-based environment, I wanted to understand the pathway to be taken for lab-based science to reach the clinic and ultimately to patients. The internship at MRCF was an excellent opportunity to learn the whole process, efforts, and timelines that should be taken into account to commercialise potential research ideas. My intention for the internship was to understand this process and incorporate this experience into my research strategy over the next 4-5 years.
What did you do there in those 2 weeks?
- I was involved in the due diligence process for two preliminary investment proposals (PIP) working alongside investment managers. My role was to critically analyse the scientific backing of the research ideas, analysing the pilot data, the market size, previous investment in related therapeutics and successful exits by startup companies for the same class.
- I was given an opportunity to make a presentation to the team on one of the potential PIPs, explaining the strong points and novelty of the idea, drawbacks and risk factors, and propose an investment plan that would minimise the initial risk with high chances of a good return on investment.
- I had the opportunity to pick the brains of investment managers with expertise in specific medical fields, about the investment structure of venture capital, and general knowledge on investment and risk assessment.
What type of mentorship did you receive from the investment managers?
Working with the investment managers was instrumental to my steep learning curve during the internship. With their guidance, I was able to understand the financial aspects of funding research ideas, and various investment strategies with a focus on minimising the risk of failure and optimising the chances of an early exit of the startup while meeting their return-on-investment targets. An excellent learning (informal) environment was provided; given a chance to ask any questions to the investment managers, particularly on the non-scientific areas such as market research, capitalisation plans, etc.
Did you attend any of their meetings?
Yes, I attended the MRCF’s Internal Review Committee (IRC) meeting held in Sydney, along with other participants from JCU. This review meeting was an opportunity to witness the preliminary research presentations given by researchers from the affiliated institutions of their research pitch for potential funding by the MRCF, as well as presentations on updates by current startups within the MRCF to fellow committee members.
What did you learn from an academic medical researcher’s perspective about research commercialisation?
Commercialisation of academic-based medical research is a multi-factorial process. In contrast to research priorities, the factors that are considered for commercialisation are specific market size, novelty of the research idea (for e.g. first-in-class drugs), probability of technical or health risks (side effects), intellectual property ownership etc. As a researcher, it is essential to gain knowledge of these factors before utilising research funding, time and resources to a particular research project, especially when the field is highly application-based.
How did this internship change your approach to research?
As a biomedical researcher working on potential therapeutic molecules to be used in humans, I would be inclined to put added focus on the toxicity and side effects of potential molecules during initial development and pre-clinical evaluation. It is not always possible to predict the outcomes of research and target a specific application at such early stages of research and development, but understanding the direction that the research ideas take after entering the commercialisation process is always an added advantage.
I am very thankful to Dr Mike Molinari from MRCF to have given me this opportunity to work as an intern. This internship was made possible with the support of Prof Louis Schofield, Prof Maxine Whitaker, Dr Andrew Johnson from AITHM and Ms. Rochelle Finlay from the Research Innovation Office.