It is ironic that Ann Angel had to go overseas to find out that some of the best medical devices and health services expertise in the world existed in her own backyard – at Flinders University.
The Chief Executive Officer of RianCorp Pty Ltd – a company that pioneered the use of low level lasers to treat lymphoedema, a swelling of the arms that sometimes follows breast cancer surgery – found that Flinders researchers were highly regarded by their peers but sometimes little known in Australia.
Ms Angel is now playing a part in remedying that situation as the Project Manager of the Medical Device Partnering Program led by Flinders University – a highly effective research and development program funded by the South Australian Government in partnership with the University of Adelaide, University of South Australia, Novita Children’s Services and the Office for the Ageing.
At the recent Southern Innovation Forum, Ms Angel recounted her experience of a successful collaboration between the private sector and Flinders University over a period of five years to 2006 when RianCorp received the Food and Drug Administration approval required to operate in the United States.
Ms Angel said that the knowledge and experience she tapped at Flinders was vital to successfully gaining FDA approval.
“Flinders has the depth of research expertise and understanding that companies, particularly smaller companies, cannot afford in-house. So companies are able to tap into that intellectual knowledge available at the University rather than hiring some key research staff,” Ms Angel said.
“However, I have found that some of the researchers are reluctant to fly their own flags and it was only while discussing our lymphoedema treatment with overseas colleagues that I found out how well Flinders was regarded,” she said.
“The collaborative relationship is on-going in RianCorp’s case. I feed information that I hear back to the researchers who can interpret it for me and now, when the Flinders people have commercial queries, I can help out on that front.”
The Medical Device Partnering Program was established with State Government support two years ago and has now helped 68 companies – from early stage feasibility and analytical work to advice on product commercialisation.
The success of the program has recently led the State Government to announce that it plans to spend $2 million expanding the program nationally over the next four years.