Ben Boyd: Creating new medicines of the future

Ben BoydWhat do you get when you put a pharmaceutical scientist and an engineer together? For Professor Ben Boyd, it was career-changing.

As part of a Monash Research Accelerator (MRA) program for early-mid career researchers, Ben was teamed up with Head of Materials Science and Engineering, Professor Nick Birbilis. They had less than an hour to discuss, brainstorm and sketch up an original research project.

The result? A new drug delivery system that could potentially change the way we perform implants.

When pharmacy meets engineering

The MRA program enables researchers at the start of their careers to collaborate and learn from other researchers across the university. “It’s about pairing people that normally would not speak to each other,” said Ben. “Even at a conference.”

In this case, Nick was interested in magnesium as a metal which corrodes in the body without being toxic. While Ben had a background in pharmaceutical science and drug delivery. Together, they came up with the idea of using magnesium as a material for slow release drug delivery, particularly useful  for orthopaedic implants.

Pushing the boundaries in medicine

Ben and Nick’s collaboration has opened new doorways for magnesium to be used in medical science. For example, because of its similarities to the human bone, magnesium could replace titanium in hip implants.

As a drug delivery system, doctors could use magnesium to incorporate antibiotics into implants, which could then be released over time, preventing post-surgery infection.

“It started out as a random pairing,” Ben says. “But it’s led to us having joint students working on the project, and an interdisciplinary research grant that we’re looking to advance with national funding next year.”

Supportive Monash culture

Ben is currently Chief Investigator at the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Convergence Bio-Nano Science and Technology, studying how nanoparticles and nanomaterials interact in a biological setting.

He attributes his success to an environment that genuinely champions good research. “There’s a real supportive culture here,” he says. “It’s not just about giving researchers money – it’s about encouraging us to do our best.”

From its research hubs, to its cross-disciplinary programs, to the way the precincts are built, Monash encourages and enables collaborations to happen. “For example, I can walk across campus to grab a coffee and have five or six discussions with various people from different areas.”

Monash has a unique culture that is different from many other universities.  “It’s the ability to take our work seriously, but not take ourselves too seriously that is an important feature of Monash’s culture.”

See Ben's profile