The Manning era: From the 1960s to 1980s

Nigel Manning was appointed dean to the college in 1962 and served in that role from 1963 to 1978. This was a transformative era in the college’s history.

Manning laid the foundations – the global outlook, industry engagement and research emphasis – that continue to characterise the faculty today.

Manning worked hard to nurture a research culture within the college, and to establish connections with other tertiary institutions. Strong industry links, a feature of the college since its inception, were formalised and extended too.

Manning recognised the value of original research to underpin pharmacy education and drive economic growth. These were not just questions of the  prestige of the college or the profession but a question of the interests of the wider community.

Manning sought grants and scholarships to allow research to proliferate – his tenacious approach to advancing the college was hugely successful.

– Professor Arthur Christopoulos

1961 Sissons Mural, Nigel Manning
Dean Nigel Manning standing in front of the Sissons Mural (1961)

Shop experience

Manning brought a wide range of skills and knowledge to the role of dean. He’d taught part time at the college, he’d published a large number of papers on practical pharmacy in the Australian Journal of Pharmacy, and he had served on the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science and the Pharmacy Board of Victoria.

He also had some 29 years worth of experience in retail pharmacy. His family owned a bustling pharmacy at Flinders Street Station. Manning brought a wealth of practical experience and business acumen to the role. Perhaps it was this experience in community pharmacy that animated his keen sense that the various facets of pharmacy – industry, education, research – needed to work in closer concert. After all, a community pharmacist has an intimate understanding of how decisions and advancements made at a government and industry level impact customers on a daily basis.

Mary Hemming, AO

Mary Hemming led the team that developed the now indispensable Therapeutic Guidelines, a list of standardised prescribing guidelines for doctors. The first edition, published in 1978, was created at just the right size to fit in a junior doctor’s coat pocket. By 1994, guidelines on optimising the use of analgesic, psychotropic, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal and respiratory drugs had also been published. Today, Therapeutic Guidelines is a thriving non-profit organisation, publishing guides that cover 17 medical disciplines and thousands of drugs. With Hemming at its helm for many years, Therapeutic Guidelines has also played an important role in training editorial and pharmacy teams in developing countries to create similar resources.

Read the profile of Mary Hemming AO in Monash Life here.

Jenny Marty
Jennifer Marty

Firsts

The Manning era was an era of many milestone “firsts” for the college. Anne Stafford was appointed the first fulltime Dean of Pharmacology in 1966.

And, after years of frustrated efforts and lobbying, the college finally gained the right to award Bachelor of Pharmacy degrees to graduates in 1967. The college was the first non-university school in Australia to be able to offer bachelors degrees (the first degree recipient was May Admans, who went on to become a teacher at the college, and then the Monash faculty, until 2006.)

The college also found ways, despite resistance and obstacles from various quarters, to offer masters and PhD research programs to its students, too. This was an important facet of building the college’s culture and capacity for original research. In 1978, Jenny Marty became the first person to receive the Doctorate of Pharmacy, conferred by the Pharmaceutical Society of Victoria (she went on to become a founding executive of Amgen Australia, among other achievements.)

Enduring ties

In 1967, the same year that the college won the right to award bachelor degrees, college graduate Ho-Leung Fung paved the way for international postgraduate research. He was accepted to study for a doctorate at Madison University in Wisconsin under the direction of renowned research pharmacist Professor Takeru Higuchi.

Higuchi had come to prominence in the 1960s for his groundbreaking work on drug delivery. He was known as “the father of physical pharmacy” and today is still famous for many extraordinary innovations, including the invention of the time-release medication capsule. At the University of Kansas, Higuchi also directed and mentored another celebrated college graduate, Val Stella.

1969 Prize Giving Ceremony Takeru Higuchi
Prizegiving ceremony in Cossar Hall, Professor Higuchi (1969)

This was the start of a great friendship between the University of Kansas and the college, and between faculty members and students at both institutions. Higuchi became a great friend of the college, collaborating on many initiatives, including the Institute of Drug Technology in Melbourne. The Higuchi Sculpture, located on the eastern wall of the Manning building, celebrates his achievements and friendship and was unveiled by Higuchi himself in 1972.

Together, in 1970, Manning and Higuchi established Intersearch, a graduate research exchange program between the University of Kansas and the college (today it’s called the Takeru Higuchi–Nigel Manning Intersearch program.) Among the first Intersearch doctorate scholars was celebrated research pharmacist and ex-faculty member, Barry Reed. By 1978, 25 college students had undertaken postgraduate work overseas.

Fung, Stella and Reed have all made exceptional contributions to pharmacy education and innovation. The relationships forged by them, and by Manning, have remained strong over the decades – and so has the energy for both teaching and research. Indeed Stella stayed on to teach pharmaceutical chemistry at the University of Kansas for 43 years. He retired at the end of 2020, holding 45 US patents, including for drugs used to treat HIV, Hepatitis B and schizophrenia.

