Of Conversation, Controls and Collaboration




February 13, 2020

It can be daunting to make an industry pitch based on one of your lab’s research projects, but for Professor Roger Daly from the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI), it made sense. With a project in his portfolio he thought was suitable for support from BioCurate, Roger reached out.

“As with most research institutes, the Monash BDI is making a concerted push to improve industry engagement amongst academics. I was acutely aware of BioCurate, as a few groups within the Monash BDI had already been interacting with members of their team,” said Roger.

As discussions evolved between Roger and BioCurate, a mutual understanding developed – that the rigour applied to interpreting certain types of data, even by scientific journals, is insufficient. Roger recalled, “The team at BioCurate were responsive, they saw the worth of our work and also thought our results were interesting.” However, a major problem was identified by both Roger and the BioCurate team – that the potential off-target effects of siRNAs are often underestimated.

“Glenn (Begley, CEO of BioCurate) and I agree- the standards applied when using siRNAs are not stringent enough. There are certain kinds of controls which are recommended, but to be honest, very few people actually take on these controls to the extent they’re supposed to. This is really where the problem resides,” said Roger. “Many journals simply request that the effect is replicated by at least two siRNAs. However, the effects of both can be off-target.”

Based on these discussions, Roger and his team are undertaking further experimental work using alternative approaches to strengthen their case, and this is already reaping dividends. “We’re keeping BioCurate informed as this validation work progresses, because the data are not only critical to our project, they have more general relevance to how BioCurate, and industry, assesses projects,” he said. This is what has pleasantly surprised Roger – the ongoing conversation that has developed following that initial presentation.

For Roger, this process has been and continues to be a positive and highly encouraging experience, and one that has galvanised his opinion on the best approach to translational research. “Labs going into translational research need to go in with eyes wide open, they need to be aware of potential problems as well as options and opportunities,” he explains. “If you want to complete a drug screen, it is important to ask- are we best placed to do it? Or can we outsource it?” Roger wants scientists to leverage the funding, skills, expertise and resources available to them, rather than ‘going it alone from scratch.’ This may prevent groups from taking on work that doesn’t match their skill base, and that may divert resources away from their strengths.

“Melbourne has outstanding facilities and a fantastic research community,” stated Roger “BioCurate is well-positioned to advise on how to tap into such resources and move projects down the development pipeline.” He added, “I’m looking forward to the prospect of this project reaching the point at which it’s ready to enter the BioCurate pipeline.”

All in all, it’s all about the big C – Collaboration – to help achieve real world impact.