Best early-stage project at awarded at AusMedtech 2023


A project from QIMR Berghofer was announced as the winner of the Best Translational Research at AusMedtech 2023’s Early-Stage Innovation Forum (ESIF) held in Adelaide last week.

A novel ovarian blood cancer diagnostic presented by QIMR Berghofer Associate Professor Michelle Hill was named the ultimate winner at the ESIF rapid-fire pitch event.

The twice-annual ESIF competition featured presentations from Australia's local research institutes, universities, hospitals and pre-series A companies last week in medical devices and diagnostics, digital health and enabling technologies.

Recently held at AusMedtech 2023 in Adelaide, 13 presenters from across Australia received feedback intended to be helpful to their technology’s commercialisation journey from an expert panel.

Associate Professor Hill represented QIMR Berghofer Precision and Systems Biomedicine Laboratory to present a novel glycosylation-focused proteomics platform to examine blood protein glycosylation changes known to occur during cancer development.

Ovarian cancer is the most common cause of gynaecological cancer death. It has been dubbed the “silent killer” because most patients are diagnosed at late stages when only 20 per cent of patients survive five years post-diagnosis. If caught early, ovarian cancer has a high rate of survival (93 per cent).

Applying this platform to age-matched case-control serum samples from the UK and Australia, the Laboratory discovered and validated 62 biomarkers significantly different from patients with ovarian cancer and those with benign conditions or healthy women.

In addition to blood samples taken at diagnosis, evaluated a small set of blood samples that were collected several months before ovarian cancer diagnosis (average 11 months). Excitingly, four markers were altered months before diagnosis, showing great promise for ovarian cancer screening.  

“It was a really uplifting experience to hear all the presentations and chat with some of the presenters afterwards. The feedback from the panel will help to further refine the pitch as I will be looking for investors for my startup to commercialise the discovered biomarkers to new blood tests for ovarian cancer diagnosis and early detection,” said Associate Profesor Hill.

The findings were published in Proteomics Clinical Applications in April 2023.

The next stage of the project is to validate the biomarkers in further samples, prior to finalising ovarian cancer diagnostic and screening blood tests for clinical studies to establish clinical utility. The ultimate goal is to obtain regulatory approval for these new ovarian cancer tests, which will transform women’s health management.

The AusMedtech 2023 ESIF was judged by a panel of experts including Sarah Meibusch (OneVentures), Ashley Wittorf (Johnson & Johnson Medtech), Michelle Gallaher (Opyl), and Eddie Walker (FB Rice).

The next ESIF will be therapeutics focused and will be held at AusBiotech 2023 happening from November 1-3 in Brisbane.