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Cancer treatment among first to make Research Connections

27 January 2015

An innovative Australian biotech company undertaking ground breaking research into treatments for diseases like brain cancer is among the first to benefit from an Australian Government programme designed to link businesses with researchers.

Sirtex Medical Ltd will work with the University of Sydney to diversify into new treatments based on early-stage research developed from its liver cancer treatment.

Industry and Science Minister Ian Macfarlane said Sirtex, a single-product company, would match the $50,000 funding from the Research Connections element of the government’s $484.2 million Entrepreneurs’ Infrastructure Programme to help to broaden its product base.

Sirtex, a Sydney based global life-sciences company, is one of the first 10 projects to receive assistance from the Research Connections element which opened to applications late last year.

“Research Connections helps small and medium business collaborate with researchers to develop new ideas with commercial potential and is an essential element of helping Australian industry to become more productive and competitive,” Mr Macfarlane said.

“Research Connections facilitators are assisting businesses like Sirtex identify critical and strategic research needs and opportunities, then provide pathways for researcher-business cooperation and engagement on new products and processes.

“Sirtex has a track record in innovation through its world-leading technology that delivers radiation therapy for terminally ill liver cancer patients. While it isn’t a cure for cancer, its small-particle technology extends lives through increasing tumour shrinkage and remission in patients.

“Research has raised the possibility of applying this nano-particle technology to treating brain cancer, in ophthalmology and in stem cell science.”

Dr Steve Jones, Sirtex’s global head of research and development, said Research Connections assistance would offset concerns about the early-stage, high-risk nature of the research.

“The funding through Research Connections will help get our research moving forward, and that is extremely useful for us, because it’s one thing having this fantastic product, but another to have a commercially viable application for it,” Dr Jones said.

“We have quite an extensive R&D programme, and we collaborate as much as possible with external universities and high profile research organisations rather than trying to do everything in-house.”

The Entrepreneurs’ Infrastructure Programme is the Australian Government’s flagship initiative to build business competitiveness and productivity at the firm level under the government’s Industry Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda.

The agenda is a business-focused element of the Australian Government’s broader Economic Action Strategy and brings together and builds upon other economic reforms to make the most of Australia’s strengths and business opportunities.

Details of the 10 recipients of assistance from Research Connections is available at www.business.gov.au/RCGrants

Media contacts: Mr Macfarlane's office 02 6277 7070