Flinders’ collaboration with Technische Universität Dresden (TU Dresden) is going from strength-to-strength, with a number of Flinders staff having visited TU Dresden in the past few months to take advantage of research and educational mobility opportunities.
TU Dresden is the largest university in Saxony, with approximately 37,000 students, 4,400 publicly funded staff members (among them over 500 professors) and approximately 3,500 externally funded staff members.
Flinders PhD student Katherine Morel furthers research into a possible therapeutic for prostate metastases
Earlier in the year, PhD student Katherine Morel travelled to TU Dresden for six weeks to further research into a possible therapeutic for prostate metastases with Professor Nils Cordes and his team at Dresden’s Centre for Radiation Research in Oncology, known as OncoRay.
Thanks to an SA Government grant to support a defined program of research and exchange over a 12 month period, Katherine was able to follow in Professor Pam Sykes’ steps, who travelled to TU Dresden earlier in the year to work with Prof. Cordes on developing the collaboration opportunity.
“The project on which I worked was in line with my PhD (investigating the role of parthenolide in the treatment and prevention of prostate cancer), but I was particularly interested in working with TU on the molecules around which they have a great deal of expertise, Ms Morel said.
“It was quite a unique cultural experience. The lab I was working in was very diverse, with many PhD students from around the world, including Egypt, China, The Netherlands, Austria and wider Germany. The reputation of this lab is such that people come from around the world specifically to work with Prof. Cordes and his team.
“I sought their expertise and knowledge to help investigate some of the effects we’ve observed in our experiments.
“We’ve noticed the drug I’ve been using seems to be very effective at reducing aggressive metastatic spread, which is a big problem clinically for patients, because with prostate cancer they often pass away from the metastatic disease rather than the actual prostate cancer, and there’s no effective therapy for it at the moment.
“We noticed this drug seemed to have an anti-metastatic effect in animal studies, and we wanted to further investigate its mechanism and potential clinical applications.
“In a nutshell, we took a wide range of tissues from studies I’ve been undertaking here, and screened them for particular molecules that are important in metastatic spread that we’d hypothesized would be altered by the drug we’re treating with.
“Given this is one of Prof. Cordes’ areas of expertise, I was able to get a great deal of help from the lab team in that regard. So I was screening my own tissues, but they had the expertise to assist when/if we saw altered expression in particular proteins. They could tell me what that meant and suggest further investigative opportunities.”
Katherine says the project has been a very successful venture in terms of producing interesting results, which has subsequently led to Flinders and TU Dresden jointly applying for an NIH grant to further the research.
Overall, Katherine says she had a wonderful experience during her six weeks in Dresden.
“Dresden itself is a beautiful, bustling city with lots of outdoor activities during the summer, lovely eateries, many art galleries and is beautifully placed in terms of being able to take short day trips to visit other towns and cities.
“All-in-all, my experience was extremely valuable both professionally and personally, and I would recommend that anyone who is offered the opportunity to undertake a similar experience seizes it.”
International Summer School on technology transfer
In September, Dr Gobert Lee (Flinders University), Dr Martin Lewis (SAHMRI), Ms Karen Patterson (Flinders University/CSIRO) and Dr Stephanie Agius (Flinders University), travelled to TU Dresden to participate in and attend its Summer School for Technology Transfer in the Life Sciences.
This high caliber summer school program attracts participants from all over the world and presents an amazing opportunity for staff and students with commercial ideas to participate in a technology transfer program, whereby opportunities are screened for commercial value, and business models are implemented.
Dr Martin Lewis said the benefits of attending were numerous.
“It was very beneficial to hear from experienced specialists in the various roles required for technology transfer, in addition to receiving constructive criticism from a range of highly qualified individuals on our potential intellectual property” Dr Lewis said.
Echoing Dr Lewis’s sentiments, PhD candidate in the Department of Immunology Karen Patterson said the summer school was the best course she has undertaken.
“The course was intensive, thorough and meticulous in content and participants were at a premium level, Ms Patterson said.
“One of the best things about it was that it was all done in a supportive and collegial environment where everyone in the course actively encouraged and advocated for each other.
“For a week we were immersed in every detail of technology transfer from identifying potential in our research to different financing strategies and options to maximise the type of company structure that would suit our research.
“We had access to patent and licencing lawyers, workshopped business models, and found out the best way to negotiate contracts and maintain business relationships from Flinders’ Stephanie Agius. We met with, talked to, and pitched projects to venture capitalists and technology transfer companies.
“All participants now have a global network of likeminded and qualified people to call on and potentially collaborate with on many different levels. I would highly encourage anyone who is interested in a career in research to apply for this course, particularly those in basic science”.
Dr Stephanie Agius, who was an invited speaker and mentor during the week, said the participant’s talent, passion and enthusiasm for science is to be commended, as is their willingness to understand the process and issues which need to be considered when commercialising research outcomes.
Generous funding by the German Research Foundation and the German Academic Exchange Service covered travel costs, accommodation and the cost of the summer school for all South Australian participants.
It is anticipated the Summer School will be offered in 2016 and Flinders University will once again be asked to participate in this exciting initiative.