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Challenge

Vaxxas was founded in 2011 as a spin-off company from the Australian Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology at the University of Queensland (UQ).

Dr Megha Budhwani (middle) holding the Vaxxas patch and Dr Angus Forster (Vaxxas CDOO) on the left with Vaxxas Senior Preclinical Scientist, Sandra Depelsenaire (right)

Vaxxas aims to transform the vaccination field by avoiding the need for needles. The company’s flagship product, the Nanopatch, encompasses an array of micro needles that collectively deliver vaccines and immuno-therapeutics into the skin. Vaxxas has already completed Phase 1 clinical trials in Australia demonstrating this method of vaccination can improve immune responses, decrease the amount of vaccine required to induce protecting, simplify the vaccination process and enable elevated storage temperatures of vaccines for prolonged periods of time. Vaxxas has grown from a small start-up to a company with 60 full time employees based at the Translational Research Institute in Brisbane and is collaborating with large pharma, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and US Government of vaccine development projects.

This project is designed to assist Vaxxas to deliver the world’s first Nanopatch vaccine technology. This technology will negate the need of a needle-syringe system, adjuvant and refrigeration for vaccine delivery.

Solution

This project will implement Vaxxas’ Nanopatch into a manufacturer’s vaccine and help progress the product through necessary preclinical, clinical, regulatory and manufacturing scale-up activities to make it ready for market. The Fellowship will provide UQ Postdoctoral Research Fellow Dr Megha Budhwani with an exciting opportunity to bring her vaccine and immunology expertise to the first 3 years of the project whilst being supervised by UQ’s Prof. Ian Frazer AC, co-inventor of the HPV vaccine. Throughout the project Dr Budhwani will be embedded into the cross functional Vaxxas project team and work under the mentorship of Vaxxas Chief Development and Operations Officer Dr Forster. Dr Budhwani will also be able to continue her work within Prof. Ian Frazer’s group.

Results

Key to the success of such long-term industrial research projects is establishing strong foundations in the early stages of the project and especially building a strong relationship with the development partner. Dr Budhwani has undertaken training in International Council of Harmonisation of Technical Requirements for Pharmaceuticals for Human Use (ICH) and Vaxxas Quality Management System guidelines. Importantly Megha has also spent significant time with the Vaxxas team in growing and understanding of the company’s requirement and contributing ideas and scientific input to team meetings as well as presenting and discussing data and project progress with the development partner. This will allow Megha to be able to confidently chart a path forward in this project with a keen understanding of Vaxxas’ methodologies and market drivers.

The STEM+ Business program delivers multiple impacts through SME projects including enhancing Research Organisation engagement with industry. Prof. Frazer has noted several other members of his research group are now exploring the possibilities of industry experience as part of their training in Science methodology with one of his students now seeking commercial employment and others being more interested in this area than they previously were.

The SIEF Ross Metcalf STEM+ Business project, with the Fellowship awarded to Dr Megha Budhwani has been of exceptional value to our company and team. Through this project, and the fellowship recipient, we have formed a very close relationship with the research organisation (UQ) as well as Dr Budhwani and her research supervisor Professor Ian Frazer.

Dr Angus Forster, Chief Development and Operating Officer, Vaxxas

  

SIEF Ross Metcalf STEM+ Business Fellowship program has exceeded my expectations. My aim with this program was to achieve experience with research in a life sciences oriented enterprise; I have not only learnt how research and development operates in an industry environment but also how the company takes an idea to market and how different teams within the organisation collaborate to take the idea through different stages of its development.

— DrMegha Budhwani, SIEF Ross Metcalf STEM+ Fellow, University of Queensland

This program is supported by the Science and Industry Endowment Fund (SIEF).

For further information and to apply, please get in touch with our dedicated STEM+ Business Manager.

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