For biotech company VivaZome Therapeutics, the story of co-location is a happy one: a dream research partnership, easy access to infrastructure, and a strong narrative for potential investors.
Each industry tenant at La Trobe University’s Melbourne (Bundoora) campus experiences different benefits from co-locating.
For three-year-old biotech company VivaZome Therapeutics, the story has been a happy one: a dream research partnership, easy access to crucial infrastructure and services, and a home-base that could capture the attention of investors.
VivaZome’s David Haylock says his company’s decision to base themselves in the Research & Innovation Precinct at La Trobe University revolved largely around one key researcher.
‘It really came about because of identification of core expertise at La Trobe University – expertise that was essential and really complementary for us,’ says David, an ex-CSIRO cell biologist with 40 years’ experience in his field.
He’s referring specifically to a molecular sciences expert Professor Andy Hill, who’s based at La Trobe.
‘We thought it'd be great to have Andy working with us and contributing to the aspirations of the company, so we reached out. He agreed to partner with VivaZome in an application for funding, and we were successful.’
A dream partnership
Now in its final year of ARC CRC-P funding, VivaZome is a six-person private company with a focus on exosomes – small extracellular vesicles that shuttle genetic information and proteins between cells. VivaZome’s key focus is applying exosome therapy to treat lower leg ischemia, a painful vascular condition that can sometimes result in patients losing their legs.
‘Critical limb ischemia, which is what it's referred to clinically, is not well-treated. So we're keen to get into the clinic ASAP and test this out.’
VivaZome wants to take its product to trial within the next 2-3 years, a goal that will require significant financial backing. David predicts their alignment with La Trobe will strengthen the company in its search for investors and capital.
‘Having La Trobe in your corner, and having that relationship really secure and strong, that's going to be an important part of the message we'll deliver to potential investors.
‘It's good to have a centre where you can put a VivaZome tag on the door and say, ‘this is us’. That's part of the storyline: you're embedded in the University Campus.’
Access all areas
Another benefit for VivaZome is access to infrastructure. ‘This is one of the big challenges for small companies, particularly around experimental work: it's costly, and often there's infrastructure required.
‘If you can go to a research hub with all the infrastructure, expertise, extensive capability, and knowledge base, that's ideal.’
To ensure a mutually beneficial relationship, the team at VivaZome deliver lectures and workshops for students on entrepreneurship and commercialisation focused on their experience in the biotech sector. This upskilling and real-world knowledge strengthens the student experience and provides the added benefit to VivaZome of being able to access some of the best-trained students in the country.
A level of understanding
The most valuable assets for co-located partners, David says, include inexpensive office space, flexibility, proximity to experts, and the University’s genuine desire to understand and work with companies.
‘I think there is really good buy-in support from the University about what we're aiming to do,’ says David, of La Trobe’s commitment to embedding innovation and entrepreneurship in their thinking.
‘Dr Megan Fisher [Pro Vice-Chancellor (Industry Engagement)], understands the situation small companies are in and what they require, and she can see how a university might be able to support and assist.’
Location, too, serves as an upside for VivaZome: ‘Melbourne is a great place for biomedical activity and research and development of therapeutics. Internationally, its well-recognised now as the place for companies like ours.’
All in all, it’s a very happy story.