Thomas Ko

Thomas Ko is a graduate of the Victorian College of Pharmacy and an internationally celebrated figure in pharmaceutical drug delivery innovation. He has gone on to develop more than 200 commercial products over more than four decades.

Ko is best known for his sublingual (under the tongue) technologies. He’s developed sublingual alternatives to injections for chronic diseases including diabetes, hepatitis B and C. He’s also developed non-invasive oral drug delivery immunotherapy for cancer patients.

Ko is widely recognised for his achievements in sports medicine, too. In 2008, he had a special role in the Beijing Olympics, developing electrolyte-based sports drinks that aided 125 Chinese mountaineers to relay the Olympic torch to the peak of Mount Everest.

Two steps forward

1975 saw another major achievement for the college, with the founding of the Institute of Drug Technology (IDT) in Melbourne. The idea for IDT was unprecedented; a brainchild of Manning’s that brought together many of his personal enthusiasms and visions.

The idea was for an industrial pharmacy that sold patents and technology but not actual products. Profits from sales were to be distributed for further research, ensuring that independent company but led by academics and with access to college equipment and expertise. The model was visionary, anticipating the decline of homegrown pharmaceutical manufacturing in Australia and the IP emphasis of the Australian industry towards the end of the 20th century and into the present day. IDT’s first director and chairman was Dr John Hersey, who had already demonstrated great capacity for collaboration with industry in his role as Sigma Industrial Reader in Pharmaceutics at the college. Reed was IDT’s first associate director and Higuchi was also a board member.

Hersey was succeeded as chairman and managing director by Graeme Blackman. Though the model and structure have changed, the IDT continues to conduct outstanding research and innovation. Today it is one of the few companies worldwide with extensive containment expertise in the production of potent, active pharmaceutical ingredients, especially anti-cancer drugs and cytoxic drugs.

IDT and Monash in the 21st century

IDT has recently entered an agreement with Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (MIPS) to produce drug product for the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine candidate being developed by Professor Colin Pouton and his team.

If successful, the vaccine will be the first Australian mRNA vaccine manufactured in a current Good Manufacturing Process (cGMP) facility.

The MIPS COVID-19 receptor binding domain vaccine project is funded by mRNA Victoria and the Commonwealth Government’s Medical Research Future Fund and the trials are expected to start by the end of 2021.

MuPharma

Non-invasive ultrasound-based technologies developed by MIPS' Professor Nicolas Voelcker have led to the founding of MuPharma. MuPharma devices are directly applied to permit drugs and vaccines to be delivered through tissue without the need for reformulation or penetration enhancers. The technology has potential in the administration of vaccines and in the treatment of conditions ranging from asthma to COVID-19 to chlamydia.

Dr Suffus, Dr Reed, Professor Higuchi (1975)
L-R: Dr Suffus, Dr Reed, Professor Higuchi (1975)

Research achievements

The college itself became a hub of highly original and exciting research during the Manning years. In the 1960s, Reed undertook research on pencil fish and made discoveries about melatonin. He was soon joined by Barrie Finnin in what was to become an extremely fruitful, decades-long collaboration. The pair were pioneers in cultivating cancer and heart cells, enabling new research on the impact of drugs on cells.

There were more opportunities for all academic staff to travel and increased resources for research too. These opportunities were seized with gusto. In the atmosphere of heightened academic rigour and energy, college staff found new partners including the National Heart Foundation, the Anti-Cancer Council and the Royal Park Psychiatric Hospital. They undertook research on the contraceptive pill, asthma drugs, insulin, antibiotics and more. By the early 1980s, there was a clear need for the college to establish a formal intellectual property policy. The original policy saw a threeway split between the inventor, the department and the college.

Paul Naismith

Paul Naismith seized upon strides in technology in the 1990s to enable pharmacists to offer more efficient and higher-quality care for patients. He brought his own extensive experience in community pharmacy and his interest in software development to the founding of his own company, Fred IT Group, in 1991. The company’s focus was originally to create faster dispensing software but in the intervening years has continued to lead major advances in digital health services including the PharmX internet ordering gateway and the national Australian Pharmacy Product Catalogue, as well as real-time claiming services via PBS Online.

100 years on

The centenary celebrations in 1981 reflected the college’s enhanced international standing and academic ambition with, perhaps, a degree of 80s glitz and glamour. To celebrate the 100th birthday, there was a ball at the Melbourne Town Hall and a week of seminars from visiting overseas professors, including Higuchi.

The celebrations wrapped up with a lavish banquet at the National Gallery of Victoria attended by some 400 guests. The college had come a long way from its early days in the rapidly repurposed County Court building on Swanston Street, where John Kruse had presided over classes from the old judge’s bench

1981 Centenary Ball Invitation
Centenary Ball Invitation (1981)