Professor Michael Good AO talks about NFMRI funding and his research into a new Strep vaccine for rheumatic heart disease and deep tissue infections
The ‘Valley of Death’ grant that we recently received from the National Foundation for Medical Research and Innovation (NFMRI) has been a Godsend to our streptococcal vaccine project.
Whist there are many charitable foundations, the NFMRI is unique in that its strategy targets funding gaps and provides value-adding support to advance early biomedical innovations, helping innovations to become attractive to future collaborators and investors. Having said this, the NFMRI appreciates and respects the broad range of funding requirements for medical research. The benefit in specifically targeting their support towards three social investment portfolios is that it will assist our academic discoveries become medical innovations and products of tomorrow, not simply ‘die on the vine’.
Over the last 20 years we have received significant funding from Government and charitable organisations to fund the ‘discovery’ aspects of a novel vaccine candidate that we believe can prevent infections with group A streptococci and prevent the very serious consequences of rheumatic heart disease and deep tissue infections, that collectively result in the loss of over 500,000 lives per year. Australia’s Aboriginal population suffer the highest reported rates of streptococcal disease in the world.
To translate these discoveries into a product, we needed to prepare the vaccine at a high standard of quality (‘GMP’) and such product manufacture is very expensive and usually outside the scope and ability of most funding sources. Our NFMRI grant will specifically fund the vaccine manufacture and we can then use other sources to provide salary support for our trial. Thus, NFMRI is helping us in a substantial way to bridge the ‘valley of death’. We expect that success with this trial will position us to then attract major funding from the pharmaceutical industry and indeed, such discussions with Pharma have already commenced.
Support for complementary research such as preclinical safety and manufacturing studies (often performed by external laboratories) with quality systems such as GMP, GLP and ISO is vital in progressing innovations to a stage where they can compete internationally and attract investors and collaborators.
With specific skills, networks and experience around biotechnology, research translation and commercialisation, the NFMRI is helping innovations by supporting research activities that would not normally attract grant funding yet are highly critical for the success of the research and the innovation. These may require activities outside of the chief investigator’s laboratories.
We were glad to receive this targeted support, as it not only helps to advance our discovery, but also improve the outcome of the funding received from other bodies.
Professor Michael Good is the Principal Research Leader & NHMRC Australia Fellow, Institute for Glycomics at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia.
This will form part of our conference program discussion at our inaugural Medical Research Innovation Conference on 9-10 September 2015 in Sydney.