Industry partnerships plant seeds for global impact 

Medical and social innovations feature in a range of new seed grants announced for progressive Flinders University researchers and industry partners.

The Flinders University Innovation Partnership Seed grants of up to $25,000 encourage new partner organisation-linked research and provide seed-funding to assist in developing long-term research engagement with partner organisations leading to high quality external grant applications.

The latest round of more than $200,000 in Flinders Innovation Partnership Seed Grants involves nine chief investigators bringing together partners as diverse as SA Water and the Department of Education, to Parkinson’s SA, the SA Council of Social Service (SACOSS), Concordia College, Griffith University and the Queensland University of Technology, LifeHealthcare, the Bone Clinic and Australia Munitions.

The projects aim to have lasting and global impact, including alternative surgery and treatments for debilitating conditions.

Among the industry partnership projects announced this month is an international project which adds to a long list of Flinders University research collaborations in China.

The researchers are taking a novel approach to reducing the ill effects of chemotherapy and other cancer therapies, Flinders University biomedical researcher Dr Linlin Ma will work with the Shanxi Yulongxiang Agricultural Development Company to investigate the usefulness of more accessible and palatable use of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) via the medium of edible shiitake mushrooms.

The research, with Flinders colleague Dr Qi Liang and SA immunology researchers from the Basil Hetzel Institute Dr Ehud Hauben and Dr Kevin Fenix, will test the bioactive qualities of Hengshan Astragalus Shiitake (HAS) as a medium for consuming a popular immune-boosting herbal TCM known to reduce the side-effects of chemotherapies for colorectal and other cancers.

“We will first examine the transformation of this TCM (Astragalus Membranaceus) to HAS and characterise its bioactive components,” says Dr Ma, from the biomedical science team at the College of Medicine and Public Health, who also recently won a Flinders University Impact Seed Grant for Early Career Researchers to adapt gold nanoparticles in the imaging and treatment of colorectal cancer.

“Then using human colorectal cancer cells and immune cells in the laboratory, we will test the anti-carcinogenic effects as well as the immune-potentiating activities of the bioactive ingredients of this novel products.”

Used as a powdered functional food, the Hengshan Astragalus Shiitake has an appealing aroma and texture, which could be added to any drinks, cooked food or mixed in flour for baking.

Flinders University has a number of research collaborations in China, including the new State-funded China-Australia International Laboratory for Health Technologies with the Shandong Academy of Sciences in which Flinders expertise in medical equipment, digital health technologies and other native bioresources will also work closely with industry partners.

Professor Saint and Professor Spoehr, centre front, with some of the new research partners at Flinders University.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Robert Saint congratulated the researchers and thanked the various industry partners involved in the first round of the new Innovation Partnership Seed Grant program at Flinders University.

“We are looking forward to seeing these partnerships grow and flourish and not only contribute to strong research outcomes but also to the community,” Professor Saint says.

“Listening to the needs of the community, and contributing directly to the needs of the community, is critical to the University’s strategic plan and something Flinders University has always done – and these projects are another mechanism to see more of this.”

Professor John Spoehr, the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research Impact) and director of the Australian Industrial Transformation Institute at Flinders, says the program will widen the potential for University outreach and industry engagement.

The 2018 Flinders Innovation Partnership Seed Grant projects are:

  • Professor Fran Baum, director Southgate Institute for Health, Society and Equity,  with partner SACOSS will look to explain the increase in health inequalities in SA, trialling a case study to understand the influences of social and economic performance – with College of Medicine and Public Health co-investigators Dr Toby Freeman, Dr Toni Delany-Crowe, Dr Helen van Eyk and Lancaster University Professor Jennie Popay and University of Western Cape Professor David Sander.
  • Dr Cedric Bardy, human neurophysiology and genetics (College of Medicine and Public Health and SAHMRI), will partner with Parkinson’s SA to examine the genetic predispositions of people living with Parkinson’s disease to help discover a cure.
  • Associate Professor Jill Carr, biomedical science and virology researcher, will partner with SA Water to use intestinal enteroids to culture human norovirus to develop new areas in water safety and public health monitoring – with College of Medicine and Public Health collaborator Associate Professor Fiona Young.
  • Associate Professor John Costi, biomechanics and implants program (College of Science and Engineering) will partner with medical device company LifeHealthcare to develop a new injectable nucleus replacement to restore inter-vertebral disc function after spinal surgery. Flinders collaborators include Professor David Lewis and Associate Professor Ingo Koper.
  • Professor Michael Gradisar, director of the Flinders Child and Adolescent Sleep Clinic (College of Education, Psychology and Social Work), will partner with Concordia College as a Researcher in Residence to pilot a project for university-school collaborative mental health research. With Flinders Psychology Professor Tracey Wade.
  • Dr Linlin Ma (College of Medicine and Public Health) will partner with Shanxi Yulongxiang Agricultural Development Co Ltd to study the bioactivity of Hengshan Astragalus Shiitake as biological response modifiers in cancer therapy. With Flinders colleague Dr Qi Liang and Dr Ehud Hauben and Dr Kevin Aaron Fenix from the Basil Hetzel Institute for Translational Health Research.
  • Dr Kerrie Mackey-Smith (College of Education, Psychology and Social Work) will partner with the SA Department for Education and Apple (Australia) on a project entitled ‘Multi-modal childhoods: Emerging literacies and e-Learning for achievement in remote communities’. With Flinders early childhood experts Dr Jessie Jovanovic and Professor Nicola Yelland.
  • Dr Saulo Martelli, biomedical engineering lecturer (College of Science and Engineering), will partner with Griffith University, Queensland University of Technology and the Bone Clinic to develop personalised exercise treatment for bone health.
  • Associate Professor Martin Johnston (College of Science and Engineering) will partner with Australian Munitions to investigate better understanding the behaviour of environmentally friendly propellant formulations – with Flinders co-investigator Professor Claire Lenehan.

Research excellence at the Flinders precinct south of Adelaide will be celebrated at the second annual Flinders Health Research Week from 3-6 September 2018.



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