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UniQuest Pty Limited, The University of Queensland’s (UQ) main commercialisation company, congratulates Professor Mark Kendall and his NanopatchTM research team at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology on being awarded the overall prize and Manufacturing and High-tech Design category winner of The Australian's inauguralInnovation Challenge.

The revolutionary vaccine delivery technology is one of three UQ research-based innovations associated with UniQuest to have been selected in the short-list of 35 Professional Category finalists for the $75,000 awards program.

UniQuest Managing Director, David Henderson, said the awards capped off a year of significant milestones for the Nanopatch research and commercialisation teams, including winning the Eureka Prize for Research by an Interdisciplinary Team.

“In August Vaxxas Pty Ltd, the start-up company established to commercialise the Nanopatch technology, secured a A$15 million investment from a syndicate of Australian and international venture capital funds,” Mr Henderson explained.

“The deal was one of Australia’s largest first round start-up investments in a university technology, the first investment for syndicate members OneVenturesBrandon Capital and the Medical Research Commercialisation Fund in Queensland, and the first investment in Australia for US-based Healthcare Ventures.

“Winning The Australian's inaugural Innovation Challenge is a further endorsement of the value our universities are contributing, not only to the national innovation economy and reputation, but also to the health of communities all around the world.”

Smaller than a postage stamp and working via the skin, the Nanopatch is expected to change the way vaccines are delivered in the future, particularly in developing countries. As well as potentially eliminating pain associated with injection and refrigeration requirements, and reducing the cost of many syringe-delivered vaccines, the Nanopatch has the potential to dramatically improve patient convenience, reduce the complications associated with needle phobia, and address key global health issues of needle stick injuries and cross contamination.

Another vaccine breakthrough to make the finals in the Health category is being developed by Professor Ranjeny Thomas and her team at the UQ Diamantina Institute. Caused by immune system dysfunction, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) affects millions of people worldwide, destroying joints and causing cardiovascular complications that can reduce life spans by 10 years. Professor Ranjeny’s innovation targets the underlying cause of the disease, rather than the symptoms, potentially avoiding common side effects of existing immunosuppressant drug therapies, such as infection susceptibility.

In the Environment category, Dr Laurence Rossato and her research team in UQ’s Centre for Mined Land Rehabilitationreceived recognition when their technology for promoting vegetation growth at mine sites contaminated by heavy metals was selected as a finalist. This innovation also recently won a 2011 Australia Mining Prospect Award for Excellence in Environmental Management.

Mr Henderson said the publicity arising from awards programs like the Innovation Challenge can be helpful in attracting commercial partners for university research projects.

“Australians are always very proud of ‘home-grown’ inventions, whether they are borne from a backyard shed or discovered in our world-class scientific research facilities. We’re proud to have helped the researchers develop their ideas to the point where they can be recognised as new products offering both a financial and a societal return on investment.”

Painless vaccinations: UQ TV video clip