Life science leading lights celebrated with Industry Excellence Awards


The prestigious Industry Excellence Awards were announced at the AusBiotech + Invest 2020 national conference, during the biggest week in biotech. The AusBiotech and Johnson & Johnson Innovation Industry Excellence Awards recognise and celebrate life science leaders who are championing the sector and the Australian community through the worst pandemic and greatest collaboration seen in the sector.

Congratulations to 2020’s winners: COVID-19 Life Science Sector Innovation Award: Ellume; Dual COVID-19 Life Science Sector Collaboration Award: University of Queensland; and the Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre; Dual COVID-19 Communication Leaders Award: Dr Rob Grenfell, Health and Biosecurity Director, CSIRO; and Professor Sharon Lewin AO, Director, Doherty Institute.

AusBiotech + Invest 2020 delegates voted for the Industry’s Choice Award; this was awarded during the conference closing -  congratulations to the University of Queensland for being awarded the winner.

Lorraine Chiroiu, CEO, AusBiotech, said: “We received a phenomenal number of high-quality nominations, and it made the decisions incredibly difficult. The extraordinary achievements that these individuals and companies have delivered in response to COVID-19, has been a truly remarkable illumination of the importance of our sector to the health, well-being and economic security of all Australians within a very difficult year. The Awards act as a celebration of the innovation excellence happening across the country.”

Ms Kathy Connell, Senior Director New Ventures, ANZ, Johnson & Johnson Innovation, who announced the Awards, said: “Johnson & Johnson Innovation is delighted to sponsor these Awards for the eighth consecutive year. This year the Industry Excellence Awards recognise the unsung heroes who are making meaningful contributions to, or whose achievements or response has significantly impacted patient improvements, Australian public health, or the Australian biotechnology industry. We are incredibly proud of Australia’s contribution.”

More on the 2020 winners

COVID-19 Life Science Sector Innovation Award: Ellume

Ellume's point-of-care COVID-19 test provides rapid and accurate identification of the virus, making it an effective tool in the global management of the pandemic.

Ellume is a Queensland-based digital diagnostics company that has created a high-performance COVID-19 antigen test capable of delivering results in less than 15 minutes. Their technology will be game-changing as the world moves into a ‘COVID-normal’ way of living; it enables rapid detection of the virus and provides real-time reporting of positive test results for efficient contact tracing. Taking 10 years to develop the core technology, the company pivoted to develop the test within four months.

In October 2020, Ellume was awarded US$30m funding by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support the accelerated clinical testing and manufacturing scale-up of the company’s COVID-19 antigen tests. It has already shipped the first batch to the US for clinical trials, where the virus is widespread in the community. View footage of Ellume’s labs here.

Dual COVID-19 Life Science Sector Collaboration Award: University of Queensland; and the Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre.

University of Queensland

The University of Queensland (UQ) sits at the centre of dozens of global collaborations and enabling agreements, mobilising quickly in their fight against COVID-19. Its partnering response across academic and industry partners – aided by Uniquest - includes CEPI, CSL, Doherty Institute, WHO Collaborating Centre, ANU, CSIRO, Hong Kong University, TetraQ, Patheon, Cytiva, Sypharma, Nucleus Network, GSK, Dynavax, Lonza, Life Technologies, Viroclinics Xplore, Syneos and Berkeley Lights. It has also been working closely with Federal and Queensland governments, philanthropists and donors. These partnerships aim to rapidly translate and develop the COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

Researchers have worked tirelessly to take the vaccine successfully through Phase 1 trials and into CSL’s preparation for Phase 2B/3 trials planned for December 2020. Research, clinical, and product development work that would normally take years has been accelerated into weeks and months, and planning that would typically take place sequentially is occurring simultaneously. This Australian and international research collaboration has already been extraordinary, and has the potential to be world changing.

An additional collaboration involving QUT, WEHI and UQ used a first-in-Australia approach to identify a genetic signature specific to patients with severe COVID-19, where excessive inflammation in the lungs can be deadly. While validation is required, this is likely to represent a prognostic signature to identify those most at risk among seriously ill patients – potentially saving lives.

Monash University, Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre

In response to the pandemic, the Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre (MMIC) prioritised resource allocation to COVID-19 related projects and provided formulation development support to Victorian biotechnology companies, research institutes and companies beyond Victoria in response to the global pandemic.

MMIC has provided assistance to numerous COVID-19 therapies in various stages of development by Australian biotechnology companies, including with early-stage development of intranasal formulations and a sizeable collaborative programme between The Peter Doherty Institute, University of Melbourne, Monash University, Certara, CSIRO, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and clinicians from Royal Melbourne Hospital, Northern Health, St Vincent’s Hospital to investigate the potential to repurpose an existing medication to reduce the spread and severity of COVID-19 infections.

Dual COVID-19 Communication Leaders’ Award winners: Dr Rob Grenfell, Health and Biosecurity Director, CSIRO; and Professor Sharon Lewin AO, Director, Doherty Institute

Dr Rob Grenfell, Health and Biosecurity Director, CSIRO

Dr Rob Grenfell, CSIRO’s Health and Biosecurity Director, has emerged as a trusted voice on the pandemic public health measures and the race to find a vaccine, engaging Government, businesses, and medical and NGO communities. As the primary COVID-19 spokesperson for CSIRO, and drawing on 30 years’ experience as a general practitioner and in public health, he has provided a trusted and evidence-based voice to keep the Australian public informed on the latest developments on COVID-19, from vaccines to the public health response.

Since January 2020, Dr Grenfell has engaged on complex and evolving subject matter, and in more than a hundred media interviews, resulting in more than 4,000 news stories (including syndications) reaching at least 64.8 million people in Australia alone. 

Professor Sharon Lewin AO, Director, Doherty Institute

Professor Lewin has worked tirelessly at the helm of the Doherty Institute and was recently appointed a member of the Victorian COVID Advisory Group, providing advice to the Victorian Treasurer on safely easing COVID-19 restrictions for various industries.

Professor Lewin has given a huge number of Australian and international media interviews during the pandemic, offering measured, clear, concise explanations of complex virological, immunological and epidemiology concepts. She has ensured the public health messaging is helpful, easy-to-understand and in line with global evidence about COVID-19.

The Institute has hosted high profile visits and information sessions for politicians and records video messages offering Doherty Institute staff advice, comfort and information on lockdown messages.

See previous Industry Excellence Award winners here.