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Representatives of the pharmaceutical industry, government and non-government organisations, came together last week to share their expertise and experience at The Bridge Program’s Residential Training Program.

The Bridge Program was launched in 2017 with the goal of boosting the commercial output of Australian pharmaceutical research by providing face-to-face and online training in research translation and the commercialisation of medicines.

The program, which is run by the Queensland University of Technology, involves a consortium of 15 pharmaceutical companies, universities and industry associations. It selects 100 participants from across Australia.

The three-day Residential Training Program, now in its second year, involved workshops, case studies, networking opportunities and presentations from national and international guests, including the CEO of Innovation and Science Australia, Charlie Day, Amgen’s vice president of Global Health Economics, Martin Zagari, and the federal member for Bennelong John Alexander,

Mr Zagari presented on the value of medicines in healthcare and society. He said value is being challenged by a shift in focus from value to cost.

According to Mr Zagari, fixating on initial investment costs was misleading, as almost all investments in medicines became cost neutral and most became cost saving.

“In the US, every dollar spent on medicines for congenital heart failure returned $3-$10 in savings,” he said. “Every 1% reduction in cancer mortality would deliver $500 billion in savings globally. We need to consider what the cost of not improving treatments will be.”

Mundipharma’s director of corporate affairs, Meriana Baxter, chaired a session that tasked cross-functional teams with delivering a mock pitch to industry executives role-playing as venture capital investors.

“I am so proud of the collective knowledge and experience that can be leveraged through this program,” said My-Linh Kha, executive director and general manager of Amgen Australia and New Zealand.

“I wish an opportunity like this existed when I began my career, and I am sure we’ll be seeing the impact of this effort for years and decades to come.”

John Alexander closed the program with a reflection on his time representing the electorate that is home to much of Australia's pharmaceutical industry.

“I’m so lucky to have had the opportunity to meet so many in this industry,” he said. “You are all motivated by the common goal of improving quality of life, extending life and addressing illness.”

The program’s final event for 2018 will be held in December at the Queensland University of Technology with keynote speaker Professor Ian Frazer, who is credited with discovering the technology leading to the development of the human papillomavirus vaccine.

The Bridge Program collaborators include Mundipharma, MTPConnect, AbbVie, Amgen, The Australian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association Limited (AVCAL), Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Celgene, CSL, Janssen-Cilag, Macquarie University, Medical Research Commercialisation Fund, Medicines Australia, MSD, Novartis and Pfizer

Photo: Left to Right: Kylie Birkinshaw (QUT); John Alexander MP; Kari Melvin (QUT); David Thomson (AbbVie); Professor Lyn Griffiths (QUT); My Linh Kha (Amgen); Sean Lybrand (Amgen); Anne-Maree Englund (MSD); Martin Zagari (Amgen); Kate Regnault (QUT); Kate Nelson (QUT).