University partnerships demonstrate powerful community impact

University partnerships demonstrate powerful community impact

The University of Newcastle has been named a leader in the higher education sector for successfully developing and driving industry collaborations that have provided significant benefits to Australian communities and beyond.

Two projects, one led by Professor Darren Shafren and another led by Dr Terry Burns, were recognised for demonstrating high impact at the Business/Higher Education Round Table (BHERT) Awards held in Melbourne.

Now in their 20th year, the awards reinforce the important role business and university partnerships play in driving innovation, research and teaching developments across the country.

Recognising one of the largest biotech transactions in Australian history, Darren received the Outstanding Collaboration in Research and Development Award for his investigational anti-cancer therapy, CAVATAKâ.

Darren’s discovery of using a virus associated with the common cold to infect and kill cancer cells was acquired earlier this year by the pharmaceutical company MSD (tradename of Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, N.J. USA) for AU$502 million.

Now 20 years in the making following seed funding from Greater Bank and with ongoing support from the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI*), CAVATAK has progressed successfully with limited side effects through Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical trials in melanoma and other cancer indications.

Following successful trials as a standalone therapy, CAVATAK has also shown promise in trials in combination with one of MSD’s own immunotherapy which is already an approved drug in certain oncology settings.

Established in the year 2000 as a capacity building outreach program to inspire primary and high school students to engage in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects, the Science and Engineering Challenge (SEC) received the Outstanding Collaboration in Community Engagement Award.

Terry said the Science and Engineering Challenge is the typical Australian quiet achiever that has worked with a diverse range of partners around the country to become one of the longest-running and most successful STEM engagement programs, reaching almost 50,000 people every year.

“We’ve been working hard for almost two decades to inspire the next generation of STEM professionals, but we haven’t been doing it alone. We work together with local communities, businesses, professional groups and other universities to achieve mutually beneficial goals that none of us could accomplish by ourselves,” Terry said.

“This award not only recognises the University of Newcastle’s innovative approach to STEM outreach and the professional and hardworking SEC team, but also the large pool of dedicated and selfless partner organisations and individuals that are the Science and Engineering Challenge.”

University of Newcastle’s Acting Vice-Chancellor, Professor Kevin Hall, said the impact of the institution’s powerful industry partnerships extended across multiple fields.

“Our national and international collaborations are helping to develop commercially-viable solutions to challenges facing societies around the world,” Kevin said.

“These unique partnerships are also equipping the next generation of informed learners with the leadership and skills required to address future challenges as they arise.”

IMAGE | Dr Terry Burns and Professor Darren Shafren at the Business/Higher Education Round Table (BHERT) Awards.

University of Newcastle

The University of Newcastle is ranked in the top 3% of universities in the world according to two global independent ranking systems, and in the top 200 universities in the world for medicine. 

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