Faculty Award for Research Enterprise

The award celebrates successful, enduring partnerships with industry, government and other organisation. This award is for researchers who have achieved, or are achieving, excellence in innovation and enterprise.

2022 Bernard Flynn

Sphingolipids which are an extremely diverse set of lipid molecules (est. > 10,000 species) with important roles in cell membrane dynamics, trafficking of other biomolecules (endosomes and exosomes), cell-signaling and epigenetic modulation. Dysregulation of sphingolipid biosynthesis and signaling underpins pathophysiological events in many diseases: cancer; autoimmune disease; inflammation; neurodegeneration; infection; and cardiometabolic disease. Over the last 12 years A/Prof Bernie Flynn’s group has been undertaking chemical-biology studies of sphingolipid pathways. They use in-house designed small molecules to intercept sphingolipid biosynthesis and signaling. These efforts have helped gain a better understanding of the role of specific sphingolipids in disease and generated new drug leads to intercept them.

In 2021 Bernie founded Ankere Therapeutics with his long-term collaborator Prof Stuart Pitson (UniSA). Ankere is further advancing a new approach developed by Bernie’s group for targeting a key sphingolipid enzyme through induced degradation.  The associated drug leads (protein-degraders) are being explored as new therapies for respiratory diseases.

2021 Jonathan Baell

Jonathan discovers new medicines for treating diseases with unmet medical needs with a particular focus on cancer and infectious diseases. His track record is hallmarked by high quality research outcomes in a variety of different areas, as exemplified by a broad and diverse suite of personally driven but widely collaborative patents integrated with subsequent high-quality publications.

With more than 70 granted patents, throughout his career Jonathan has been a driving force in facilitating commercial outcomes from academic research. At any given time, he incubates a variety of enterprising projects to maximise the chances of multiple translational outputs. He is Director of the Australian Translational Medicinal Chemistry Facility (ATMCF), located at MIPS and works with researchers nationwide in order to translate biomedical research outcomes. The Facility has secured over $7M in funding to enable the de-risking of projects through medicinal chemistry optimisation. In addition to the enterprise embodied in the ATMCF, Jonathan’s own patented KAT6A anticancer drug candidates have catalysed a global focus by Pharma on KATs as druggable targets. This innovative KAT6A work also has underpinned several awards, including Australia’s highest medicinal chemistry award, the Adrien Albert Award for Sustained Excellence in Medicinal Chemistry (2018), the Monash University Research Award for the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmacology (2019), the Scientific Achievement Award in Drug Discovery and Development (2020), awarded by the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, and in 2021 The Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE) Clunies Ross Award for Knowledge Commercialisation.

2020 Michelle McIntosh

Michelle McIntosh is the Director of the Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre located at MIPS which is supporting Victorian pharmaceutical and allied industries, formulates and develops new products, and is providing a platform for workforce development through undergraduate placements and internships.

The Partnership between the Victorian Government and MIPS was announced in 2016, supports 42 companies and has 56% return customers. The Centre has received over $8M in funding and employs 15 staff and facilitates 45 student placements. The Centre has been awarded the AusBiotech and Johnson & Johnson Industry Excellence Award 2020: Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre COVID-19 Life Science Collaboration Industry Excellence Award.

2019 Bernard Flynn

Bernard Flynn has developed a new research program in the area of Chemical Biology. A focus of his Chemical Biology studies is in the design of a biased library of non-lipid sphingolipid mimetics (NLSMs) to probe sphingolipid biosynthesis and signalling.

Bernie’s group have been the first to identify that a specific enzyme in the sphingolipid biosynthesis pathway that can be targeted for therapeutic benefit in fibrotic disease. They have also developed the first low nanomolar inhibitors of this target.

To further the translational impact of this research, Bernie led a commercialisation effort culminating in the start-up company Cincera Therapeutics. Cincera has been founded to develop a first-in-class sphingolipid-targeting antifibrotic for clinical development. Stuart Pitson (UniSA) has been a collaborator of Bernie’s over the last 7 years and Cincera is a joint venture between Monash and UniSA (Monash 85%; UniSA 15% equity). In an investment deal with the Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF) Cincera has secured $7.0M for lead optimisation and preclinical development of its new therapy.